The Academy Awards, Grammys, and Super Bowl constitute the peak of real-time marketing season. Throughout February, brands ramp up their efforts to generate instant buzz by capitalizing on the unexpected and exciting drama that unfolds throughout the course of these high-profile events. But as my recently published Gigaom report indicates, real-time marketing is more than a brand tweeting from a social media war room during the Oscars. Real-time marketing has become more influential across the entire marketing funnel, from awareness building to customer retention. To maximize the value of real-time marketing, brands should stop treating it as a one-off tactic and instead connect real-time marketing to their strategies across the customer lifecycle.
Real-Time Highs and Lows at the Oscars
The widespread perception of real-time marketing consists of companies building brand awareness by creating content that capitalizes on a time-sensitive event, such as a news development. Oftentimes, brands rely on social platforms, especially Twitter, to engage their audiences in real time. The popular definition might be limited, but it’s one that marketers can understand intuitively, and it has taken hold.
In 2011, David Meerman Scott’s Real-Time Marketing & PR helped trigger the adoption of real-time marketing as we know it today, although many thought leaders such as Regis McKenna and Monique Reese paved the way for Meerman Scott. By 2013, brands were experimenting widely with the insertion of real-time content into current events, with spectacular successes and failures resulting.
The Oscars have encapsulated both the rewards and drawbacks of event-related real-time marketing. The 85th Academy Awards in 2013 saw many businesses dropping real-time duds. As Jay Baer noted on the Convince & Convert blog, brands such as New York Life, Special K, and Bing used Twitter to spread content that ranged from the confusing to the ham-handed. The real-time content that night was so bad that David Armano asked whether real-time marketing had jumped the shark. But at the 86th Academy Awards a year later, Samsung pulled off a real-time marketing coup when the brand supplied Ellen DeGeneres with the camera that she used to snap the star-studded selfie that shook the world, a joyous image that depicted stars ranging from Bradley Cooper to Jennifer Lawrence hanging out together. Within 45 minutes, her selfie became the most reweeted content ever, and Samsung was enjoying 900 mentions a minute on social media.
But the Academy Awards constitute just one night for creating real-time content — albeit an important one, as are the Grammys and Super Bowl. What are some ways brands create real-time marketing beyond a single event?
Real-Time Marketing Across the Customer Lifecycle
Brands continue to swarm around major events such as the FIFA World Cup to generate impressions and social followers by sharing real-time content. But brands, agencies, and merchants are using some of these same techniques for multiple marketing objectives across the customer journey, influencing marketing tactics ranging from website development to media buying.
For instance, Taykey turns media buying into a real-time experience by scanning the Web for news events and trends relevant to a client’s target audience and then automatically delivering a client’s ads to media properties where a topic is trending. According to CEO Amit Avner, clients give Taykey guidelines (such as topics to avoid), Taykey examines both the volume and sentiment of conversations occurring around a topic, and then Taykey executes automated real-time media placements. For one of its clients, Paramount Pictures, Taykey conducts real-time buys tied to key milestones in the lifespan of any Paramount release, such as opening week or the date when the movie goes on sale for home viewing. Each media buy is different because each Paramount release is different: the audience for Mark Wahlberg’s The Gambler is radically different from that of The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.
Taykey says that its platform has helped brands achieve purchase intent that is more than 15 percent higher than the industry average and brand awareness that is upwards of 40 percent better than the industry norm.
Meantime, Evergage’s platform illustrates the trend of brands, retailers, and merchants dynamically changing content on their websites to support customer acquisition and retention. Brands using Evergage can vary the messaging (in real-time) for visitors, first-time customers, and repeat customers depending on purchase behavior and how each visitor behaves on the website. For instance, a retailer using Evergage can detect if a visitor to the retailer’s website is lingering on, say, a Tommy Hilfiger Puffer vest for a few minutes, and then serve up, in real-time, a special offer on the vest, but only at the most relevant moment (such as when a visitor might be leaving the site without purchasing anything).
Evergage supports clients such as retailer Rue La La and Publishers Clearing House. Using Evergage, Publishers Clearing House created different real-time content for its website visitors based on whether visitors were engaged, semi-engaged or unengaged. Consequently, Publishers Clearing House has realized an average 12-percent lift in RPM (revenue per thousand visits). For existing customers, Publishers Clearinghouse has seen a 36-percent engagement lift by serving up personalized header bars, whereas similar content for unengaged visitors has resulted in a 19 percent lift in customer acquisition.
Marketers are also more adroitly combining search, social media, and content in real-time to support functions ranging from brand building to customer service. For instance, as part of its #GoInSix marketing campaign, Visa created short-form content, such as Vine posts and tweets, to encourage consumers to express something they love to do, ranging from shopping to travel. Visa used social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to amplify the content for consumer discovery. Visa relied on real-time insights from search and social media to decide what kind of content to share that would tap into topics that consumers were discussing online. The campaign was a combination of content created by Visa and consumers. By having a model for understanding trending topics, Visa was able to make its own content more relevant. The #GoInSix campaign delivered 330 million earned impressions and 37,000 storied engagements per post. For Visa, Google Trends was especially useful as a real-time consumer-monitoring tool to inform the content Visa created on social channels.
What Brands Should Do
To capitalize on real-time marketing, brands should look across your entire digital presence for opportunities to embed real-time marketing. Don’t settle for making one channel real-time unless your strategy for real-time centers on one channel such as social. And even if you rely on traditional social metrics such as engagement, track performance. Even better, tie real-time marketing to key performance indicators that span the customer lifecycle, such as conversion and customer retention rates.
If you deploy real-time marketing with a sound strategy and approach, the payoff will be big. According to a recent survey conducted by eConsultancy and Monetate, brands that use real-time marketing report an average customer conversion lift of 26 percent. According to Evergage, marketers that measure real-time marketing ROI realize a mean ROI of 11-20 percent. Two out of 10 marketers that measure real-time ROI report an ROI of better than 75 percent. Real-time delivers rewards for those who plan for the moment across the right customer touch points.