This time last year, marketing strategists and bloggers declared 2013 the “year of real-time marketing.” These marketers felt vindicated when Oreo famously reassured everyone that we could still “dunk in the dark” when the lights when out in the stadium during Super Bowl ’13. The reaction to the real-time social media campaign received an extraordinary amount of attention throughout the year and fueled many attempts to emulate the success of this program.
As we enter 2014, some are calling real-time marketing a fad, and predicting its death. Shane Atchison, CEO of Possible, is one of them, citing the fact that most of those who attempted to emulate the real-time success of the Oreo campaign failed miserably. “It turned out that people didn’t want to hear soap brands weighing in on the new Katy Perry album.”
Is This a Fair Criticism of Real-Time Marketing?
Was the “you can still dunk in the dark” Oreo tweet so popular that any other attempts by a brand to connect to a real-time event in social media just seem like a blatant copy? Has real-time marketing been typecast?
There’s a growing debate around the concept of real-time marketing. The problem may be that it is – more often than not – fabricated. Marketers have simply been trying too hard to go viral and not focusing on the true nature of real-time marketing.
Pushing out content in real time to take advantage of a pop-culture event like the Super Bowl or the more recent “polar vortex” that plunged much of the US Mid-West and North-East in sub-arctic temperatures, isn’t real-time marketing, it’s simply real-time content. And yes, there is a difference.
Real-Time Marketing Vs Real-Time Content – Do You Know the Difference?
Real-time content is defined by a time-frame: the proximity in time of the content’s publication to the live event it references. Real-time marketing, also defined by a time frame, requires relevancy to the audience, connection to the brand’s voice, and genuineness in context.
Real-time marketing is less about the wittiness or viral success of the content produced than it is about a true connection to the audience’s psyche. Oreo has gone on to experience other successes with real-time marketing campaigns in the US and Canada; however, this success is based on factors beyond “real-time.” Below are five factors required to establish the infrastructure for real-time marketing success.
- Brand-agency relationship and trust - Success such as that experienced by Oreo last year is only achieved when the brand marketers have complete trust in their marketing agency. Further, the agency must understand the corporate culture implicitly. Without this synergy, failure is almost assured.
- Clear understanding of the brand voice - The marketing agency tasked with monitoring the public space for opportunities to insert the brand into the national conversation must understand – and speak with – the true voice of the brand. The audience must recognize the genuineness of the brand when experiencing the campaign.
- Clear understanding of the audience - Naturally, without an understanding of the audience, any attempt at real-time marketing will fall on deaf ears. There are no guarantees in social media marketing; the manner in which a message is perceived and interpreted is unpredictable. This challenge is overcome by knowing the audience’s personality and the expectations it has of the brand.
- Brand culture - For real-time marketing to succeed, a brand must embrace a real-time culture. It cannot operate in silos where every department head is more focused on building his or her fiefdom. Finding ways, for example, for legal compliance and approval to help marketing/communications, as opposed to setting up roadblocks, is vital. Collaboration and teamwork is essential.
- Preparation and investment - Real-time marketing success is rarely accidental. It’s often said that success is found where preparation meets opportunity, and this is no exception to the rule. Knowing what events are coming up or what new trends are evolving among a brand’s audience has become a required skill set for both social media managers and marketing/PR professionals. Further, strategizing the brand’s reaction to possible shifts in those events or trends – even if they never materialize – is an investment that must be made for real-time marketing success.
Real-time marketing does not need to be witty or viral, it just needs to be relevant. Focus more on having real conversations about topics that are relevant to both you and your audience, and less on going viral or increasing your re-tweets and likes.
Was real-time marketing really just a fad? Is it no longer fashionable or is it here to stay? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego.
A version of this post was originally produced for the InNetwork blog.