Tim Youngman: How Specsavers are taking the agile approach to marketing

Specsavers are one of the pioneers of agile marketing

Specsavers are one of the pioneers of agile marketing - Credit: James Fletcher

MARKETERS love buzzwords and new ways of working, it’s in our nature.

Last year the big buzz was all about content marketing. This year there is a new kid on the block called agile marketing.

Agile marketing got its name from a type of software development where small teams work quickly on projects, releasing updates in smaller “sprints” rather than big lots, testing and improving as they go. The theory behind agile marketing is to take that style of working and apply it to modern marketing methods.

So instead of a full year’s plan of working, “agile marketers” set out a summary annual marketing plan with themes and overall objectives. Then each month they create more detailed plans of work and review activity weekly against what the current need is and against the annual themes and objectives. That’s the theory anyway.

Of course like all things the theory is quickly swamped and forgotten and already agile marketing is being used as a catchphrase for any quick marketing efforts. Especially brand messages linked to the latest news agenda.

In 1952 it took two days for the news of the Lynmouth flood disaster to reach the national press. Today we expect that if something happens around the globe we hear about it instantaneously as reports are posted and tweeted across social media and picked up by news channels.

Brands are constantly looking to put themselves in front of us wherever we are in both the real and digital worlds. To engage with us they need to deliver fresh, relevant messages hence you see an increasing amount of messaging linked to the news agenda.

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The two best recent examples of this come from Oreo Cookies and Specsavers.

On the night of January 23 in the Capital Cup semi final, Chelsea player Eden Hazard kicked a ball boy, cue massive media coverage. Two days later Specsavers had full page adverts in most of the national newspapers showing an image of a boy in a vest saying “ball boy” next to a cross, and then below it, the image of a football with a tick and then the optician’s tagline, “Should’ve gone to Specsavers”. Clever, topical and most importantly agile.

A bigger global example came from Oreo cookies that, when the lights went out at the Superbowl, sent a tweet out with the message: “Power Out? No Problem” accompanied with a picture of a cookie with the line “You can still dunk in the dark”. Most impressive about this was the fact that Oreo’s agency 360i had a team ready for anything on the night. This meant that they tweeted a print-quality, creative design, captioned and approved within minutes.

To me agile ways of working should be adopted in part but not in total. Sometimes speed encourages people to forget core things like proper objective setting and measurement and writing strong briefs (if only for yourself) as part of proper planning. Those should always be at the core or your marketing efforts. If an opportunity does arise to promote your brand quickly you do now need the flexibility and set up to react. The next big thing is here and has already been taken over; even the link to news has now got its own term, the frankly awful “newsjacking”. We never learn.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant follow on twitter @timyoungman