The Right Kind Of Real-Time Marketing

Last week, we spoke about the Federal Reserve and the challenges that exist when financial trades are happening in milliseconds. But the financial markets aren’t the only arena suffering from an overemphasis on speed. Ever since Oreo won the Super Bowl(well, the advertising aspect of it, anyway), marketers have gotten in a tizzy of excitement over the idea of responding in real time.

Will and Kate’s baby. The 9/11 anniversary. The ”Breaking Bad” finale. If there’s an event people are talking about online, there are marketers doing their darnedest to butt into the conversation.



A fair amount has already been said about how inappropriate, ineffective, and crass real-time marketing -- aka “RTM” -- can be. Just yesterday, Ad Age’s Mike Proulx described it as a ”predatory weed,” and points out that, as much as people try to emulate it, the Oreo Super Bowl tweet wasn’t exactly a fluke: “It's easy to forget that what happened to Oreo last February was a byproduct of its ‘daily twist’ campaign -- months in the making. The popular cookie brand's seemingly inadvertent tweet during the game was made possible by the perfect storm of preparation meeting opportunity and a liberal dose of luck. Most importantly, it made sense for the brand, given the context of its platform. It felt relevant.”

But commentary like this doesn’t seem to be having much effect on brand marketers. So I figured, instead of saying we shouldn’t do RTM, we should talk about the right kind of RTM. And it’s actually very easy to tell whether RTM is the right kind.

You know when you’re talking to someone and their eyes have glazed over and you know you’ve lost them, and you finish your story anyway and they immediately launch into a story of their own that is either totally or mostly unrelated to your story, and you wonder, at what point did they go off onto their own tangent?

This is how most brands do RTM: Customers are talking, but the brand’s eyes have glazed over. When the brand responds to us in real time, they’re not actually responding to what we’re saying; they’ve gone off on their own tangent and are telling their own totally or mostly unrelated story.

And now consider the alternative. When you are truly present with someone, listening deeply, opening ears, mind and heart, you don’t immediately jump back to the other story you wanted to tell. You respond to what is actually being said, not to your own memories or your future plans.

Real-time behavior is about attentiveness to the moment, not about planning to totally pay attention a week from now when there’s a major event on. It is certainly not about only paying attention during the major event for the sole purpose of spotting opportunities to clumsily inject your brand into the conversation.

Marketers, if you’re going to do something in real time, be real-time listeners, not advertisers. Listen to your complaints, to your detractors, to your fans; listen for understanding; listen to know when it is appropriate to speak again.

Being actually present to customers’ needs and feedback? That’s the kind of RTM I can get behind.

5 comments about "The Right Kind Of Real-Time Marketing".
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  1. John Gregory from AOL, October 4, 2013 at 11:55 a.m.

    Kaila, I think you are right on target. At the moment, the idea of real-time marketing is a bit of a myth. The internal decision making process for brand marketers along with creative challenges and layers of client/agency/media publisher coordination can create timing roadblocks in any effort to react in true real time. While the technology may be available to facilitate "faster time" marketing, the organizational infrastructure to make it a reality needs further development. Those who can approach their customers in the right context with a relevant story are certain to invite a more personal brand connection. In the meantime, a little preparation and a lot of luck will influence the current definition of real-time marketing.

  2. Kaila Colbin from Boma Global, October 4, 2013 at 3:21 p.m.

    Thanks, John! Appreciate your comments.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 4, 2013 at 7:50 p.m.

    Real RTM: Solve problems, not self created problems, but problems (includes needs/wants). Solve problems immediately. As a tour guide said on a tour to all of his tribe, "You have a problem. Tell me. I make it go away." It's magic. Poof ! Real RTM ! (PS: It's not just about the actual product/service.)

  4. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, October 7, 2013 at 6:54 a.m.

    The people with the skills you're advocating work in sales, not marketing. Should we give over marketing to salespeople? Maybe.

  5. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, October 7, 2013 at 6:55 a.m.

    Wish there was an edit button. "Should we give over [real-time] marketing to salespeople? Maybe."

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