Real-time marketing is seen by many as the perfect response to the always-on, connected world. The ability to adapt product, service, approach or offer and respond instantly to new market opportunities sure sounds like marketing gold – in theory. So why is it so difficult to get right in practice?

We’ve seen some success with brands adapting creative messaging in response to cultural or political events – so called newsjacking (Oreo’s Super Bowl tweet being the much laboured example). This tactical approach can certainly influence sentiment and even  behaviour in the short term. But it’s all too easy to get it wrong. In their excitement to get on the bandwagon, some have missed the point that just because you have the ability to respond, doesn’t mean you should. You have to be authentic or you get found out. You have to have something meaningful to add to the conversation. Something that makes sense for the brand in relation to the event. If not it’s just careless and clumsy noise. Or worse still the awkward silence (or sometimes the collective intake of breath) that follows a painfully inappropriate and badly-timed joke.

However, if you change ‘event’ to ‘insight’ something altogether more strategic and interesting emerges. A focus on adapting products, services, approach and offer based on real-time INSIGHT – is by definition authentic.


Its about having an ear-to-ground, up to the minute understanding of cultural change and matching this to near instant feedback on the needs and preferences of your consumers. The response is then about helping people make sense of rapid change, to help them appreciate your brands place, meaning and relevance in the now. 

Importantly, this doesn’t mean everything has to be done in real time. To make sense of the brand in the now, requires the clarity and conviction of the longer-term brand narrative. Grounding real-time marketing activity in the bigger brand story not only helps to identify when and where to join in the conversation, but a gives a reason and permission to do so.

This means brands, and their agencies need to be more fluid, but based on authentic brand values and true market understanding. This requires:

  • The means to listen to, and interpret, real-world events in real-time. Which thankfully gives a purpose to all the ‘war rooms’ being amassed.
  • Customer insight in real-time. Which comes from combining things like open and closed data, partnerships, consumer interactions and listened sources.
  • A clear framework of when to respond. This may be a set of automated rules based on profiles and trigger events, or through human intervention
  • Something to response with. This may be ‘created’ in near real-time. But doesn’t have to be. It might be pointing someone to an existing piece of content or connecting them with someone else.
  • The channel to response. And come on, this has to be more than just twitter.
  • A culture of empowerment and capability to respond in real-time.

The importance of the last, can’t be under-estimated. It heralds a new age, where more fluid, open and rapid innovation and decision making is required. And not just within the organisations. Brand’s need their agencies to step-up. To help them not only put the processes and tech platforms in place, but be true partners in capturing and responding to real-time insight.

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