I was lucky enough to spend some time in Kerala working with Indian classical musicians many years ago. I first arrived during the monsoon season, and along with the world-class thunderstorms that I watched from a thin rubber bath mat on the roof, I could see the jungles getting greener and the people happier. For thousands of years, monsoons have had significant economic, emotional, and cultural importance in India. Rain determines whether there will be food to eat, and monsoon season typically used to signal the long-awaited return home of soldiers to their wives. Classical music in India, unlike its Western counterpart, is always very attuned to time, place, and mood. Rāgas, the name given to Indian classical forms, have rules to help guide improvisations in the moment and the monsoon season has inspired the Malhar group of ragas, a formulation specifically attuned to the emotions, environment, and context of the monsoon season.
Marketing and advertising, like Indian music, has always been contextual. As far back as 1867, billboards were being rented by marketers in dense urban areas outside train stations, and even earlier, direct mail took demographics into account to determine which regions and people to deliver flyers to. The truth is, though, that targeting brush strokes were broad, with flesh and bone staff doing a much better job of understanding a moment, a customer’s intent, and what the best thing to say would be.
Before the clouds, webs, and distributed networks people had to create their own spaghetti of logic inside a single building using machinery that looked like props from Doctor Who. Spurred by the need to crack the ‘Enigma’ naval communication codes during the Second World War Alan Turing developed an electromechanical device called the Bombe which played a major part in defusing the war. 2012 is the 100 year anniversary of the birth of Turing and he is rightly considered to be the father of computer science and Artificial Intelligence. Turing had both a wonderful and terrible time of it and his life story is well worth a wiki.
The British genius didn’t just advance computer science using valves and wires. He is almost as famous for his thought experiments concerning how we may build machines and computers that can engage in intelligent discourse with humans. Could machine responses fool us into thinking that they were sourced from a human? To answer this question Turing developed a methodology to test the validity of the machine generated responses, fans of Science Fiction are likely to recognize this as the inspiration behind the ‘Voight-Kampff’ test administered by Deckard in Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner.’
Marketing planning has changed little in the past century. It's essentially a linear process built on the development of rigid 12-month plans built around brand and channel metrics. This approach is coming increasingly under strain as the combined effects of the growth of digital marketing platforms and a volatile economy demand marketing plans that deliver clear business outcomes and can adapt and improve to meet evolving market dynamics.
Over the past 12-18 months, we have come across several marketing organizations that have decided to do something about this situation and look for new ways to improve their approach to marketing planning by adopting some principles borrowed from a relatively new methodology originally conceived for software development efforts: agile development.
From the interviews that we did with marketers that are experimenting with this new approach, several of the key principles of "agile" development looked particularly relevant to innovating their approach to marketing planning:
A clear definition of business outcomes and associated business metrics