Real-time marketing. Carpe diem for brands
published on 15.02.23
We live in a world where everything moves at light speed. Consumers have no patience for waiting, they want their needs met in the here and now, and many brands believe that by adopting a faster and more direct strategy they will generate more visibility and success in today’s chaotic environment. Against this backdrop, today we will look at the characteristics of real-time marketing.
What is real-time marketing?
Real-time marketing means providing high-quality content in response to events, news and other developments that are currently trending on social media or other channels. By swiftly reacting to breaking information, brands can capitalize on emerging opportunities and build relationships with potential customers in a more personal way. These users appreciate the ability to connect with a brand directly, and are more likely to return in the future if they feel they have a good relationship with the brand.
It is clear that marketing changed forever with the arrival of social media and smartphones. Nowadays, it is common for digital marketing strategies to incorporate a “live” component in their approach, staying aware of and analyzing different actionable data in real time to create more attractive offers and content. In this respect, the aim of real-time marketing is therefore to ride a trend in order to become part of the conversation and, hopefully, grab a moment in the spotlight, but always while adding value for the brand and the audience.
Bearing in mind that the attention span of digital natives is around two minutes, the key challenges today lie in creating real-time marketing actions that reach the right targets in the most efficient way. To accomplish this, the customer experience must be optimized by integrating multiple channels and understanding the metrics.
One of the keys to all this is following online conversations about different brands. This monitoring (with tools such as Brand24), can provide insight into brand reputation, what customers are talking about, what they are happy or unhappy with, and how they are reacting to the company’s latest ads and products. This information is actionable, analyzable and can be used to tweak marketing strategies to include more relevant and engaging content that responds to user interactions and comments.
3 great examples of real-time marketing
The best examples of real-time marketing always have the same characteristics: they know how to connect; they elicit different emotions; they involve quick and dynamic content that stimulates user action; they have ready-made images; they choose the appropriate platform/network; they avoid controversial topics and have a good understanding of the context. Here are 3 clear examples:
- Oreo and the Super Bowl
Oreo’s 2013 Super Bowl campaign is a perfect example of real-time marketing. Let’s place ourselves in the scene: we’re enjoying a grand final and one of the most watched sporting events in the world, then suddenly there’s a massive blackout that lasts for several minutes. It is at this moment that Oreo reacts swiftly by posting a fantastic ad on Twitter. Not only was it a clever post, but it was also relevant to what was happening at the time.
- Ikea and a press conference with soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo
During a Euro 2020 press conference, Cristiano Ronaldo removed a pair of Coca-Cola bottles, replacing them with a bottle of water. This gesture went viral, and Ikea, one of the most consistent brands for real-time marketing, decided not only to release a brilliant post, but also to name one of the brand’s bottles Cristiano.
- Heineken and the airport strike
The summer of 2022 was notorious for strikes at airports across Europe which grounded thousands of travelers for days. Heineken got in on the news and sparked discussion with a now legendary communication.
Advantages, drawbacks and a recent example
We have seen how real-time marketing is a content strategy that combines ingenuity, creativity and swift reactions to ongoing events. The use of an image (e.g. memes), video or bite-sized text (e.g. tweets) as a way to create a quick response to a current event or consumer trend is what defines real-time marketing. By doing so, you tweak your communication and thrust your brand into a specific context which everyone is talking about.
A recent example that’s deserving of closer consideration in Spain concerns the release of a Shakira song in the early hours between January 11 and 12, 2023. It was a big hit (called Session 53) for the singer and Bizarrap, which included lyrics with references to Ferrari, Twingo (Renault), Rolex and Casio. But it has been the latter that has attracted the most attention on social media, even spawning memes and fake accounts of the watch brand. Other brands (not mentioned in the song) were also quick to launch real-time marketing, capitalizing on the hype surrounding the moment.
Days later, after the storm had died down, Casio issued a press release where it stayed neutral with regard to the lyrics of the song. At the same time, interesting data were published on the brand and how it capitalized positively on a “potential reputation crisis”, which was completely turned around without the use of real-time marketing. As of today, the numbers are incredibly positive (provided by Audiense) and position Casio as a very hot brand. It went from 71,000 Instagram followers to 178,000, and on Twitter it jumped from 1,300 daily mentions to 150,000 during the second week of 2023. Casio is already calling it “the magic week” when it achieved, without seeking it out or creating it, a rise in engagement rate from 0.3% to 9.56%. This is a boost that will require a good strategy to take advantage of the free mention from the Colombian artist.
This story has undoubtedly caught the attention of many marketers, who have taken the opportunity to comment on real-time marketing as a short-term strategy. The big question being, is it worth the trouble of communicating just for a few hours of engagement? Many are already talking about the FOMO (fear of missing out) of many brands that do not know how to skip a trend or event. Too many brands today believe that real-time marketing is what they must do for a few hundred or thousand likes, but what happens after the brands have ridden a runaway trend that then fizzles out after 24 hours? What should we communicate in the following days? The difficult but correct thing to do is create a good content strategy and stick to it. And sometimes, with so much noise, the best approach is silence.
In other words, real-time marketing is one of those strategies whose fundamental principles never change: being quick, relevant and attractive. However, it also has its pros and cons, as we will see below:
- Creating brand awareness
- Communicating with the target audience at the right time
- Real-time customization
- Instant visibility and recognition
- Increased user engagement
- The cost is not very high
- Increased traffic that can convert to sales
- Helps to provide diversified content
- Short-term strategy
- Short-term engagement
- Interpreting data in real time
- The brand may seem too attention seeking
- Timing matters. Never communicate too early or too late
- Being constantly creative and quick is difficult
- Going viral is a complex feat, even if you have worthy content
- Getting it wrong may cause a brand crisis
If it is always alert, with an agile team ready for the feedback, well executed real-time marketing can bring freshness to a brand, but it has its dangers. It is important that it is not central to communication, and therefore to never lose sight of those teams that work in alignment with the brand’s philosophy, which must look after the community in the medium and long term through values that make it special.
A good strategy today is working at two speeds: rapidly to take advantage of momentum and impacts in a strategic way; and with more patience to ensure quality and alignment with the brand’s strategy and purpose. Each must find its own balance, but the important thing is that the quality of the content always takes precedence.
Real-time marketing, when used correctly, is a very powerful tool for positioning a brand by capitalizing on hype, with the hope of reaching new brand territories and new target audiences in an effective and inventive way. But it needs to make sense, and not everything works, because when used incorrectly it can lead to an unnecessary and unwanted crisis.
Author: Joan Margarit, Marketing and Communication Analyst