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How To Spice Up Your Marketing

Over the last few weeks I’ve received a lot of feedback on our companies move to an Adaptive Marketing approach. One of the recurring questions has been around how it works. As one of our LinkedIn forum members said, “If no one is currently doing this, how can an agency possibly integrate the process and make it work?” Great question and one that’s been on our minds a lot lately, too.

As luck would have it, a campaign recently exploded online that I believe illustrates the adaptive approach to marketing. I’m talking about the Old Spice Guy work done by Wieden & Kennedy. It began as a great Super Bowl TV spot but what happened afterward – and they way they worked with their client – is what I find most compelling.

Iain Tait, in a post explains it best, “In a way there’s nothing magical that we’ve done here… we just brought a character to life using the social channels we all [social media geeks] use every day. But we’ve also taken a loved character and created new episodic content in real time.” As for the mechanics, he explains, “we’re looking at who’s written those comments, what their influence is and what comments have the most potential for helping us create new content. The social media guys and script writers are collaborating to make that call in real time. We have people shooting and we’re editing it as it happens. Then the social media guys are looking at how to get that back out around the web…in real time.”

My first thought was that to pull off such a responsive program they must have had a tremendously trusting client and collaborative working relationship. Tait said that Proctor & Gamble let his team create on the fly with little supervision, “There is such great trust … They have given us a set of guidelines and if we get close to the edges we contact them.”

In my opinion, Tait’s team has arguably created the most significant program since Subservient Chicken. They put all the right pieces together. But more so, they’ve illustrated exactly how an agency can practically develop and deploy a campaign that actively involves consumers in real time and delivers meaningful experience. Not only that, they completely repositioned the brand and now have an asset they can use in myriad ways.

I’ll probably take some heat for this, but personally, I always felt that Subservient Chicken was one-dimensional. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it and felt it arrived at exactly the right time in our industry. It showed how technology could be used to involve consumers without being ham-handed. But it was really just a playful destination. Somewhere to waste a few minutes online.

The Old Spice Guy concept goes way farther and operates on a much deeper level. It watches consumer activity, pulls it in without asking and feeds it back out as unexpectedly fresh content. On top of that it demonstrates a fundamental change in agency structure and approach. In fact, it’s so extensible that consumers themselves can run with the idea, create their own content and still be in line with the original idea… at no incremental cost to the client! See for yourself, have the Old Spice Guy create your voicemail message.

So What’s It Take To Do Work Like This?
It comes down to a few things,
* A leggy idea
* A diverse team with a blend of traditional and social expertise
* A client who trusts the creative team to take chances
* And most importantly, the ability to identify emerging opportunities and develop iterative solutions on the fly

There’s no debate that social media has completely transformed how marketers engage with their customers. And the impact of this change has rippled through agencies as they struggle to catch up to the changing needs of their clients – and consumers. But what hasn’t happened up till this point is agencies figuring out how to bring all the pieces together in one agile approach.

For a time I thought that BURT were onto something with their Agile Advertising approach, but the more I noodle it, the more I feel like what they proposed with their four feedback loops is really more of an optimization phase in a linear model (and something we’ve done at Teehan+Lax for some time). It’s great for tuning individual pieces of creative and improving their effectiveness but it isn’t necessarily about creating a platform for iterative ideas to be rapidly developed, tested and deployed. And an iterative development approach is really what we need.

“Everyone applauds innovation.
At least, they love it in retrospect,
after it has worked.”*

I believe we need to build teams and create operating environments that allow for responsive marketing that’s always on. Programs that respond to changing market conditions. Programs that naturally integrate the ability to test ideas and embrace failure. Programs that will use data to help inform what is made, how it’s designed, and who will be involved.

Tim Leberecht in his article, “Time for Marketing Innovation 2.0” delivers a stern challenge to all of us searching for new solutions. “As we are entering the new decade, it appears as if the marketing discipline, after undergoing a mesmerizing major transformation in the past two to three years, is facing stagnation. This often occurs when pioneering concepts are fully absorbed by the mainstream: Social marketing is on the way to becoming THE marketing, as social media is becoming THE media (it is always a sign of broad adoption if adjectives are dropped). Authenticity, engagement, meaning, communities, social, conversations, transparency, etc. – they’re all accepted across the industry and widely implemented now. What then is the next frontier for marketers? What will be the next big marketing innovation?”

To me the next big innovation won’t be the products we envision as much as it will be agencies we create that are structured to deliver Adaptive Marketing. And as the team at Wieden & Kennedy have shown us, it’s entirely possible and should now be expected. Silver fish hand catch!

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  1. Derek Lackey
    Derek Lackey July 23, 2010

    Great article David. Have they published the sales results for Old Spice?

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