The Theory of Real-Time Marketing: Why it Just Might Work

There has been a lot of talk about real-time marketing (RTM) over the past few years. There’s been a lot of hype, a lot of criticism, and a lot of questions. The majority of marketers now understand the practice, but many see it as a flash-in-the-plan tactic—a great way to maybe grab a headline during a big event, but not really useful beyond that. Many pundits have chimed in calling RTM out of place for brands, citing a few poor examples of companies attempting to hijack conversations with obvious product placement. But before we jump to conclusions, we should examine both sides of the argument.

 

So today, let’s shed our cynical skins and look at RTM from an objective, 30,000 foot level view. Let’s ask ourselves: why might real-time marketing be a good idea?

"why might real-time marketing be a good idea?"

 

Well, first of all, we need to admit something that we tend to forget: as marketers, our jobs are really difficult. Advertising and marketing, in it’s current form, is an exercise in distraction. You’ve got an audience that is doing something—watching a TV show, reading a magazine article, driving down the highway—and our job is to distract those people to think about something else for a brief period of time. Their head is somewhere else, and we need to draw them in to our storyline, our value proposition, our call-to-action. That’s a difficult thing to do—which means it’s expensive to do it well. Marketers need to hire big-name actors or other beautiful people, write rich storylines, and showcase great production value to make these distractions as appealing as possible. But as the years go by our audience shifts and our tactics to get in front of an audience need to follow suit.

 

It makes me wonder—if advertising were invented tomorrow, would it look the same as it has for the past decade? Probably not.


Today’s audience is more social and more connected than many of our traditional advertising channels can support. As the audience evolves, marketers need to evolve right alongside them to maintain a strong connection.

Connection with an audience has always been about two things: attention and relevance. It just so happens that both of those concepts are changing dramatically in today’s world.

Attention: brands have always had a need to get in front of an audience through different mediums. Television, radio, and traditional digital marketing have followed shifts in consumer attention. Today, more and more of that attention is on social media—spanning across almost every demographic group, growing every day.

Relevance: the right message is one that resonates with the audience. The modern consumer, because of their digital and social shift, is discussing topics and current events with strangers and friends alike. Trends have a short shelf life in today’s social world. The audience’s attention turns in minutes instead of days with the wealth of conversations that new technology enables.


Social networks are emerging as the right place and the right time to engage an audience. Brands are finding that, by nature, social networks act as a platform for two-way communication as opposed to a megaphone for blasting marketing messages. One of the tactics that fuels this new opportunity is real-time marketing.

Real-time marketing brings together the best elements of a social network—relevant topics, the audience’s attention, and two-way communication—to bring brands a fresh set opportunities for building engagement and awareness. Instead of distracting a consumer by changing the conversation, brands can jump in on the current trend—a topic that’s already top of mind for the consumer—and have their say. When RTM is executed well, brands aren't hijacking conversations, they're joining them. And the results, as you’ll see over the next few weeks right here on this blog, are off the charts.


So yes—in theory, real-time marketing has some interesting things going for it. But how do we know it works? This is opinion—where’s the data? Hang tight, we'll dive into that next week. See you then.

Want to know more about how brands are joining conversations via RTM? Download the free introduction to Trendology today!

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Chris Kerns's picture

Chris Kerns

@chriskerns
Chris Kerns has spent more than a decade defining digital strategy and is at the forefront of finding insights from digital data. He currently leads Analytics and Research at Spredfast. His research has appeared in The New York Times, Forbes, USA Today and AdWeek, among other publications.