The Agile Brand


Do you have an agile brand?

That’s the question that was asked at AMADC’s recent event, “The Agile Brand: The Evolution of the Consumer-Brand Relationship,”  featuring Greg Kihlström, SVP of Digital at Yes& and author of “The Agile Brand,” and a panel of all female marketers.

Agile brands, according to Kihlström, have two primary components:

  1. They optimize their brands by listening and adapting them based upon customer experience and feedback. 
  2. They understand who they are and make commitments to staying true to their brands’ values and purposes.

At first, I wondered if agile marketing was a bit of a retread idea based upon some of David Ogilvy’s writings on brand innovation with new buzzwords. But then Kihlström explained how up until 10-15 years ago consumers had less choice and brands had more control over the brand/consumer relationship. As choice, access, and specialization have increased, consumers can choose what, where, when and how they want brand information and products delivered, and successful brands need to stay agile in order to keep up.

Today’s agile brand is one that is set up to respond to market changes as they come. As an example, Kihlström discussed why Netflix thrived, as Blockbuster, once a venerable chain of video stores, did not.  Netflix was able to adapt to evolving consumer preferences by focusing on streaming over DVDs early on. It’s almost fatal mistake was development of the Qwikster brand, which early on combined both services and increased the price for the new product by about 60 percent. Customers were furious and it stock value sunk. Leadership wrote a public apology to customers, separated the two services and began investing heavily in original programming. 

By contrast, Blockbuster was heavily invested in brick and mortar locations home to DVDs and when customers stopped driving to its stores its market disappeared. Blockbuster was stuck and the company is no more. 

The author was followed by a panel of three marketers: Lauren Polinksy, Director of Digital Marketing at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants; Stacy Jones, Director of Corporate Communications at Capital One; and Erin Flior, Senior Director of Digital Communications at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.   Two of the panelists said that they are less far along in the agile brand process than they would like to be for a variety of reasons including management resistance to changing brand strategy and complications of changing the way that their organization operates. 

Goals and a clear finish line are determined at the outset but what can change is what happens in between, they explained. They said a key reason for agile branding is  “You don’t want to get all the way to the end and realize you have to go back to the beginning. “

The third panelist said that as marketing, PR, branding and other disciplines blend and more cross-functional teams are involved in brand development her brands build agility into the process.  She felt her company is further along because its teams have including many influencers in the marketing mix. 

Aimee Stern is Chief Bravery Officer of Brave Now PR, a firm that works with marketers who want to develop and share innovative ideas. See more of Aimee’s work at