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Agility, the Crucible of Modern Marketing?

Marketing and technology will only become more intertwined as we move further into the 21st century, and with this “new age” comes new rule, trends, and ultimately a new culture. In his book A New Brand of Marketing: The 7 Meta-Trends of Modern Marketing as a Technology-Powered Discipline, author and blogger Scott Brinker delves into some of the major shocks to the marketing status quo inherit in the industry’s technological shift.

Here, Brinker, who also serves as cofounder and CTO of Ion Interactive, discusses the relationship between digital and traditional marketing, the future of media silos, and the necessity of agile marketing models.

What do you mean when you talk about going from traditional to digital?

 It’s not that the latter is wholesale replacing the former. It’s more of an augmentation. The fact is, almost our entire marketing infrastructure is driven by software. Even in direct mail. Sure, the actual piece that’s being delivered is tangible, but you’re most certainly using sophisticated software for determining who you’re sending it to, scheduling, managing return, and conversion rates. You see this everywhere. Everything that’s happening these days, whether it is in a physical channel or a digital channel, is being correlated or coordinated by digital technology. Marketing is a digital world at this point, regardless of the channels you use to execute.

Why are silos such a detriment in today’s marketing ecosystem?

Look at how the customer is interacting with us. Silos are an internal construct. The reason we’ve organized this way is that we need some way to break up an organization into manageable chunks. A lot of these channels are specialized. Customers don’t see these silos. They’re jumping across four, five, or even six silos within a company; but as far as they’re concerned they’re interacting with the same company.

We need to rethink how we’re managing marketing because these silos do not operate independent of each other. We have to be coordinated enough so that customers jumping through these silos at least get a coherent presentation. If you’re a marketer of any real scale then of course you’re going to need some specialization in the organization. We need to think more about how we’re going to leverage technology and put in place certain management processes so that even if we have specialization within a department, we’re still coordinated when it comes to effecting customer experience.

Technology is a fluid, iterative industry. Marketing is much slower in general. How can marketers keep up?

It’s imperative that we, as marketers, understand that the environment we’re operating in is changing more quickly. The cost is just growing much faster than it used to be. Marketing has a rich legacy of being driven by long-term planners. The problem is that sort of planning is at odds with the ability to adapt and be more flexible to changes in the market. I’m not suggesting you go out with no plan whatsoever and wing it from week to week. Rather, we want to see something that’s a little more of a hybrid. You still want an overarching plan or vision. What you’re trying to do, the audience you’re targeting, how you want to reach them—high-level strategy. When it comes to executing, you want to leave more white space for priorities to change, for tactics to change, etc. There’s a lot of precedent for this in software development projects. It’s a solution and can make you more effective at being adaptive, but it’s also a culturally, managerially different way of handling marketing.

It’s hard to change minds. What needs to happen before companies can shift to a more agile marketing model?

It really helps to have the CMO say, “Hey, we’re going to change the way we do marketing.” The other way of doing it is instead of converting the entire marketing team to an agile structure, take a group of people really struggling with the idea. Let them pilot this and you have a lower-risk process and a way for the organization to see what this agile structure is like. As that group becomes successful you now have an example you can point to and you can start to add new groups, spreading it from there.

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