Responsive marketing – time to get agile marketers

Responsive design is the biggest change to website design for years. If you’re not aware of what it is, it’s a way of making a site look right on a whole range of devices – from iPhones to desktops – so it’s easy to read and navigate without panning and scrolling. As the number of consumer devices and types continues to proliferate, responsive design is increasingly the only way to build coherent experiences online.

mashable-responsive-designIt’s about time we had the same change to core marketing thinking. Just like older website design approaches meant sites had to be reworked for different browsers, so dominant marketing approaches are still all about pushing a single, identical message out through very different channels. From the brand marketing department’s perspective, that looks like consistency. But from the consumer’s perspective, that can all too easily look like a rigid, linear, fixed pattern of communication that can’t deal dynamically with feedback or take on board change.

Just like responsive design adapts content to look great on different devices, so responsive marketing adapts itself to changing consumer requirements, external events like news stories, input from consumers, or simply to opportunities which come up from time to time. Hundreds of commentators have noted Oreo’s brilliant response to the lights going out during this year’s Superbowl – where the brand tweeted within moments of the power failing: Oreo“Power out? No problem: You can still dunk in the dark”

“The instant-advertising era may not have been born Sunday night, but it took its first assured steps during the 34-minute power outage at the Super Bowl in New Orleans,” wrote the Washington Post about Oreo’s responsive marketing. “Oreo’s ad team took just five minutes to conceive and produce the ad, according to company spokeswoman Laurie Guzzinati. It also required that ad agency and client executives be at the same place at the same time. Marketing executives from Oreo … were assembled during the game in a “social-media command center” at its digital ad agency in New York, 360i, ready to jump on any development. The group included the agency’s creative directors and its tech-support team.”

The Post’s analysis is, as we would expect, bang on the money. Responsive marketing is not just a matter of timing. It requires a major shift in the way in which we work. We need to move from linear project management (where we had a string of meetings between agency and client to refine the messaging and approve creative treatments)  to agile thinking (where we decide and act immediately). We need to stop looking for perfect (we never got there anyway) and instead put multiple iterations out into the world to test and learn what will work best.

Consumers themselves don’t remain static. Their mood changes during the day and week, the mode (work / family / sport / social) they’re in changes, the context shifts so what’s welcome information at one moment becomes annoying interruption the next. Even the best responsive marketing cannot cope  with so many variations and still be just right all the time. But by being responsive and agile, marketing content can at least make strides to be more valuable in our consumers’ lives.

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