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A Closer Look At Real-Time Marketing

Real-time marketing has become one of the hottest trends in marketing. While Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” tactic during this year’s Super Bowl arguably remains the most notable example of real-time marketing, the concept has been practiced by a variety of brands over the past year. Some of them have used the tactic successfully by placing ads strategically; others have been criticized for simply trying to jump on board a trend that they may have no business utilizing.

This past June, Conversation’s Vice President of Brand Development, Bill McKeveny, lent his views on real-time marketing in a panel discussion at MediaPost’s Brand Marketers Summit in Kohler, Wisconsin (see video here). We caught up with Bill so that he could expand on his points and we could take a closer look at real-time marketing.

1. Social networks such as Twitter have greatly put the message in the hands of the consumer. How should a brand react when something damaging is posted?

In this case, I believe that transparency is key for a company’s social media team. It’s important for the brand to not only come clean and admit that an error was committed, but also take full responsibility for its actions. In addition, it is crucial to respond to an error in a timely fashion as there is a very critical (and slim) time frame before negative consumer perception of the brand spreads exponentially.

Conversely, if handled appropriately, the company can take a potentially disastrous PR nightmare and turn it into a positive extension of the brand image. A timely, transparent response actually humanizes the brand and allows consumers to emotionally connect with it, thus capitalizing on the power of real-time marketing.

2. In terms of the ROI, is the cost of real-time marketing worth the potential payoff?

In my opinion, real-time marketing is definitely the next logical step in connecting and reaching a target demographic. The prospective payoff with RTM can be beneficial if pursued the right way – as are the potential consequences if done incorrectly. For the first time, RTM provides the opportunity for brands to connect with consumers on a personal level, and that is truly revolutionary in fostering brand loyalty. However, not all brands are necessarily ready or able to market in real-time, given their internal silos. In order for RTM to be successful, a brand needs to have developed a strong, unified brand presence and a distinct, defined brand image. Without these traits, RTM can come off as contrived.

3. What amount of preparation is needed to be truly successful in real time marketing? Is there a need for a separate team dedicated to RTM?

While a good chunk of real-time marketing involves on-the-fly thinking and response, a massive amount of preparation is needed behind the scenes in order for the online campaign to be successful. As I mentioned previously, a brand must first have a unified internal structure in order to properly address RTM. Due to the extremely quick nature of the industry, success is largely dependent on how fast a brand conceives, develops, and puts out an idea. That’s a lot easier said than done. You have to be constantly in the right mindset, otherwise you’ll miss the perfect opportunity to capitalize.

In addition, real-time marketing requires the entire company, from the conceptual graphic designers to the upper management team, to work efficiently and rapidly together. Just dedicating a specific team member to RTM is not only wasteful, but inefficient as real time marketing truly is a combined, cohesive effort from all fronts of a company.

4. What would you say is the future of real-time marketing?

At this point, it’s as good as anyone’s guess. However, what I can say definitively is that the next evolution of real-time marketing will bring brands closer to consumers than ever before, and vice verse. In the near future, companies will have to really listen to what the target demographic prefers and wants just to stay relevant. To really excel with the future generation of consumers, companies are going to have to hone in on a cohesive and uniform brand experience that matches the brand promise. The size of the gap between what a company promises and actually delivers will determine how successful it is, as consumers share more and more personal experiences online.


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