Is Real-Time Marketing a Trap?

Is Real-Time Marketing a Trap?


I can’t remember the last time I watched TV without my phone by my side. Every few minutes, I’ll pick it up, scroll through social media, put it beside me, and continue watching my show. This routine not only takes place during the commercial, but also during the show. I admit, too, that while I’m watching a show without any breaks, I’m still checking my phone just as often.

multitasking while watching tvI’m far from the only one acting this way: Seventy-five percent of people access another device during a show. Many of these people are scrolling through social media, looking up show-related information, or finding more details about something they have seen on TV. We are hungry for more content, even when we’re already consuming it.

This immediate access to information has transformed into a big real-time marketing opportunity: the strategy of following popular events or trends and giving your audience related content in a timely manner, usually through social media channels. At first glance, this strategy is appealing. After all, one of the goals for any brand should be building lasting and loyal relationships with its consumers. This is done in large part by engaging them through relevant content on social platforms as a way to stay top of mind. However, in this day in age, when the number of people watching live TV is decreasing, but second-screen engagement is on the rise, is real-time marketing an effective strategy for brands to consider?

Consider the Time

Like any strategy, timing is important when deciding whether to market in real time. The first step involves having people who are “always on” to stay up-to-date with the latest. A company can either do this by having an in-house employee in charge, or outsourcing to an agency. Two-thirds of companies conduct their own social marketing but are not always doing it to the best of their abilities. They would, however, have a quicker chance of getting content out because they know their brands and how their audiences will react to the content. Agencies may have a better strategic approach, but a disconnect between company and agency could pose a problem. This could be the difference between getting a great campaign out and one that falls flat.

Another important factor to consider is when to launch a campaign after a memorable event takes place. According to Marketing Charts, the key to getting out a campaign is acting within a few minutes. As events are happening in real time, brands don’t want to wait too long because they may come off as irrelevant. The sooner the brands get a campaign out, the sooner someone on a smart device will see it. However, putting out a campaign too soon can may lead to disaster if it was created hastily. There is a fine line between having great timing, and rushing to get content out.

Perceived Benefits of Real-Time Marketing

The Risk Factor

A huge factor is determining how much risk your brand is willing to take. Enterprise companies have to be careful with the messages they put out. The bigger the name, the more scrutiny the brand could receive if a message gets misinterpreted or is perceived as offensive.

A few years ago, during Hurricane Sandy, American Apparel made the insensitive decision to email its customers about a Hurricane Sandy sale, only available for the states affected by the storm. As you can imagine, this email was not well received. Who wants to shop while thousands of people are struggling and in need? This marketing campaign was not effective and proved disastrous for American Apparel.

Lesson learned: Do not promote anything during tragedies. Only provide words of encouragement.

American Apparel email fail

No Plan? No Problem

With all this being said, when the right pieces are in place, a real-time strategy can work. One benefit of real-time marketing is that it can take place without much planning ahead of time. When brands are aware of pop culture events and breaking news, they are able to become more relevant with a larger audience. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, all make this possible. While watching TV, consumers are simultaneously checking social media to see how people are reacting. This gives brands the advantage of inserting themselves into a relevant conversation.

One of the most famous examples of this is Oreos, during the 2013 Super Bowl. During the game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, the power went out at the stadium for over a half hour. Oreos took advantage of this down time and came up with a great real-time campaign. They Tweeted:

Oreos - dunk in the dark super bowl ad

Oreos don’t have anything to do with the Super Bowl (unless it’s your favorite football snack), but it saw a way to insert itself into the conversation in a relevant way. This Tweet saw over 15,000 retweets and over 6,000 Likes. No one, including Oreos, knew the outage was going to happen. It leveraged the power of social media and made a real-time campaign that gave its brand a great boost. Jerry Daykin from Mondelez states, “It was engagement, not reach that made it successful.”

Real-time engagement is not just about social, it’s a new way of marketing through different channels. To increase brand perception, real-time marketing can prove beneficial for brands. It may not always be the best option for certain times and companies, so take the time to strategize if it has more benefits than perils for your brand.

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