Real-time marketing is a lot like improvisational theater: Improv performers look as if they’re thinking on the fly, but actually a lot of practice and planning go into their shows. They have to come up with every single possible scenario or outcome and be ready to respond.
The same holds true for real-time marketing.
Just look at what Oreo did during this year’s Super Bowl. Although clever, it’s not the messaging that got the industry buzzing. What was really impressive about the Oreo scenario was all the preparation done in advance. Oreo, and its agencies MediaVest and 360i, literally set up a social media war room to monitor what was happening at the Super Bowl and figure out how Oreo could interject itself into the conversations happening online. As a result, Oreo will always be referenced in any conversation pertaining to real-time marketing.
To get a better understanding of what it takes to be prepared for real-time marketing, CMO.com interviewed interactive agency Traction Co.’s CEO Adam Kleinberg. Traction assists marketers like Adobe (CMO.com's parent company), Alibaba.com, and Kelly-Moore Paints with real-time marketing; he has also blogged and spoken on several panels regarding the practice. To Kleinberg, real-time marketing is somewhat of a misnomer.
CMO.com: What is real-time marketing?
Kleinberg: I’m almost reticent to define it. But if I have to, I’d say that real-time marketing is marketing that is evolutionary in nature and reactive to what’s happening in culture, news, and other criteria. It’s adaptive. But the definition will be different depending on who you talk to. If you ask a media buyer, they’ll tell you real-time marketing is RTB.
CMO.com: How has the rise of real time changed the marketing landscape?
Kleinberg: It is requiring us to be more flexible and responsive, and to streamline our processes and think about what really matters. It’s forcing us to take a thoughtful look at competing criteria for success. For example, one of the criteria for success is upholding brand standards, and traditionally to be able to do that there was an agency process of review that started with a brief, approval for creative, and so on. It’s a lengthy process that won’t work in real-time marketing.
Marketers have had to learn to let go and trust their employees and their agencies. I am by no means saying that the traditional agency process doesn’t have value. For TV, spots need to be really well-produced, and so that type of process is necessary. But think beyond it for social media marketing and other iterative digital marketing.
CMO.com: Why should CMOs care about real-time marketing?
Kleinberg: If brands want to be relevant, they need to align their brand stories to the stories people are interested in at that time. Every hour, every minute, there are new things trending, and the modern brand’s job is to find moments that are relevant to interject themselves into, to be part of that conversation.
CMO.com: Real-time marketing is sort of a misnomer, right?
Kleinberg: Being successful in real-time marketing means setting parameters in advance. And this is really necessary since you’re getting rid of the review process. Brands need to develop some strict guidelines to work with. You want it to appear to be real time, when, in reality, you’ve got planned content. Of course, there are situations you can’t predict, so you’ve got to be ready to create content on the fly, that adhere to your preset parameters.
A really good example is when Coke relaunched its Web site, turning it into a content portal. I posted on my blog all these things I saw wrong with the site, and Coke’s digital marketing manager reached out to me on LinkedIn and asked me to write a piece criticizing the site. They posted it as the main story on the site. I couldn’t believe. My face was on the main page.
CMO.com: Wow. But did that make you buy more Coke products?
Kleinberg: I have a better view of Coke. It’s like this--I used to hate Nike. But then they started to build really cool experiences, like the Fuel Band, and now I don’t hate them anymore. They’re adding value to me life. I have a greater affinity for Coke now.
CMO.com: What needs to happen internally for a brand to be ready to do real-time marketing?
Kleinberg: The first step is greater trust of employees, agencies, and content creators. There needs to be parameters set as well, which these people will need to adhere to. So a lot of planning and organizing goes into it. There’s a trend now with these social media command centers, and I think they’re necessary for the big companies. They’re just another way of organizing and making sure you’re not missing opportunities. I’ll also add that the listening should be done by the brands, not the agencies.