Forget The Hype -- Real-Time Is About Quicker, Not Instant

Real-time is the big buzz in marketing right now, and for good reason. When goods, services and messages about your brand travel around the internet at the speed of light, it makes sense that a brand's reactions need to sharpen up too.

I'm not going to say there is anything wrong in adjusting marketing to real-time conditions. After all, real-time bidding and programmatic buying allow brands to set parameters for the types of people they want to reach and for how much before the machines take over and the results start pouring in.

Where I don't really get it is in the more human marketing decisions. A good example is the poster child for real-time marketing -- the "no make-up selfie" which Cancer Research UK latched onto and earned something in the region of GBP8m in donations. It hadn't started the trend, but it jumped on a movement that was always about supporting people living with cancer and the rest is marketing history. Trouble is, a few days elapsed before the charity acted, making the outside observer wonder how real-time this champion of real-time marketing really was?

My point is, however, it's for good reason that they didn't immediately jump up on the campaign. They acted swiftly to decide it was a credible viral campaign with "legs" that wasn't tainted by an ulterior motive (like all those awful Britain First viral pictures doing the rounds) and so was a good cause to back, add credibility to and earn donations from.

Marketing can be its own worse enemy sometimes when a buzzword needs to be mentioned to draw attention at board level, in a conference room or in a news release. Throw in "real-time" at the moment and you could place a story about watching paint dry, so long as it's done in "real-time" rather than that old fashioned bygone practice of popping out for a few hours while the undercoat dries.

So, when Yo! Sushi brings in its instant feedback smartphone forms in the very near future, the term "real-time" will be bandied about -- and for good reason. Forms processed in real-time will provide instant feedback from customers. 

My query is -- how real-time is it if a human somewhere within marketing needs to make a decision? How often will that marketing person be around on a weekend evening when the highest number of forms are returned? And would you want a marketing executive to be making instant far-reaching decisions instantly based on a small survey of forms?

Don't get me wrong. I think what they're doing is very clever. If a dish is not well prepared that night for some reason, feedback will be instant, and if a new dish is being trialled but isn't hitting the spot with early tasters, that feedback will be available right there and then. 

However, as soon as you mention "real-time" and menu tweaks and other strategic decisions, don't expect to be taken seriously. Big decisions require collaboration -- they can't be automated through voting forms.

My mantra is keep real-time for the machines and allow real-time feedback from customers to speed up marketing decisions, never even mention the term "real time" when it comes to strategic actions. 

Real-time input empowering quicker decisions is probably the best way to look at it. 

And for my two pence worth, I'd use a smartphone form to tell Yo! Sushi the most obvious strategic decision they should make. It's so glaringly obvious that it has eluded them thus far. But they're not alone, TfL and its Tube map is just as guilty. In fact, just about every brand in the world is guilty of the same mistake.

I'll bet you nobody on the Yo! Sushi board is colour blind.

That's why they have a pricing structure based on the colour of the bowl you pick off the conveyor belt. 

For us colour blind people -- estimated to be between one in six or one in ten males -- this makes the whole system unfathomable. 

Consider yourselves informed -- in real time, of course.
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