Rebecca Lieb, research analyst and author of new book Content: The Atomic Particle of Marketing, provides her top tips for brands to be inspired and succeed in real time marketing.
Real Time Marketing: How Brands Can Prepare And Succeed
Oreo. Starbucks. American Express. Dell. These are brands that come to mind when the topic of real-time marketing (RTM) arises — as it does with increasing frequency these days.
Real-time is gaining traction for all kinds of reasons. A recent study by GolinHarris demonstrates real-time can raise literally all desirable marketing metrics.
Eighty-three percent of marketers say they plan to begin to use, or to increase their use of, real-time data in marketing campaigns this year, according to Infogroup Targeting Solutions and Yesmail Interactive (pdf). The movement toward RTM is undeniable.
As a research analyst, I’m currently digging into this topic (expect a report on the subject in early December). We’ve identified five real-time marketing use case scenarios. All of them support varying business goals; all require real-time capabilities (the advantages and challenges of which our report will address); yet, all require a different balance of strategy, tactics and preparation.
- Breaking News
The most reactive form of real-time marketing is responding in a legitimate, relevant manner to unanticipated breaking news. This is often the most spontaneous, challenging and difficult type of RTM that a brand can face.
Advance preparation is all but impossible, and very frequently, breaking news isn’t good news, so an acute degree of sensitivity is called for. The requirement is often not just getting a polished message out in a short period of time in reaction to a news event, but also following the arc of a story as it unfolds. “Real time” can last many hours, days, or even weeks or months.
Examples: The BP Gulf oil spill; airlines reacting to the Icelandic volcano eruption; Boston Marathon bombing, etc.
- Brand Events
Product launches, corporate conferences, media and customer-facing events, offers, and sales all are breaking news events, but of a very different sort. While they unfold in real time, this type of RTM requires a high degree of anticipatory preparation in addition to on-the-spot reactive work.
Content strategy, pre-approvals, media and channel plans, hashtags, creative elements, editorial calendars, etc., can all be prepared and approved in advance. On-the-ground “street teams” are often needed, but the environment is more controlled and guardrails are in place.
Examples: Pepsi’s introduction of a skinny can during Fashion Week; American Express Small Business Saturday; Pizza Hut/Foursquare/Super Bowl check-in promo, etc.
- Customer Interaction
Customers have come to expect brands to respond to their digital queries and complaints in near-real time, a reality that has compelled more than one enterprise to adopt RTM. Real-time marketing related to customer interactions requires a combination of both reactive and anticipatory work: triage, determining what types of messaging will be responded to and in which channels (public or private), empowering staff to address complaints, having a breaking news communications plan ready for crises, etc.
Examples: CRM, customer service, crisis management, handling complaints, community management, etc.
A growing number of organizations have become mature enough to prepare for real-time events in advance. By having business goals, strategies, teams, approvals, and content at the ready ahead of time, these businesses position themselves to make the most out of such opportunities. This “ducks in a row” approach is deployed by advertisers, sponsors, and consumer brands in advance of major events.
Examples: Oreo’s fully staffed Super Bowl “war room”; HBO preparing content for the Emmys that addressed all categories for which their programming was nominated so appropriate posts could be made for each win or lose scenario; Starbucks preparing assets for a warming beverage that’s deployed locally when snow falls, etc.
A relatively small area of RTM, but one that promises perhaps the most future growth in the sector, is location and object-based real-time marketing. This form of RTM is moving far beyond the trend of local food trucks and @ChicagoCabbie publicizing specials and current locations.
Increasingly sophisticated mobile devices such as iBeacon can target a consumer’s location down to the store-shelf level. And devices with sensors create dazzling possibilities for RTM to exist in truly real time and with uncanny relevancy (not to mention creepiness, if handled incorrectly).
Example: Waze/Taco Bell Location ads appear on drivers’ smartphones when they are near a restaurant, but only when they are stopped at a red light.