How brand leaders can implement agile thinking

Deloitte's latest Global Marketing Trends survey outlines the steps marketers must take to succeed amid lasting uncertainty.


Before the pandemic, Export Development Canada (ECD) needed to increase its brand awareness and develop new “digital knowledge products” in order to meet the evolving needs of its customers in the export sector. So, according to a Canadian supplement to a new global marketing trends report by Deloitte, the governmental agency set out to “adopt an enterprise agile transformation, reboot digital channels, and update brand positioning.”

By implementing a more flexible structure – starting with the creation of “agile pods” in its digital and marketing teams, which were geared at making faster and more autonomous decisions – it was able to instil a culture of “nimbleness” across the organization, notes Deloitte. As a result, it grew its penetration in the SMB segment by 15% and increased awareness of ECD by 25%.

Deloitte holds ECD up as a local Canadian example of why it’s important for organizations of all stripes to adopt an agile marketing mindset – one of seven ways brands must respond amid continued uncertainty heading into 2021.

“In these wild times of uncertainty, people are looking to brands for help — and rewarding those that can meet their most pressing needs in the moment,” notes Deloitte, summarizing its findings and echoing results of other surveys that have come out in recent months.

The report also lists “purpose, human experience, trust, participation, fusion and talent” as among the trends that marketers must embrace in order to meet consumer needs of tomorrow. It combines insights from a pair of pulse surveys: a poll of nearly 2,500 consumers from nine global markets (not including Canada) conducted in April 2020 and a second poll of 405 C-Suite executives in the U.S. in May.

While the report doesn’t include Canadian-specific findings, the consultancy released an accompanying report containing recommendations for Canadian marketers based on the findings of the global study.

By and large, global marketers are aware of the importance of agile marketing, especially amid a lingering pandemic that continues to transform consumer behaviour. For example, 41% of C-Suite respondents said it was the top outcome they hoped to achieve by implementing new digital technology and platforms.

And while the pandemic presents many challenges, there’s no better time than now for marketers to leverage new digital tools to help make agile marketing a reality, Deloitte says.

For example, in its consumer survey, 58% of respondents were able to name a brand that pivoted quickly in response to new pandemic circumstances. Of that set of respondents, 82% said new and relevant offerings increased their desire to do business with the brand. And 66% of respondents said the pandemic heightened their appreciation for well-designed technologies; 63% said they would continue using digital tech more often even after COVID-19.

To achieve agility, Deloitte believes marketers must start by acquiring a unified view of the customer. That requires integrating “disparate, cross-organizational datasets into a single customer data platform (CDP),” connecting data across channels (such as ecommerce and social), devices (including laptops, mobile phones and tablets), and CRM platforms.

Second, they must use that CDP strategy – and “predictive sensing” technologies powered by machine learning and AI – to “anticipate the conversation,” Deloitte says. For example, it points to its own “social sensing capabilities” that can forecast where conversations are likely to go over the next 72 hours, enabling organizations to measure consumer sentiment and predict how advertising messages are likely to be received.

Finally, they must embrace “social CRM,” described by Deloitte as leveraging “social platforms as an avenue to provide ‘one-on-one service’ at scale.” Already, its C-Suite survey found that 67% of execs have increased their social presence during the pandemic – the highest of all engagement strategies, ahead of altering digital platforms to better meet consumer needs (57%) and increasing the number of virtual events and workshops (49%).

“For the first time, the tools to successfully execute agile marketing are readily available to organizations,” conclude the report’s authors. “Now, it’s upon the CMO to help the C-suite articulate a vision that brings these tools to life to engage with and respond to customer needs as they develop.”

Photo credit: Bethany Legg via Unsplash.