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Reality Check on Real-Time Marketing

ImageLast year at this time, Oreo captivated the Twitterverse with its “Dunk in the Dark” tweet during the Super Bowl blackout. Since then, the notion of real-time marketing (RTM) has been championed by some as a discipline unto itself and something that’s not to be tried by the faint of heart. And while I agree with the latter, this article will focus on the former, explaining how RTM is but one component of a savvy marketing strategy.

Reality #1: RTM is Not a One-Size-Fits-All Proposition

Altimeter’s highly informative report on RTM delineates twelve preparatory steps that will help marketers decide on six possible strategies. These options include brand events, anticipated events, location/object-based, predictive analytics-based, customer interactions, and finally, breaking news. The approach you take ultimately can and should tie right back to your overall marketing objectives and strategies. 

Reality #2: RTM is an Everyday Habit

Chick-fil-A has enjoyed several RTM successes, which according to their agency, Engauge, would not have been possible without the “daily care and feeding” of its enormous and ever-growing fan base with engaging content. Like every other part of a customer-centric strategy, RTM is as much about everyday victories as it is big bangs. 

Reality #3: RTM is Ruled by Relevance

One of the more common consumer complaints about RTM is that it is “newsjacking,” in which a brand co-opts a cultural moment and turns it into a self-serving message. To avoid #EpicFails, you need a clear understanding of your brand and the moments in which it can relevantly and authentically join the conversation. Otherwise, brands are well-advised by the immortal social guru Ben Franklin: “When in doubt, don’t.”

Reality #4: RTM is as Much About Planning as It is Spontaneity

Just as great theater actors make their craft seem effortless through months, if not years, of preparation, so it is with successful real-time marketers. P&G’s Tide brand had been planning a Halloween effort for many months before they saw the opportunity to create a Vine video timed with the release of the remake of the movie “Carrie.” Similarly, this team had a well-established listening practice in place when it created a video in response to an editorial that appeared in The Onion. 

Reality #5: RTM is a Long-Term Commitment

The Empire State Building had numerous real-time successes in 2013, thanks to their on-going commitment to lighting the New York skyline, often in celebration of holidays or in recognition of local, national and/or global events. On Halloween, for example, this commitment took the form of an extraordinary light show synched with spooky songs — an effort that garnered a not-so-scary 831,000 views on YouTube.   

Final Note: For a calendar full of great examples of RTM, be sure to see my interviews with other RTM practitioners Adam Naide (Cox TV), Marshall Wright (T3), Anne-Marie Kline (Digitas)  and Teresa Caro (Engauge.)

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