Everyday Agility: A New Imperative for Today’s Food Marketers

What. A. Year. And it’s not over yet. In fact, many of us are in the middle of fine-tuning marketing plans for 2021. But as this year has shown us, plans are really a guide, based on a set of assumptions. (And boy were we knocked on our assumptions this year!)

With the COVID crisis still looming, significant uncertainty remains for the foodservice industry in 2021. More than ever, we must build flexibility and contingencies into our marketing programs. However, flexible plans are just a starting point. I would argue that agility and nimble thinking can and should be exercised every day by foodservice marketers to elevate your game moving forward.

What Is an Infinite Mindset?

While navigating change this past year and seeking insights, I was struck by leadership guru Simon Sinek’s “infinite mindset” philosophy. While he applies it to heads of large corporations, I believe it also has relevance for today’s food marketers.

The value of Sinek’s infinite mindset is really in its commitment to openness, which is more important than ever given today’s dynamic and challenging business climate.

Here are the five tenets of Sinek’s infinite mindset, with our “crib notes” for food marketers:

Advance a bigger just cause.

It’s good to have lofty ambitions for your program and client. Think big, while also remaining grounded with relevant KPIs.

Foster trusting teams.

Establish an environment that allows for creativity, innovation and even bad ideas. Not every idea will be a winner, but (as with the lottery) you can’t win if you don’t play.

Admire worthy rivals.

Don’t obsess over the competition. Admire what they do well, then let that motivate and inspire your own continuous improvement.

Practice existential flexibility.

This gets to the heart of the agility mindset. Don’t put a lot of limits or boundaries on unrealized possibilities. Pursue the “What if …” and see where it takes you.

Lead with Courage.

Be willing to be a guide on the road less traveled. Encourage unconventional solutions and thinking at every level of your team.

Stay Open to Out-of-the-Box Ideas

Sinek’s infinite mindset reminds me of some provocative advice I read during my early days of parenting: Say yes more than you say no. While it may sound like a risky proposition, the underlying premise is that we have a tendency to reflexively reject new ideas – or perhaps those that aren’t our own. I’ve kept this in mind for two decades as a parent, and the upside has outweighed any downside.

Applying a similar philosophy to business, it is important to resist the urge to dismiss an out-of-the-box idea, even if it makes you uncomfortable at first. Toss it around and see if there is some merit. You needn’t spend a lot of time; just keep an open mind. Solutions aren’t always black and white. Sometimes the best ideas are offshoots or hybrids of several ideas, crafted in collaboration with others. If we shut down every unconventional idea, we are bound to sell ourselves, our colleagues and our clients short. Instead, aim to embrace and promote the core values of an infinite mindset and “everyday agility” within your team.

Two Examples of Everyday Agility in Action

Working with our creative team on new fall ad concepts for a foodservice client, we have a recent example of everyday agility in action. In researching our approach for the campaign, we were guided by a strategic customer insight that allowed us to approach the concepts from a couple of different directions. As a result, we presented two compelling, but very different campaigns that both paid off the strategy. After sharing the concepts with our sage client, she agreed they were right on target. Then she asked for our opinion.

The obvious next step would have been to select one “winning” concept. Instead, we suggested layering the two campaigns – executing one first and then adding the second subsequently as a build. She supported this unconventional approach, and everyone was very pleased with the outcome.

Here, a flexible mindset (on our part, as well as our client’s) allowed us to capitalize on an opportunity and avoid otherwise tossing out great creative work. It heightened my awareness of these “everyday agilities” that we can and should adopt – not just adapting to change when it is thrust upon us due to circumstances beyond our control.

A slightly different case involved an emerging opportunity. We were invited to participate in the 2021 Kitchen Collaborative on behalf of our client, promising excellent industry and editorial exposure. For several reasons, most notably timing, it appeared we wouldn’t be able to take part. After discussing the opportunity internally, we decided to reach out to the organizers to ideate alternative approaches. Ultimately, we were able to work with them to overcome our barriers to participation.

Again, the most expedient route would have been to simply take a pass. Instead, we stretched a bit and were fortunate to find an equally nimble partner on the other end.

Surviving and Thriving in the New Paradigm

If our experiences of the past year have taught us anything, it’s that creativity, innovation and agility are essential. They are certainly the traits keeping many foodservice operations afloat in these challenging times. We should apply that same “infinite mindset” and “everyday agility” to our foodservice marketing programs, and promote a culture that embraces creativity and new ideas. It is a low-risk, high-reward proposition – and likely a business imperative going forward.

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Andrea Schepke PR Director EvansHardy+Young
Andrea Schepke, PR Director

After serving as Managing Director in the Los Angeles and Chicago offices of Hill & Knowlton and supervising accounts like the Almond Board and Network For A Healthy California (5-A-Day) for Porter Novelli, Andrea joined us to take the reins of the National Honey Board foodservice account. Her strategically directed combination of events, media relations and advertising have helped create significant buzz in a very important market for our client.