How to maximize the potential of marketing agility

November 12, 2020

Researchers from University of South Carolina, Singapore Management University, George Mason University, National University of Singapore, and University of Illinois - Chicago published a new paper in the Journal of Marketing that combines the academic research and field interviews with managers to explicate the concept of marketing agility.

The study, forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing, is titled "Marketing Agility: The Concept, Antecedents and a Research Agenda" and is authored by Kartik Kalaignanam, Kapil Tuli, Tarun Kushwaha, Leonard Lee, and David Gal.

The business press repeatedly emphasizes the importance of creating marketing agility so that organizations can navigate fast-changing, high-uncertainty conditions. Little, however, is known about what marketing agility is, what challenges managers seeking to adopt marketing agility are likely to encounter, and importantly, is marketing agility even desirable for all marketing decisions?

Kalaignanam explains that "We define marketing agility as the extent to which an entity rapidly iterates between making sense of the market and executing marketing decisions to adapt to the market. Importantly, we argue that not all marketing decisions need to be executed using an agile marketing approach." Tuli continues that "Marketing agility is best suited for those marketing decisions where the market response is highly unpredictable, the decision parameters can be broken down into smaller components, and when it is feasible to get quick customer feedback, and when there is less dependence on third parties for executing the marketing activity."

Managers need to be aware of the multi-faceted challenges they are likely to encounter in the execution of marketing agility. In particular, managers need to be alert to the challenge of scaling marketing agility across the marketing ecosystem. For example, if channel partners and other external agencies are unwilling or unable to transition to an agile marketing approach, agile marketing benefits will be limited. In addition, marketing agility also raises concerns that rapid and frequent marketing experiments could dilute brand meaning in the long-run. Likewise, the quest for rapid marketing experiments using market data could tempt managers to ignore or overlook consumer privacy issues. Finally, to execute marketing agility, firms need marketing leaders with a savviness for integrating technology, analytics, and marketing experiments. In this regard, hiring and retaining marketing leaders with the requisite skills could prove to be challenging.

The research team then identifies factors that enable or inhibit marketing agility at different hierarchical levels. At the organizational level, marketing agility is enabled by marketing technology factors, organization structure, organizational capabilities, organizational culture, and the organization budgeting process. The factors that drive marketing agility at the leadership level are the CMO's background characteristics, CMO power, and the CMO-CIO interface factors. Similarly, at the team level, marketing agility is contingent on the autonomy available to teams, the diversity of teams in terms of their functional backgrounds and skills, and psychological factors such as superordinate identity and social cohesion. Finally, at the marketing employee level, marketing agility depends on the traits of employees as well as the training to adapt to changing information.

The study proposes that the product-market and stock market performance outcomes of marketing agility are likely to be nuanced. While marketing agility could shorten the time-to-market in some situations, the impact could be muted in industries where purchase cycles are longer and more complex. Similarly, while marketing agility could be beneficial for brand metrics such as brand differentiation, it could be detrimental for brand relevance. Managers should be cautious about executing marketing agility and mindful that marketing agility is not suited for all firms and all marketing actions.
Full article and author contact information available at:

About the Journal of Marketing

The Journal of Marketing develops and disseminates knowledge about real-world marketing questions useful to scholars, educators, managers, policy makers, consumers, and other societal stakeholders around the world. Published by the American Marketing Association since its founding in 1936, JM has played a significant role in shaping the content and boundaries of the marketing discipline. Christine Moorman (T. Austin Finch, Sr. Professor of Business Administration at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University) serves as the current Editor in Chief.

About the American Marketing Association (AMA)

As the largest chapter-based marketing association in the world, the AMA is trusted by marketing and sales professionals to help them discover what's coming next in the industry. The AMA has a community of local chapters in more than 70 cities and 350 college campuses throughout North America. The AMA is home to award-winning content, PCM® professional certification, premiere academic journals, and industry-leading training events and conferences.

American Marketing Association

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