Audiences around the world were shocked when the lights went out at the 2013 Super Bowl, and many took to the Twitterverse and other social media outlets to express their dismay. Celebrities and non-celebrities alike attempted to one-up each other with their witty comments, and it seemed that everyone had something to say on the subject. Few expected, however, that out of all the tweets out there, the most visible would be made by a snack company. Oreo’s “dunk in the dark” tweet not only caught the eyes of millions of consumers but also thousands of brand strategists who saw it for what it was: a brilliant example of real-time marketing.
Real-time marketing uses content that is created by brands and companies on the fly, usually in response to current events and trends. By taking advantage of social media access, marketers can engage consumers with promotions that are relevant and timely to the second. Real-time marketing campaigns have huge potential. In the days following the Super Bowl, Oreo’s “dunk in the dark” image was retweeted 16,000 times, and the brand’s account gained 8,000 new followers.
Not all real-time marketing campaigns are created equal, however. For example, following the announcement of the birth of the royal baby in Britain, Oreo responded with an image featuring a cookie and a baby bottle. Unlike its Super Bowl tweet, this image garnered little attention. The flop demonstrated that simply responding to the news isn’t enough to win attention from consumers; real-time marketing requires a level of finesse and spontaneity that is sometimes ruined by more obvious ploys.
The most obvious requirement of a successful real-time marketing campaign is timeliness; marketers employing real-time strategies need to have their fingers to the pulse of social media. This means that they need to operate at the speed of the Internet, which as anyone who has spent time on Twitter or Facebook will tell you, is extraordinarily fast. Having exceptional wit is certainly helpful, as many of the more popular real-time efforts have relied on humor. Companies, however, could hire a newsroom full of comedians and still not demonstrate real-time marketing victories.
That’s due to a somewhat surprising fact: real-time marketing requires some deliberation. If every aspect of a marketing campaign is truly done without preparation, the potential for a flop or even a disaster is high. Companies need to ask themselves:
- Who am I targeting? Is my campaign personalized?
- Will my campaign last? Will it create a conversation?
- Does my campaign have an aura of authenticity?
- Is my campaign tasteful?
- How do I want to represent my brand?
- Am I prepared for events that I know are coming?
Real-time marketing creates a world of opportunities for marketers. While spontaneity is key, this strategy also calls for some planning and deliberation ahead of time. Anyone can respond to current events with a clever comment or image; however, it takes a serious and determined mind to treat real-time marketing with the delicacy it requires.