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Digital Native Brands Use Agile Creative; You Should, Too

Digitally native brands from Birch Box to Quip are threatening the brick-and-mortar commerce model. Many traditional brands have entered the game, purchasing digital start-ups and offering competitive direct-to-consumer products. 

These direct to consumer brands are reshaping the flow of commerce and leveraging digital marketing to engage with users faster and more effectively than ever before. Part of this innovation centers on media, but a crucial piece is how these brands approach design and campaign iteration. While legacy brands focus on long-term objectives, strict deadlines, and inflexible, linear timelines, the dynamic nature of the direct-to-consumer market requires a much more fluid approach.

The solution is “agile creative,” bringing together branding and performance objectives while creating a design framework that values testing and learning over perfection. 

Agile Creative 

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You don’t have to be small to embrace agile creative, but you do need to be savvy. The agile concept has swept through tech, digital and marketing, and agile creative borrows from those best practices, the core of which center on:

1. Producing ideas quickly

2. Streamlining processes and utilizing creative technologies 

3. Working in concert with their media buyer counterparts 

4. Pushing data-driven rapid iterations

5. Cultivating a culture of non-attachment

That doesn’t mean agile creative is ugly or cheap. The point is not to dumb down the creative process, but rather include it as a fundamental piece of the larger marketing strategy. Companies like Bonobos and Warby Parker are as obsessed with quality and brand integrity as any traditional brand, and manage to work that into conversion-oriented creative. To succeed, digitally native brands make sure that creative teams are part of a larger ongoing process of testing, learning and changing. Creative is less precious, but also more effective.

The First Step Is to Come Together

Programmatic advertising is now the main media buying channel for most brands, yet many teams are still stuck in a traditional format. For example, some executives claim that up to 97% of targeted campaigns are not using targeted creative. Creative teams can’t be agile in a vacuum.

Successful digitally native brands have close-knit teams that work together on all elements of the campaign. Creating a culture of information-sharing between creative and media is crucial for reaching performance-based goals. At best, creative designers literally sit next to the media team so they can give feedback in real time. Leader brands like P&G are working to bring their own creative and media buying teams closer together, as they realize the value of a more agile creative approach.

Working together works — embracing the focus on message and design from the creative team along with the test-and-learn media buying process creates a virtuous circle of improvement.  Casper, a startup mattress company is a good example. They produce high quality product imagery and sleek creative design, but use data-driven targeting across Facebook and search to reach their target audience without waste. Agile creative has helped them become a high-growth competitor in their category.

Unite Around a Goal

The key to agile success is to be focused on a single set of goals and insights. This unites both creative and media buying teams and adds meaning to measurements. Lack of sales data shouldn’t be a sticking point to adopting agile creative methods. Rather, working together on any common goal strips out confusion and waste. Both the creative and the media buyer could be focused on a goal like “surprising new dads with a funny ad that changes their mind about minivans.” This way, the design, media plan, and measurement metrics become focused on this goal alone.

It takes a thoughtful combination of interesting creative and savvy targeting to simply get the right message in front of the right person. The main reason to be agile today is that consumers are already agile. Consumers are skipping through their NewsFeed and crafting their own posts as hundreds of brands are trying to get their attention. If brands really want to appeal to consumers, they need to be playing the same game.

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