Real Time Marketing Is Bull

Earlier this year, I keynoted at the ANA’s Digital and Social Media Conference. My topic was why it’s time to stop talking about the next big thing (NBT) in digital. As if that wasn’t provocative enough, I participated in a Q&A where I was asked to comment on the growth of real-time marketing (RTM).

My response went something like this: Well, it makes for a great drinking game…and judging by the number of times it’s been mentioned at this conference, we’d all be doing our fair share of drinking! The whole real time marketing is – quite frankly – bull sh1t! Here’s the thing -- just move quicker. If you can move from elongated 12-month planning cycles to 11, you’re on the right path. If you speed up to the point where you are operating in “real time,” then kudos to you, but for the most part, it’s much more realistic, practical and pragmatic to focus on being more agile, adaptable, flexible and nimble.



I kind of regretted the BS part of the response for about a millisecond, but honestly, I think it was important to put that line in the sand. Don’t get me wrong, I think the ability to react or “proact” in real time is a worthy -- and aspirational -- goal, but it’s pretty much elusive for about 99% of the entire market.

In my new book, “Z.E.R.O,” I write about the Oreo “Dunk in the Dark” tweet from this year’s Super Bowl. Z.E.R.O. is an acronym for zealots, entrepreneurship, retention and owned assets but it also is part of a vision that in a perfect world, the optimal paid media budget would be ZERO. In many respects, the tweet in question falls under the O of Owned Assets in the form of sublime and opportunistic content marketing. In addition, it had a paid media cost of Z.E.R.O., although it certainly wasn’t free. Just ask anyone who has implemented a RTMCC (real-time marketing command center)!

In addition to the hidden costs, it is also not scalable, nor cost-efficient over the long run, especially if said command center is trolling the Interwebs to capture lightning in a bottle or worse, hoping it will strike the same place twice. There will never be another power failure at a Super Bowl. NEVER! And even if so, I am reminded by a schoolyard mantra, Once is witty; twice is sh1tty.

Instead -- and I alluded to this earlier -- brands should focus on being more agile in general. Real-time marketing is a philosophical and cultural imperative, not a tactical checklist. No question, there has to be a strategic framework to support the organizational process required to operationalize and implement this kind of marketing with any degree of consistency and quality, but it is less about the next zero-based tweet and more about the ability to take a leaf out of the lean startup’s playbook and pivot, change course and/or course-correct.

In other words, let’s focus on the “real” in real time, as in “keeping it real.” Let’s focus on responding to customers quicker. Let’s focus on empowering our front-line employees to solve problems quicker. Let’s eliminate 24-hour auto-responders in favor of responding to emails as quickly as you would when someone offers you tickets to your favorite musician or sports team.

In the court of public opinion, we will be judged on the ultimate contradiction: a long game that reflects how quickly we adapt to much bigger forces of change than the tweet, power failure or twerk of the hour.

Oh and apologies for my potty mouth today, but in my defense, I did insert 1’s for i's.
3 comments about "Real Time Marketing Is Bull".
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  1. Christopher Sanders from The Ingredients Group, October 17, 2013 at 3:57 p.m.

    Bravo! We need more emphasis on practical skills to serving customers, not more theoretical Marketing Utopia's. Recently, Aaron Baar wrote an article for DigiDay that also proclaimed the "The Funnel is Dead, Long Live the Loop" where she talked about "omnichannel marketing" and the changing consumer journey. Additionally, I read an article too about Ben Chestnut, CEO of MailChimp, here on OnlineSpin and how he actually does not use e-Mail marketing to retain his own clients. Seem strange? Flip the funnel over, love your best customers, and they will earn you more. This is the kind of thinking that is worthy of our strategic thinking, not more herd mentality.
    Thanks again for a great article.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 17, 2013 at 5:55 p.m.

    Mr. Potty Mouth, when do think the real time BSers should be selling TP ? ;) How many people want these advertisers following them everywhere ? Oh, maybe I should take that back ? Narcism will backfire. Choices will be chosen for them in real time if/when it ever real time advertising comes to pass.

  3. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, October 18, 2013 at 5:01 a.m.

    Obvious troll is obvious. Just because your RTMCC (whatever that is) failed, does not mean real-time marketing is bunk. (1) Customers respond to marketing better if it arrives when they are engaged with your brand, so you should vary your contact frequency, and you can't do this properly without real-time data. (2) Our *average* customer is getting better than 10% sales uplift from straightforward real-time marketing that doesn't need a lot of long words to understand. But if you want to leave money on the table, then that's your choice.

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