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9 Ways to Win at Warp Speed

Winning at Warp Speed

I just read an article in the New York Times in which an engineer talks about how technology now allows us to embrace complexity instead of run from it, and how the process from having an idea to testing it can now happen in hours or days versus the years it took in the past. This allows companies to test many more ideas, measure their potential and quickly weed the good ones from the bad.

The result is more good ideas found much faster. Of course, this is how all innovation happens. The difference today is the velocity.

This concept of the velocity of ideas makes me think of two conversations that are very active in my agency and the industry. The first is about data. Everywhere I read about “big data” but I have begun to just think of it as just data, and more specifically as analytics.

Our ability to measure everything we do in real-time is not only holding marketing accountable, but more importantly allows us to really understand what’s working and what’s not.

The second is the conversation about agile marketing, an evolution from the agile development approach used in technology. The essential idea of agile is to move faster with less developed work in order to discover problems and opportunities sooner. Some have called it being in a perpetual state of beta.

Both analytics and agile marketing support this concept of increasing velocity. At its core is the fundamental notion that we just don’t know if our ideas will work until we try them, and the more ideas we try the more likely we are to hit something really big.

The number of industries that use this approach is remarkable; financial services, movie studios, toy manufacturers, big food companies, all take a portfolio approach. In essence, they are admitting, that despite their knowledge and experience, they just don’t know what’s going to work, so they are hoping that probabilities will do the trick (and the truth is most times they do).

Movie studios, for example, produce a slate of movies knowing that some will be disasters, most will barely break-even and one or two will become hits. Those last two pay for all the others and then some.

Faced with a much more complex marketplace thanks to digital channels, it’s time for brands and their agencies to take up this velocity approach. With nearly real-time analytics at our side, we should produce and test many more ideas, evaluate them quickly, dump the dogs and move on with the winners.

This approach requires, however, a change in how we do business.

It means we need to rethink how we develop ideas. Instead of working toward the launch of a single idea, we need to develop and test many ideas simultaneously. And not just test them with research, but put them out in the real world where we can see the real consumer dynamics.

With this data in hand, either real winners will reveal themselves, or we will discover clear insights that tell us how to craft a winner. Then imagine doing it over and over again.

As I think about many of the brand and agency organizations I have worked with over the years trying this, the challenges are many, but not insurmountable.

First, you need a culture that from the top encourages risk-taking and embraces the value of appropriate failure. It’s why Google wants to hire entrepreneurs who have a history of trying and failing. They want people who are comfortable with tactical failure and don’t give up. It’s the way of science where famously inventors and scientists are encouraged to try and fail hundreds of times only then to find the prize.

I believe we are rapidly moving back to a marketplace where ideas instead of technology and process will drive success. That’s why I think it’s time for our marketing world to embrace the velocity of ideas approach. It will take changing old cultures, but for the brands that pull it off the results will be spectacular.

9 Ways to Win at Warp Speed:

  1. Ideas drive success, not technology or process.
  2. Rethink how you develop ideas.
  3. More ideas means more chances for the big win.
  4. Don’t launch a single idea. Develop and test many ideas simultaneously.
  5. Move faster with less developed work in order to discover problems and opportunities sooner.
  6. Measuring performance in real-time allows you to know what’s working
  7. Try many ideas, measure and quickly weed the good from bad.
  8. Publish in the real world with real consumer dynamics.
  9. Rinse and repeat

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  • avatar
    Don Rua Says:

    Great article, Tony. Had me with the headline and sweet graphic header. As a fence straddling “Marketing Technologist”, the concept behind agile marketing is on fertile soil. Even more so, when I add to it my appreciation for innovation management capabilities, and the Design Thinking process at Stanford D School.

    • 01.15.14
    • 2:32 pm

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