Are You There, Brand? It's Me, Vine

There are so many haters of real-time marketing out there.  Mike Proulx wrote about it as a predatory weed, Carree Syrek wants us to avoid using the term or pay a dollar, and there is at least one entire blog devoted to snarky comments on brand RTM efforts. Theirs, and other anti-RTM arguments, center around the fact that some marketers are tripping all over themselves to try and match the headline grabbing social content of brands like Tide, GE, and Red Bull —and that this blind race results in a variety of brand failures.

I don’t understand the intensity of the negativity.  The activities required to engage in RTM are not intrinsically problematic.  Real-time is a terrific space, enabled by technology that has unlocked modern versions of traditional WOM consumer behaviors—and brands need to get good at it.  And while most of the activities have focused on Facebook and Twitter, the sentiment translates across the latest notable, in-the-moment video tools like Vine, Instagram, and Snapchat. 

Consumers in these channels don’t tolerate safety, tepidness, or trepidation.  They reward speed, honesty, and creativity. Those are qualities that we should be encouraging in our brands across the board — and it’s why more marketers should be diving deeper into social video.

The Comparison

As always, it’s helpful to look back at the evolution of advertising and marketing.  Early television ads are laughable by today’s standards for a variety of reasons.  One factor is evolution – the technology, of course, but more importantly, the consumer expectations and our understanding of how to best use the medium.  TV advertising has matured, changes are minimal and incremental, innovation is almost nonexistent, and everyone follows the same set of best practices.

Vine, Instagram, and even YouTube are in an embryonic stage of their lifecycle.  And the rate of change in this area may redefine maturity.  People and brands learn by doing.  Mistakes will be made. Marketers can’t wait for best practices to develop — with social video, they are typically out of date every six months.  The best practice for this space is iteration – discovering what your unique set of fans is interested in.  And while a lot of brands are fearful that a stumble in social media could result in a backlash, this is the case with poorly made content in any channel. Kenneth Cole’s tweets weren’t stupid because they were on Twitter, they were just stupid.

The naysayers of RTM wouldn’t tell a brand to stop investing in TV because of a bad commercial. The same attitude should apply to social video and real-time marketing, where the rewards outweigh the risks. 

Social Video Channels are Innovation-Oriented

Creative experimentation in TV or traditional marketing is fraught and scarce.  It does happen, on occasion (for instance, Domino's telling everyone their pizza isn’t good or Infinity’s static view of the ocean), but in general brands and marketers are (understandably) less willing to take risks with all of those extra zeroes in the price tag. 

But social video is built for innovation.  It has a half-life that would make a fruit fly seem like an octogenarian, which makes the learning value cycle tight and actionable.  It has a ruthless but forgiving audience, as long you are transparent and honest.  It rewards relevance, speed, forthrightness, and uniqueness. These attributes are attractive to marketers and brands – authentic mistakes can even be rewarded with positive feedback.  A healthy fan base can allow a brand to explore and test concepts with people whom already like the brand.  Real-time content (flow), as well as evergreen content (stock), can be deployed for a variety of outcomes.

So brands like Oreo have hit grand slams, singles, and made some errors – but overall, their leadership in these channels is a compelling story that has increased their industry adulation and jealousy, as well as consumer attention and appreciation.

KPIs, Metrics

At the end of the day, the total investment (including media, creative, and legal approval resources, etc.) in social video needs to pay off.  But don’t get lost in rigor and fear, when you know that connecting and interacting with consumers is incredibly valuable.  Not every brand can do it.  Not every brand can do it in real-time.  And no brand should be charging off in irrelevant areas.  But these dangers exist in everything that brands do; this governance isn’t exclusive to social video, it’s mandatory at every consumer touchpoint.  So set your KPIs and iterate your social content until you get it right. 

Now – off you go to make some social video content.

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