Forrester has just published an article called “Adaptive Brand Marketing: Rethinking Your Approach to Branding in the Digital Age”. This article comes up with a couple of thoughts which aren’t completely new but leave you thinking. Agility and adaption are defined here as preconditions for brands to survive. Not new, you think? I think it is new in a certain way…simply because it left me with a couple of questions (which I try to discuss in the second part of this article, next weekend).

It’s good to have clever buddies. One of them is Johannes, my colleague who regularly sends me the articles I miss to read and starts a good discussion about it, usually. I had read a good post by BBH labs about a Forrester article which wasn’t even published at that time. But I missed the original Forrester report. Johannes made me read it (thanks again). And I recommend it as well now. Key question of the report: How do organizations respond to an even faster world in which they struggle to survive?

The challenges of speed and dynamics were always hard to put into a model for our social web driven world. All too often we focus on a different question as marketers: How do we respond to customers at all (not even really focusing on the real-time aspect of our digital world)? The question on how we hold conversations at all took our full attention away from its inlying dynamics and what it does to companies. But it’s crucial.

Think of the Dodo. A flightless bird endemic to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. Related to pigeons and doves, it stood about a meter tall, weighing about 20 kilograms , living on fruit and nesting on the ground.

The dodo has been extinct since the mid-to-late 17th century. It is commonly used as the archetype of an extinct species because its extinction occurred during recorded human history, and was directly attributable to human activity, hence the phrase “going the way of the Dodos.” (thx to Wikipedia). The Dodo and his ancestors were intelligent enough to survive for millions of years. But as his environment (well, humans came) changed he could not adapt fast enough. And this is a perfect example to introduce the topic I actually wanted to write about: Adaptation. Because evolution is a process that rewards the organism most capable to adapt to new environments, not the biggest or most intelligent. It’s an opportunistic and fast system…for the Dodo as well as for brands.

Adaptive Brand Marketing

No matter what we’re talking about, Traditional advertising, Digital, Media (you name it), we usually think the way we were taught to think – most often pretty traditional. We may accept the ascent of social assets, we may even have an idea how to manage feedback. But one thing is a key challenge for pretty much every organization on earth nowadays: Time. Enforcing decisions in a minimum amount of time collides with nearly all principles of traditional industry brands. In reaction to this Forrester defines Adaptive Brand Marketing as

A flexible approach in which marketers respond quickly to their environment to align consumer and brand goals and maximize return on brand equity.

Forrester argues that still our behaviour as brands and agencies is still based on the old top-down model of organizational marketing structures. Channels are still, but shouldn’t be the organizational marketing principle – but the target group’s environment. Nevertheless, according to Forrester, channels play a crucial role to gather insight about customers as intelligence becomes a key asset for brands to understand their context. Planning and strategy decision making processes must be accelerated to a daily (not yearly) schedule. And cross-silo product sales are essential to fulfull a user group’s needs (100% of its demand if you will) instead of offering standalone products. Forrester’s recommendation? To rethink and extend the traditional 4 P’s:

  • Permission: Replace the ad bombardement with permission based tools. Find and understand your target group through analytical methods and interact with the ones who want to be in contact with you.
  • Proximity: Don’t use one-size-fits-all tools. Switch instead to modular tools which will work on a global level and can be executed on a local level. Hand over essential decision making processes to the ones who are closer to the target group.
  • Perception: Mobile digital IDs enable marketers to engage the consumer where ever he is (well…if they’re able to). Based on the idea of Permission, we must not confuse the social selves of a customer with our commercial intentions. Privacy control becomes a crucial asset for brands.
  • Participation: Fans in communities aren’t necessarily there just to show support for a brand or because they like to get updates or vouchers. They could fulfill tasks together with a brand which support the actual reason why they are interested in certain topic in the first place (e.g. cooking or eating in community soup kitchen of a food brand).

To be honest? I think the idea of four new P’s is exaggerated here. But what the heck? We all need to sell. Nevertheless, the inlying idea of the 4 P’s and the article itself is definitely worth the read and it made me think.

I liked the article on “Adaptive brand marketing” because it points into a direction where we step next…the step after just understanding the social revolution. While nowadays we most often talk about the ability of a company to hold a conversation, the social web actually is the reason why brands need to adapt. It asks how brands and agencies are supposed to react on the two essential factors, time (real time web) and feedback (social) forced upon us. BBH’s article has collected a set of answers on how organizations become more agile.

Becoming agile and adaptive means

  • Put agile measurement and insight gathering into the center of the organization: Measure fewer things with a clear focus on customer value
  • As the whole company lives marketing, marketing can produce real value: Infect the structures of a company with social and Enterprise networking tools to interact and to speed up the organization
  • Switch from being content creator to content curator: And interact with the context on a global and primarily on a local level
  • Frame big ideas, execute, test and trash speed boats: Take advantage of the low cost per unit communication. And try out as much as you can by speeding up with micro ideas
Unconventional Marketing. One of my favourite diagrams by D. Armano.

Unconventional Marketing. One of my favourite diagrams by D. Armano.

Questions in my mind

What the concept of “Adaptive Marketing” does is to stress the already well known concept of fast micro strategies once more but to also take it one step further. Marketers nowadays are not faced with the social web. They will be challenged by its effects – Feedback by the user and continuous, dynamic interaction. Only few brands in this world are able to deal with these challenges nowadays. Company structures aren’t built for this kind of stress. Sign-off procedures, monthly meetings, stakeholders, decision making processes…this doesn’t exactly fit to dynamic 24/7 interaction.

The colleagues from TBWA work with a very rough concept on how to deal with time-critical dynamic processes for quite some time. I got to know their idea of 365 days marketing when I worked on the adidas account (check out “Advertising at the speed of culture“). But, as sophisticated this idea is, it is focused on advertising and not on overall business and marketing processes. So. here we are.

While most of us are still trying to sell Social to their clients, shouldn’t we actually focus much more on the effects of social? The collateral damage for the brands if you like? Is it actually still relevant to talk about social while the reaction on the brand management might be much more interesting? Can social business design provide answers on how we speed up together with our world? And, whose job is this anyway? The job of specialized social consultants, agencies, aliens from outer space or the brands themselves? Will the answer to this replace the term Social CRM with something new?

I will try to discuss these questions in the second part of this article over the weekend. By then…don’t go the Dodo way. 🙂