Things are changing in the world of brand marketing and design as businesses look for ways to strengthen their brand performance while the world is getting faster every day. Taking its lead from Darwinian philosophy, it all comes down to a little bit of agile thinking. Instead of asking brand marketers to take a ‘leap of faith’ in coming up with a brand proposition that will win consumer support for a long period of time, an agile approach seems to create patterns that are more in line with the current market perspective. Rod Parkes is rightly saying that “the meaning of a brand literally depends on how you look at it.” The point is, the consumer defines the brand. This means brand strategy must account for constantly embracing a high level of uncertainty. In essence it requires responsiveness along with a healthy understanding of consumer insight to guide the brand on a journey of continuous development and enhancement. Confirming the importance of agile thinking, Marc Pritchard, global CMO of Procter & Gamble, has described it as the “new must-have skill for marketers”.
From a marketing perspective, agile thinking can be applied to some expertise in an easier way than some others. Companies are increasingly putting agile thinking into practice at a strategic level for obvious reason. Agile thinking and processes can be applied to a wide range of brand design activity – from corporate branding, retail environment and innovation projects, through to brand packaging and employee engagement projects. Such thinking affects the way that initiatives are developed and brands are managed. It may mean developing more creative directions, in various formats, and at an earlier stage in the design process. It will also require more testing to ensure faster feedback from real consumers as part of a ‘test, learn, commit’ design process. Importantly, such processes can also be repeated, several times if necessary, to ensure that the concept is as market-ready as possible. This approach to design requires a different mindset and organizational culture – for example, a faster, lighter approval process – but rather than restricting designers, it can actually have some additional effect that increases freedom. In some recent comparison between traditional and agile processes for developing a brand packaging graphic, it was obvious that the second way was much more efficient, with higher ROI. This was due to a 100 per cent faster project turnaround; on-going responsiveness and the potential for 20 per cent lower investment. The design project itself is also more likely to be successful because the process uses more options, more testing and close consumer involvement at different stages.
Adopting an agile mindset doesn’t have to be difficult either. It starts by encouraging marketers and designers that it makes sense to take smaller, incremental steps to strengthen brand position in response to sometimes quite subtle market shifts. Agile design seems to be the right way to develop the way we develop brands.