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Sainsbury's turns to agile marketing

News, 30 January 2015

LONDON: Agile marketing has become a key concern for companies who wish to mix long-term brand-building with short-term initiatives, but this trend does not mean that the "big idea" is dead, according to a leading marketer at Sainsbury's.

Mark Given, the supermarket chain's head of brand, said: "In retail, if you're not agile, you won't survive." He was speaking at an event organised by Warc to discuss its new Toolkit 2015 report – which is produced in association with business services provider Deloitte and sets out six key marketing themes for the year ahead.


The Toolkit argues that the drive for 'agility' – data-driven marketing initiatives, automation, and a focus on moments in a consumer's path to purchase – is being picked up by increasing numbers of agencies and clients.

Given agreed, using the example of Sainsbury's advertising activity over the festive period. Working with creative agency AMV BBDO, and using the retailer's long-standing partnership with the Royal British Legion, Sainsbury's produced one of the most-memorable TV-led ad campaigns of the Christmas period in 2014. This campaign was planned months in advance with a seven-figure budget.

But Given pointed out that the supermarket had also found success with a short-term agile marketing initiative, involving a viral video, a £40,000 budget and a lot of word-of-mouth support that boosted sales for Sainsbury's Christmas jumpers. 

"The brief was to make the best Christmas ad possible and to get as many people talking about it as possible. But within that there were other opportunities, such as the Christmas jumpers," he said. "I haven't reconciled the two different approaches in my mind, but the fact is, they both worked."

Given added: "In my experience, teams work together well if they have a common goal. If you have a company with 160,000 people and a common goal, it gives you a framework – and gives you the opportunity to be agile within that framework. If you don't have a common goal, you can't be agile."

Fellow panellist Nick Kendall, founder of BRO-KEN, had a more sceptical view of agile marketing."It's a buzzword," he said. "When I look at what it means, it means a lot of chasing of short-term measures, adding to the confusion. There's a danger that it equates ROI with short-term sales."

Nick Turner, a partner at Deloitte who leads the company's marketing and insight practice in the UK, took a different view. "Agility is consumer-led," he said. "And it's going to lead to organisations becoming more consumer-centric."

All of the panellists agreed, however, that the increasing emphasis on agility has not killed the "big idea" in marketing. "Brands are about trust, and the clearer the idea in people's mind about your brand, the more you'll be trusted," Given said.

Kendall added: "The big idea is not dead, it's going to get bigger – because you need something to bring coherence. It's much more of an organisational principle now, and it's going to be used much more to try to join all the agile marketing together – internally and externally."

Warc and Deloitte's Toolkit 2015 report is available in full to subscribers. Non-subscribers can download a sample chapter from the report.

Data sourced from Warc