Miranda Miller

Real-Time Marketing Smarts: Companies Killing It with Off-the-Cuff Content

Real-time marketing examples for brandsReal-time social engagement is a great way for brands to stay top of mind, build their social audience and even influence the buying decisions of consumers. On-the-fly upsets to content plans and rapid response content creation are counterintuitive for most brands, though.

At TopRank, we coach brands on careful planning, implementation, measurement and ongoing improvement based on insights. But how can brands maintain quality and ensure thoughtful content if they’re expected to produce and launch it in minutes?

Perhaps the best known example of this strategy recently was Oreo’s infamous Superbowl tweet. They showed just how effective social listening is, when their “You can still dunk in the dark” branded image was retweeted over 16,000 times.

As the story goes, Oreo had already decided to use Superbowl as the platform from which to launch a new campaign; they had no idea what the game would throw their way and certainly couldn’t have predicted a blackout. Yet with their internal teams and agency at the ready, they were able to respond to the Superbowl blackout almost instantly. As a result, the brand gained over 8,000 new followers in the days following Superbowl.

Still, too often, these real-time promotions go unnoticed. They just don’t take off; they don’t hit the mark and brands are left wondering why some succeed while others fall flat. It’s not enough to watch for popular topics, or big events, and attempt to capitalize on them by speaking about (or creating images/video on) the topic. These inauthentic, irrelevant communications are transparent and simply not interesting for the always-on, hyperconnected consumer.

Data Rich and Insight Poor - Real-time Marketing Survey

Source: Infogroup

Our generation of marketers are data-rich, yet insight-poor, say researchers from Infogroup Targeting Solutions and Yesmail Interactive. Their January 2013 survey found that 45% of marketers agree analyzing or applying data will be their greatest challenge in the coming year. Just 11% of respondents don’t plan on using real-time data to inform their marketing efforts, while 53% plan on making greater use of real-time data in their campaigns.

Brands Must Connect in a Meaningful Way

We can’t all be awesome, all the time. However, we might be able to offer some utility, information or even a laugh. Check out these three brand examples of killer on-the-fly content:

Can your brand be authentic and relevant?

Within minutes of the bill legalizing gay marriage passing in the UK, Virgin Holidays tweeted this image and posted it to their Facebook and Google+ Pages:

Not every brand can celebrate legalized gay marriage in social channels and have it come across as an authentic, relevant message.  However, Virgin knows their audience, they offer honeymoon vacations and therefore the message itself is relevant, and founder Richard Branson is an outspoken gay marriage supporter. They used the #equalmarriage hashtag to expand their reach and were rewarded with 265 retweets from their community.

Can your brand be clever and entertaining?

In response to a tweet that claimed, “Saw a bird had crapped on a Smart Car. Totaled it.,” the brand put together this hilarious infographic and tweeted back, “Couldn’t have been one bird, @adtothebone. Sounds more like 4.5 million. (Seriously, we did the math.)”

Smart Car USA real-time infographic

SmartCar USA earned themselves over 500 retweets and 300 Favorites by being great social listeners and capitalizing on an opportunity to engage. The person who had originally tweeted the slight hadn’t even tagged the @smartcarusa account; brand marketers were on simply on the ball and seized the chance.

Can your brand be creative and interesting?

Everyone and their brother tried to get a piece of the Oscars buzz, but Pantene went above and beyond by having an artist on hand to sketch pics of stars’ hair for their social content.

They were able to quickly put out sketches of the trendiest Oscar hairstyles in how-to format, featuring their own products.

Future Campaigns Need to be Planned Less and Managed More

In the future, more than half of the work of managing a social campaign may take place after a campaign starts, estimates Colin Mitchell, Worldwide Head of Planning at Ogilvy & Mather. In a recent whitepaper, Mitchell stresses the importance of dynamic content, conversation management and nurturing, and real-time optimization in modern day marketing campaigns.

Marketers will require six new skills to navigate these new waters, he says:

  1. Planning for talk – Brands need to know their point of view and be prepared to engage if they want to be the topic of conversation.
  2. Rapid-response research – Listening will become a core practice; research will have to be about the here and now.
  3. Rapid prototyping – The days of having months or years to perfect a campaign are long over.
  4. Opportunistic media – Media partners in the future will collaborate more effectively with agencies for media placement.
  5. Plan for the end – A story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Don’t fade away; give your audience a satisfying ending.
  6. Spread the payments – This applies to in-house marketers as much as agencies. Understand that budget needs to extend across the life of a campaign and that the bulk of that effort is shifting from preparation to management.

What is your brand’s story and how can you plan to connect and engage with real-time content? Share your tips or questions in the comments.

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  1. Well Miranda, that’s a cracking post with lots of food for thought for us marketeers. The challenge of course always being – making space for that 20% inspiration, 80% perspiration. Some great examples too. Thanks!

  2. Yes – great examples! I like to think of it as “intelligent timing!” You can only be on-the-fly so much… being prepared is key. Great post!

  3. Avatar Sarah Bauer says

    Real-time marketing operates “on-the-fly”, so businesses need to create management systems that reduce the chain of approval for content publication significantly. Timing is everything, and with every passing minute, a real-time campaign loses its impact!

    Great post, cheers!

    Sarah Bauer

    Navigator Multimedia

    • Avatar MirandaM_EComm says

      Thanks Sarah, the chain of command and approval can be a huge killer if organizations can’t get systems in place to move content along faster. Thankfully it doesn’t seem nearly as bad as it was even a few years ago, when everyone from legal to the VP needed to see every tweet two weeks in advance 😉 I exaggerate, but only slightly.

  4. The speed and creativity needed for a successful real time marketing is required in also required for newsjacking. I’ve been able to come up with some good ideas for newsjacking but this real time marketing stuff may take some time.

    Thanks for sharing some good examples Miranda.

  5. Very interesting! It certainly goes to show that keeping up with the news and listening to consumers has a huge positive impact. It is definitely better to be paying attention to current events and capitalize on them, rather than going along with your regularly scheduled tweets regardless of what else is happening. Clearly the NRA learned that lesson after they sent out that insensitive tweet after the Colorado shooting this summer. I hadn’t seen some of these good examples though, thanks for the information!

    Elizabeth Staub

    Tulane University

  6. Avatar Freeman Student says

    Very interesting post. I love the new wave of companies doing quick reaction marketing to current events. The oreo tweet was a perfect example. I can’t help but think of how big of a big shot the guy who came up with that is around the office. I hope companies continue to do this, as it is becoming more and more possible in the age of social media.

    Freeman Student

  7. It is all about being a part of the conversation and having worthwhile content for any successful social media pages. I think it is also very important for businesses to listen as well as be heard. This post really emphasizes the need for real-time marketing and being a part of the conversation. Companies need to focus on this type of marketing now more than ever. Great post!

    A.B. Freeman School