Agility in 2022

Sam McConnell

  • Melbourne bureau chief, Alpha Digital
Sam McConnell is the head of Alpha Digital in Melbourne. He has more than 15 years experience working in senior leadership roles at some of the world's best agencies. These include Wonderman Thompson New York, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne and The Monkeys Sydney. During this time, Sam has worked on strategy and campaigns for a diverse range of leading brands including Listerine, Canadian Club, Pizza Hut, Ali Baba, AfterPay, Myer and uBank.

The last 18 months have been a maelstrom of fear, tragedy and uncertainty, with a few brief moments of optimism thrown into the mix.   

With 2022 beckoning, there’s reason to feel hopeful about the year ahead and perhaps, a return to life as we knew it before Covid.   

But for brands, Covid has ushered in a new normal; a competitive landscape in which agility is your most valuable asset. The rise of the Omicrom variant over the last couple of weeks is just the most recent example of this – the kind of predictably unpredictable development that’s become part of our everyday lives in the COVID era.   

Only the agile will survive and thrive in this environment and that’s why in 2022, agility will need to be a whole-business priority.   

It all starts with data  

Data, data analytics and their associated buzzwords have formed the basis for innumerable agency pitches over the last 3-5 years. But cutting through all that noise, data and more specifically, the role of first-party data, must be elevated by brands in 2022.   

Customer data is one of the few variables brands can fully control, particularly post-iOS changes, which shook-up the digital marketing space earlier this year. This is particularly true in the retail sector, which is clearly vulnerable should we face further lockdowns and ongoing challenges with offshore manufacturing and shipping.   

The key for all businesses is the ability to capture and analyse their data and iterate, fast. The systems and processes driving strategic and sometimes, creative development must become more scrappy, nimble, adaptable to what’s happening this week, today, this morning. Only then can the true power of customer data be unlocked and provide a buffer when the unexpected occurs.   

Rethinking agency relationships   

While creative agencies had long been at the cutting-edge of marketing ideas and innovation, agencies writ large will be an increasingly valuable resource for brands in 2022, beyond the traditional client / agency relationship – whether you’re a $1m or $500m turnover business.  

Agencies will continue to be good at strategy, campaigns, creative and their speciality. But their true value lies in their ability to provide an external, sometimes unvarnished point-of-view on a client’s business, industry and go-to-market approach. This knowledge must be embraced and leveraged but requires organisational commitment. That means:  

  • Allowing scope in agency retainers for innovation and bigger picture thinking beyond limited campaign-specific remits.  
  • Restructured RFPs and pitch processes focusing less on a dozen arbitrary deliverables to ‘prove’ capability and more on understanding the macro talent and capabilities of the agency. This is about knowing ultimately that’s where you’ll turn should the unexpected occur.  
  • Rethinking performance metrics and measurement at times of uncertainty and change. What does success look like when everything has been turned on its head? The answer will be different for every brand, but agility is required to regularly review and revise your goals based on what’s happening. Rolling-on without challenging your existing metrics, whatever they may be when everything is changing, is counterintuitive.  

Decentralised decision making   

In 2022, the ability to pivot when the unexpected dutifully arrives will make all the difference.  

In response to developing situations, brand leaders need to be empowered by their management team to make quick decisions that will drive change, capitalise on opportunities and minimise exposure to risk.   

But particularly in legacy businesses, change can be slow, lethargic. In 2022, brands need to be able to respond fast, build working teams, write briefs, gain approvals, field work and change go-to-market approaches.   

That means developing business functions that can quickly respond to change, and that requires organisational structure in support. Ultimately, it’s about empowering the right people to make the right decisions in a time when inaction is more costly than it ever has been. 


Tags: agency relationships, marketing agility, marketing strategy

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