Gez Smith

Agile Business (L) 2016
Agile Business (L)

Session type: Lecture
Session level: Suitable for all

Agile Marketing: The Incomplete Guide

For years, marketers have used up-front planning and specification to launch campaigns in a single big bang. This worked in predictable and well-understood environments, like TV and press advertising, but the Internet has now made marketing far more complex, fast-paced and uncertain. As a result, the old approaches often don’t work, and the answer may lie in agile.

Based on Gez’s research at Bristol University and 10 years experience of using agile in marketing and comms environments, this talk looks at how agile can be used in marketing, and the potential blockers to making it a reality.

The history of modern marketing and communications can be traced back to the end of World War II, the same time as big waterfall style approaches to delivering projects were being developed in the military, construction and space industries. It seems no coincidence that marketing has been a linear, waterfall-based industry ever since, full of hierarchy, personal opinion, subjective awards and big bang launches. There’s even a whole army of people in marketing departments called ‘planners’.

This was fine when marketing was happening in a stable and predictable environment, with few new channels emerging, and customers consuming your marketing in places you could predict. In the last 10 years though, the rise of digital and the Internet has caused dozens of new channels to emerge, and caused customers to become your media suppliers through sharing your content on social media, all at a much faster pace of change than ever before. On top of this, the rise of mobile means your customers could be consuming your marketing anywhere at any time, and the rise of big data means you can finally target and understand customers to huge degrees of detail and complexity.

Faced with this new complex, fast-paced and uncertain marketing environment, I believe marketers need to adopt the agile mindset software developers have been using to deal with these issues for years. But how does agile work in marketing? If all the agile frameworks are for software development, which one should marketers choose? Do marketers need to invent a whole new framework? Besides, how do you get an industry that always puts the best spin on things to begin to celebrate failure when failing fast?

It seems clear that marketers and communicators moving into digital need to adopt agile. It’s not yet at all clear how they should do so.


Gez is a Certified Scrum Master and Certified Scrum Professional who has been working with agile and scrum for over 10 years, for clients including 10 Downing Street, the BBC Trust, Lloyds Banking Group and Glastonbury Festival. After two years postgraduate research into agile at Bristol University, from the perspectives of strategy, organizational change, leadership and marketing, in early 2016 he published his second book, titled “Agile Marketing: The Incomplete Guide”. You can download for free from