While waiting for my train the other day, I overheard a conversation between two ladies that were sitting next to me. I wasn’t listening, honestly; I was sitting there freezing, waiting for the train to arrive so I could defrost myself, when suddenly one of the ladies said to her friend, “It’s going to get up to 24 degrees this Sunday,” and that caught my ear. A warm and sunny weekend in the middle of the freezing cold winter?? That calls for a celebration (or at least a nice picnic) in my book! I immediately shared the exciting news with my husband (a nice way to say that I notified him regarding our weekend plans). By the time I got off the train, 3 of my friends had already texted me about the same thing. One of them had even sent me a screenshot of it from the Weather app.
Obviously, EVERYBODY was buzzing about the warm weekend in the middle of the winter. An unexpected “holiday” was created within minutes, and all I could think of was: this is a classic Real-Time Marketing moment.
RTM is nothing new; it’s been around for a few years now and has taken many shapes and forms (some are more data-oriented, while others are more about real-time personalization). In this specific article, I will focus on the classic, initial RTM approach and how it can benefit small brands with minimal budgets.
Real-Time Marketing is all about taking advantage of CURRENT situations / events / news / etc. that is foremost on the public’s mind and leveraging it for your own brand’s benefit. It’s done by creating a relevant hook between your brand and the “present-day” buzz topic, whether it’s got something to do with the industry you’re in or (in most cases) not. Social events, sporting events, the latest news, celebrity gossip, extreme weather conditions, upcoming movie premieres… anything goes, as long as it’s buzzing.
If I had to describe RTM as a product or software, I’d say its 3 main ‘features’ are:
Knowing the nature of startup companies (and founders), I know what you must be thinking right now; it’s something like “well yeah, awareness is important, but at this stage I need quick wins to get the cash flow going…” Well, my friends, awareness is the very foundation of any purchase decision. You could have the best product in the world, but no one will buy it without knowing about it…
RTM offers you a relatively low-cost option to expand your brand’s awareness way beyond your existing followers on your “own-media” channels (website, social pages, blog, etc.). When done wisely, RTM can go viral with retweets / shares / likes, reach new audiences (you don’t even have to pay for), and eventually boost your sales.
By wisely, I mean done in a way that will not only raise awareness but also increase your brand sympathy (a measure of the level of positive brand perception). When done wrong, an RTM ad can cause a disaster, because as much as people love sharing good ads (or any other content, for that matter), they love sharing the really bad ones even more (to make fun of / to protest against / etc.), and that might put your brand under the spotlight, but on the wrong stage.
Here’s an example of one of the best RTM tweets done by Tide during “The Dress” buzz:
And here’s an example of one of the worst RTM tweets made by DiGiorno Pizza during the tribute to the 50th anniversary of “The Sound of Music” for the 2015 Oscars… Ovens might not have been the best choice of words here:
DiGiorno Pizza rushed to delete this tweet, but the harm was already done (and caught on print screen to be shared with the world).
So how can you create a good RTM ad that will really benefit your brand? Here are 8 ground rules:
1. Be quick – try to release your ad / tweet as soon after the breaking news as possible.
2. Be professional – don’t let it look like it was done quickly and crafted within minutes – after all, this is your brand’s image you’re dealing with.
3. Be yourself – make sure your ad is relevant to your brand’s essence and core identity. Don’t force a new message in order to match the buzz topic, as it will only confuse your audience. It doesn’t mean you have to use only your slogan; it means, for example, that if your brand is all about time saving, don’t make it be about the money you save when you’re saving time (unless that was originally part of your message as well…).
4. Be creative – find the most creative way to get your message across, even if it’s just a simple text without any images to go with it. It’s the creative things that people tend to share and remember.
5. Be brief – no CTAs and not too much text: keep it short and simple!
6. Be attentive – understand what it is you’re talking about / connecting with. If you’re not 100% sure what the buzz is about, you need to sit down and read before you jump in; some buzz topics are best to stay away from.
7. Be careful – make sure you are aware of any and all potential consequences, good and bad. if you feel like your ad might be offensive / misunderstood / etc., don’t go for it.
8. Be there – make sure your marketing team is present to see the reactions you get (and, if needed, to comment back). Have a dedicated person to monitor comments in real-time, especially if it’s a live event like sporting events, the Oscars, etc.
The common misconception is that RTM is the “big brands” domain. One of my clients once said: “Coca-Cola makes real-time marketing, I have to make real-time sales…”, but that impression is inherently wrong.
It’s true that big corporates and leading brands have dedicated marketing teams, big budgets, and an already-existing brand awareness, so it’s easier for them to get their message across. However, it also takes longer for these companies to make a decision, execute it, and approve it, and while they’re improving their brand’s image, they are usually convincing the already-convinced audience.
However, as a startup company, you have fewer decision makers, faster approval and execution processes, and your RTM ad will not only raise awareness, but will also make people curious about this new and interesting product / service they’ve never heard of before (or have heard of, but never looked into). In fact, you’ll get credit points before people even try your product, and that’s one of the best things that can happen to your brand. Now you just have to deliver on what you’ve promised…