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To survive and to prevail in the digital age marketing organizations must go agile

Quarter of 13-30-year-olds spend more time online than sleeping 1 and even digital laggards like recent retirees or B2B buyers are starting to prefer online channels 2,3. Quite naturally, Nordic companies’ marketing and sales efforts have largely followed their customers online. For example, Google and Facebook hold more market share of Nordic media market than all Nordic newspapers combined 4,5,6 and digital sales channels have become a norm in both B2C & B2B companies 7 . But re-shuffling media budget allocations or building one-off online store is not enough. The new normal is characterized by flexibility of digital channels and rise of marketing technologies like self-service analytics, automation software and attribution solutions.

The impact of digitalization has been heavy especially for marketing teams. Some of them have not been able to cope with constant changes in customer needs and preferences and abundance of data. They have slipped to ad-hoc’ mode with unclear objectives, continuously changing priorities, and never-ending fire drills thus making marketing team’s role within the organization unclear and reducing their relevance. On the other hand, the flourishing marketing organizations have been able to embrace the change by going agile. These teams have taken an advantage of new tools and ways of working and become fast, continuously improving, data-driven business partners within organization.

So, what is agile marketing then? We have used following definition with our clients: continuous data and performance-driven prioritization of potential marketing activities combined with adaptive and iterative working style. In other words, this means that data is used to support all marketing activities, whether it is to optimize the “bread-and-butter” activities or for example to validate experiments with new content, channels or tools. Moreover, marketing activities are always measured on commercial impact they deliver and decisions are made based on facts, not opinions or established practices. Instead of making yearly, carved-in-stone, plans agile marketing teams trust in continuous iterations and optimization – of course having clear high-level targets and guidelines to follow.

Agile marketing manifests itself little bit differently in each organization yet the key characteristics and principles are similar. We see that many marketing organizations already follow some agile principles but haven’t been able to transform itself fully. The largest gains lie in the areas of prioritization, planning, method for capacity allocation and collaboration model with key stakeholders. Exhibit 1 describes key differences between immature ad-hoc marketing, traditional process-driven marketing and modern, agile marketing organization.

Applying agile principles in marketing has already proven to be very efficient in companies. We have seen that it drives the following benefits, among others:

  • Ability to react to changing business priorities
  • More time spent on doing rather than planning
  • Demonstrate the commercial value and ROI of marketing activities
  • Improved time to market

To survive and to prevail in the digital age marketing organizations must go agile. But the transformation must be done with care – agile does not mean throwing away processes or systematic approach. Quite the opposite: Agile is at least as process-driven as more traditional marketing but just more dynamic, flexible and faster – and requires plenty of discipline from the team members.

As all large transformations, also this one starts with small steps: concretizing desired end-state, identifying drivers and blockers and running the first pilots and gathering learnings (e.g. using retrospectives!). In our next blog post we will discuss the principles of agile transformation of marketing in more detail.


Valtteri Taube, Consultant, BearingPoint Digital & Strategy
Aki Alanne, Manager, BearingPoint Digital & Strategy
Juha Mertanen, Senior Manager, BearingPoint Digital & Strategy


  1. ebrand Suomi Oy & Oulun kaupungin sivistys- ja kulttuuripalvelut (2016): Suomessa asuvien 13-29 -vuotiaiden nuorten sosiaalisen median palveluiden käyttäminen ja läsnäolo
  2. Ilmarinen (2016): Tuoreet eläkeläiset verkossa
  3. Lindorff Oy & Enterpay Oy (2016) Kuluttajistuva B2B-verkkokauppa. Kyselytutkimus: Millainen on B2B-verkkokaupan ostaja?
  7. BearingPoint Digital Leaders Survey 2013-2018