Can branding be agile?

My desire to treat all things in an agile way is creating internal discomfort.  Over the weekend I was reflecting on how to develop a new or refreshed brand using an agile approach.  Given the need for consistency and repetition in building a brand, it seems that this may be one part of the marketing universe that that truly needs a waterfall approach.

So how can we make the brand development process more agile?  Here are some ideas.

  • Start with a straw list of ideas to test
  • Dedicate one wall in your office to post these ideas and your competitive landscape
  • Use less expensive, faster-to-deploy exploratory research techniques like online focus groups to supplement your traditional customer outreach
  • Continuously adapt, test and kill concepts as you acquire data from the market
  • Get your team to use Digg or Delicious to share competitive marketing
  • Brainstorm frequently to make sure you are innovating and expanding your list
  • Share the ideas with your team on a regular basis
  • Concept test final idea using email surveys as a sanity check
  • And last but not least, trust your gut as this a creative process not a geometric proof

Did I miss anything?  I would welcome your thoughts and experiences.


  1. Enjoyed your presentation at the B2B breakfast in Boston.
    That being said I am not sure that brand development lends itself to agile marketing. Since I see a difference between brand development and branding, brand development is the discovery process that a company goes through to unearth it’s evidence of distinction. Branding is the tactical strategy of delivering the brand. So, I think brand development requires internal and external discovery processes and may not be so agile.
    However, I can imagine branding makes a lot of sense in agile marketing, since the marketer needs to deliver the brand across many platforms and be receptive to feedback from the marketplace.

    • Bob,

      Thank for the feedback on the B2B breakfast. Given my controversial POV, I was surprised not to get more questions.

      I still wonder if the long, waterfall discovery processes people have traditionally used for brand development could be streamlined with agile approaches. I won’t pretend to be a branding expert but most of my brand development experiences have taken way longer than they needed to as the professionals digest the data and brainstorm. Any process where there is learning along the way can benefit from agile approaches.


  2. How do I get in touch with you besides the comment section?

  3. I agree that brand development is more agile than the actual “brand”, itself.
    But I also think that we are living in times of accelerated change and growth- the ability to be flexible within a brand framework will allow companies to change with the times, and reach out to to different platforms. Interesting post!

  4. Great blog and interesting topic!

    I’ve built two CPG brands under the waterfall methodology and am now currently building a multitude of technology brands under the agile methodology and I find that the essence of building a brand remains the same.

    I view brand building like raising a child, you are cultivating an entity that will possess it’s own personality, values, and habits. The key to raising a successful brand or child is consistently rewarding good behavior (campaigns, ads, email blasts) and punishing bad behavior (failed experiments). That sounds a whole lot like what happens during a sprint review.

    Agile does not mean a complete change in direction, rather it is a slight course adjustment.

    To see our methodology for brand development using AM protocols follow us on twitter @sellwelldesigns

  5. Of course branding can be made agile. Agile being a process framework, has little impact on what the deliverable is. The key seems to me is the definition of what is a “minimally valuable brand” to define the initial development step.

    Currently a number of strategists (including myself) are working on this aspect of the problem. (For more see the writings of: Marty Neumeier, Jeremiah Gardner, Cynthia Thomas, Peter J Thomson, Skyrocket Digital, Wolff Olins, BrandBucket, Distility, and I’m sure many others)

  6. Very informative post agile marketing is part of the product development process. It is a big change from the traditional marketing approach to a product launch. Improving the agility of the marketing team doesn’t always mean using formal agile practices.

  7. Hi Frank, we’re moving from waterfall to agile as well, and having read various of your posts it would be very helpful if we could perhaps have a call with you to talk through what to expect in the transition, and how marketing can also move with the paradigm shift, get up to speed with the necessary technologies etc etc. Look forward to hearing from you whether this might be possible.
    Thank you!
    Liz (Amsterdam-based)