Real-Time Marketing: You’re Doing it Wrong

Real-Time Marketing: You’re Doing it Wrong

By Lisa GulasyNov 12 /2013

real time marketing wrongForget big data. Forget gamification. Forget content curation. Forget all of those marketing buzzwords for the moment. There’s one industry term that, no matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to get away from: real-time marketing.

First thing’s first: real-time marketing is not new, so calling it a buzzword feels plain funny. How not new is real-time marketing? Well, Rob Garner’s been talking about it since at least 2010, and as Brian Kotlyar of Dachis Group points out, he certainly wasn’t the first. The reason real-time marketing seems new is because of the hubbub us marketers created around a deliciously timed tweet Oreo sent one fateful February night. (Bet you can’t guess what I mean!) The tweet—which proved a huge success for Oreo—got many digital marketers thinking, “Hey, this real-time thing, we should totally do it.”

According to Infogroup and Yesmail, more than half (53 percent) of marketers say they plan to make greater use of real-time data in their marketing campaigns. And while real-time marketing can prove worthwhile when it comes to positive brand perceptions and increased likelihood to buy, according to Golin Harris, that doesn’t mean it’s right for every company, nor does it mean achieving real-time success will come easy.

Failure to Grasp the Concept

Real-time marketing is marketing “on the fly”—or at least that’s what it’s supposed to be. But as Jeff Dachis points out, that’s not what most brands are doing. “Brands have attempted to replicate [Oreo’s] success at the Royal Wedding, Grammys and Oscars, [but] the efforts have been ill conceived and generally lame,” he says. “The reason is pretty simple: These me-too efforts are not actually real-time marketing. Brands are just inserting an ad into broad cultural conversation and hoping to catch lightening in a bottle.”

Oreo didn’t know in advance there was going to be a blackout at the Super Bowl, 360i (the agency behind the tweet) didn’t hold in-depth strategy meetings, and agency copywriters and designers didn’t have rounds of edits. There was only the smallest window of opportunity.

But most brands engaging in so-called real-time marketing today are failing to grasp this concept. Instead, they’re taking some big event, usually irrelevant to their brand (like the birth of the royal baby), and slapping on a real-time sticker.

Approaching real-time marketing in this manner could:

  • Get You Nowhere: From Oreo-esque success to complete letdowns, real-time marketing efforts run the gamut in exposure. What’s more, “doing” real-time marketing simply because other brands are engaging real-time marketing is nothing more than jumping on the marketing bandwagon.
  • Hurt Your Marketing Team/Strategy: “The vogue for real-time marketing blips distracts brands from doing the hard work to fix their internal systems and processes to be more nimble, not just ‘real time’ for the odd event,” says Saya Weissman on Digiday.
  • Make You Sound Silly: “Brands declaring they are planning real-time marketing initiatives during high-profile events is the modern-day equivalent of saying ‘we’re going to make a viral video’—it’s poor form and 99 percent of the time it falls flat,” says Scott Monty, Ford’s global head of social media. Silly isn’t the only thing you can be either. Plenty of brands have caused quite an uproar with their real-time marketing efforts, as I covered here.

Think Strategically before Engaging in Real-Time Marketing

Real-time marketing today reminds me of many brands’ adoption of social media several years ago. (You know, when some higher-up in a company would say, “We need to get on Twitter!” without any particular rhyme or reason?) Don’t forget, marketers, we are strategic beings. When devising your marketing plan, strategy always comes before the tactics.

While we turn to our fellow marketers for best practices, it’s never a good idea to merely copy the guy who came just before. Always think carefully how real-time marketing can benefit your overall strategy (and ultimately your audiences). If you think real-time marketing fits in with your strategy, great! If not, don’t force it.

By the way, there are plenty of real-time marketing efforts other than the Oreo example discussed above that have proved highly effective for both B2B and B2C brands. (Think Twitter chats, social viewing and reacting to live tweets of competitors’ dissatisfied customers.) If you want to learn more about getting started with real-time marketing, I suggest checking out this article by Jenn Deering Davis on MarketingPros and this one by Cybil Wallace on Edelman.

Do you think marketers are putting strategy before real-time marketing tactics or vice versa? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Photo Credit: CarbonNYC

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