From Agency To Agile: The Evolution Of Babbel’s Marketing Team

Here’s how our Marketing department embraced agile working to bring teams closer together, as well as increase communication, collaboration and production speed.

We’re proud to be a learning company inside and out — it’s our main company value. And that value applies not only to the work we produce, but how we work.

Our internal agency, Beat, was created in 2017. Its goals were to launch a new brand ID, keep that brand consistent, gather research and audience insights, and be the creative production hub to all of Babbel’s marketing channels. Beat achieved those goals, but challenges related to speed and transparency persisted. We often heard things like: “There are too many chefs in the kitchen,” “Are there any results?” and “Who do I ask?”

As a result, trust eroded and a gap between Beat, the channels and our Product team formed. This didn’t sit right with us. Communication is key, and we needed to improve ours.

There are three big changes we took to fix these issues:

Change 1: We introduced an agile working method. We created small groups for each marketing channel, including the channel managers and members of the creative production team — usually one writer, designer and video producer. Working in two-week sprints, we empowered the groups to brainstorm, create, analyze results and continually optimize assets at a much quicker pace. If anyone outside of the group had an idea for that channel, they would know where to go. To reflect this new integration and collaboration, we changed the team name from “Beat” to “Insights & Brand.”

“Working together felt more equal as opposed to top-down.”

Change 2: We established company-wide objectives and key results (OKRs) which we review quarterly. Everything we made would align with one or more OKR.

Change 3: We started a collaboration between Product and Marketing to find common insights for a better experience for our language learners. Both sides had knowledge to share on why and how people use Babbel.

The first test of our “new normal” would arrive in the form of our upcoming product-focused campaign of 2020. The goal of this campaign was to encourage, motivate and support users on their learning journey, with a particular focus on users who may have stopped or slowed down their learning activity. 

Our new agile team got to work, finding that this flexible new structure meant they could incorporate input from other teams along the way, rather than waiting for feedback at the final stage. In this case, the Insights & Brand team worked with the Learner Engagement CRM channel to shape the campaign.

This was the first major difference brought by agile, as previously Beat would present a campaign concept to the channels at a later stage. Another big difference was that by collaborating closely together from the start, both sides could better analyze and leverage the channel’s user insights. Armed with these insights, regular brainstorming and new clear goals (OKRs), they shaped a concept together: We would invite users to contribute motivational messages and idioms to fellow learners. These messages would then be sent in push notifications and across marketing channels.

So we held our breath and launched, hoping for positive external results which back up our internal improvements. We pressed the start button and… the campaign was a resounding success (phew)! Users sent in over 4,000 motivational idioms in over 15 different languages. We incorporated these idioms into our messaging, creating a buzzing community feel where learners were cheering each other on.

The campaign exhibited a 68.74% higher open rate than average, indicative of both the quality of the creatives and their relevance to the topic. Agile working allowed intent and execution to happen in sync. And the fun didn’t stop there. We saw a 3.65% uplift in general product usage during the campaign, as well as a 3.41% uplift in learning completions against our holdout group.

Plus we collected some fantastic user-generated content and helped to freshen up messaging to make it more personal for learners. We next plan to implement this content in the product itself.

The new setup paved the way for clearer communication and easier execution. Senior Brand Experience Manager Carl, who was on the Marketing campaign team, said,“What I appreciated was that — through the agile groups — we could approach any channel about this campaign. Working together felt more equal as opposed to top-down.” It was the ease of communication that we were looking for.

The new agile working style of the Insights & Brand team achieved incredible results quickly. “With shared goals and full autonomy, small, cross-functional teams fueled exceptional creativity,” said Katherine Melchior Ray, Babbel’s own Chief Marketing Officer. 

Pre-agile, a campaign idea like this might never have left the “talking about it” stage. But the new structure and culture of collaboration enabled it to move faster with fewer obstacles. In fact, Marketing’s creative output increased by nearly 50% in the six months after moving to agile working — and that’s with a smaller team!

We always knew the power of conversations and language to change worlds. And after turning the spotlight on our own conversations, we’re stronger and better placed to help more people do the same.

Sound like a place you want to be part of? Join the team and help us to transform people’s worlds by learning a new language.