Agile Brands Have Innovation at Their Core

There has never been more pressure for organizations to differentiate themselves and create loyal customers. With a growing desire by consumers to both have increasingly personalized experiences, and to share the values and culture of the companies they both buy from and work for, brands need to evolve in order to thrive. Agile brands will balance the need for control over their messaging, products and services with the need to connect with their customers in more meaningful ways.

An agile brand understands that companies and consumers succeed when there is a two-way relationship between the customer and the company’s product or service. Brands “give up” a little bit of the previously rigid control of their brands to share it with their customers, and in return the benefits are numerous. This approach results in more loyal customers, and ultimately more valuable customers.

Innovative companies understand the need to be agile and let the ability to iterate and optimize permeate their culture. This type of innovation comes in many forms, so let’s explore a few:

Customer-facing innovation

The practice of customer experience strategy is a growing one and every marketer needs to understand just how important the shift in dynamics is occurring. For instance, a recent study by Salesforce indicates that 80% of business buyers and 64% of consumers expect to interact with companies in real-time. For a large company, this could seem near impossible especially if the rate of inquiries continues to increase.

In addition, the demand for personalized experiences from consumers, and the need for better ad targeting necessitate an exponential approach to marketing. This exponential approach is now being tasked with artificial intelligence (AI) and other automated systems. It’s simply not possible for a human, or even a team of humans, to keep up with all the possible permutations of customer preferences anymore, especially in real-time.

This type of customer-facing innovation allows brands to be agile and adaptive to their customers’ needs while maintaining efficiency.  Another key aspect of agility and innovation is the ability to take intelligent actions on user behavior and requests using both real-time and historical data. This ability to adjust and optimize an experience or marketing tactics gives companies the ability to make better decisions and use big data to find new ways to create innovative solutions.

Internal innovation

As you might have guessed, internal innovation is all about making sure employees and partners are thriving and working at their best. Company values play a huge part in this, with a recent study by Fidelity on Millennials in the workplace showing that they would take a pay cut in order to work somewhere that matches their values.

But that is just a starting point. To truly innovate, a workplace must allow the freedom to experiment and try new things while providing the boundaries and structure that give employees a platform to build on. This often creates a focus paradox where companies are struggling to meet current demands and goals while providing resources for future initiatives.

All of this adds up to innovation that permeates an entire organization’s DNA, and inspires those within and external to the organization.

American Advertising Federation (AAF) is working to help its members make up all of these potential gaps, through our work on the National Innovation Committing (NIC). This committee connects local chapter members and representatives to some of the most sophisticated marketing technology companies in the world. Through networking, webinars, and other opportunities, it is NIC’s goal to grow and foster knowledge and adoption of the latest technologies to help with both local chapter needs and the professional needs of AAF’s members. The committee is open to all AAF members across the country.

Greg Kihlström is Chair of the American Advertising Federation National Innovation Committee, SVP Digital at Yes&, and author of the newly-released book, The Agile Brand.

To join the AAF National Innovation Committee, contact Dave Golden, Assistant Vice President of Technology at The American Advertising Federation, at

To learn more about the committee, please visit