Real-Time Marketing: What it is, how to do it, examples

You know when a brand rides the wave of a current trend to create posts and advertisements? This communication strategy is called Real-Time Marketing and it can be very effective in terms of engagement and brand awareness. In this article we analyse how and when to do Real-Time Marketing – avoiding making mistakes that could ruin our brand reputation – its advantages and some examples of successful (and not so successful) campaigns.

In this uber digitalized and connected world, the level of virality reached by certain content is truly stellar. TV series, films, interviews, performances but also gaffes and oddities of all sorts – nowadays everything can potentially become viral very fast.

All this nourishes Real-Time Marketing – otherwise known as Instant Marketing – which plays precisely on the ability of a brand to respond reactively to external stimuli to promote its products or services.

There are two main methods to approach Real-Time Marketing:

  • responsive: when the brand responds to breaking news or current events that makes it impossible to plan in advance. Everything happens quickly and depends on the brand’s ability to respond promptly and consistently to external stimuli.
  • proactive: when events (internal or external to the company) allow for advance planning. This is the case for certain national and international days, holidays, social events or anniversaries.

The two methods can coexist with each other and also with the other normally planned contents. Surely, however, a choice must be made right from the start, that is, whether or not to include Real-Time Marketing in our communication strategy. Instant Marketing, in fact, is not for everyone. If we think that our brand would be distorted or we do not have the timeliness (or creativity) necessary to do it, it is better to leave it alone: marketing still offers many other possibilities to communicate a brand effectively.

If, on the other hand, we decide to include Real-Time Marketing in our strategy, here are some useful tips on how to do it.

How to do Real-Time Marketing

Do Social Listening

On our blog we have talked several times about the importance of social listening to better calibrate our communication. Clearly this takes on even more value when it comes to Real-Time Marketing, for which timeliness plays a fundamental role.

In fact, social listening allows us to monitor public sentiment in real time and therefore to understand if and to what extent to take part in the conversation as a brand.

When it comes to Real-Time Marketing, social listening should not be limited to the mentions of our brand or the trends of our reference sector, but rather expand to understand what is the most talked about topic of the moment.

Respect your brand and your target audience

As mentioned before, Real-Time Marketing does not necessarily have to be part of our communication strategy. Being there at all costs could, in fact, end up damaging the image of our company, especially if we end up making a communication independent of our sector or expertise.

The key to Real-Time Marketing lies precisely in being able to promote the brand and the products or services it represents by exploiting contingent events – the event must not be the protagonist of our communication but only its frame.

Therefore, let’s respect our brand, let’s not abandon our sector of expertise to deal with things that we know little or nothing about and, above all, let’s remember who our reference target is: our communication must first and foremost be relevant to it.

Do not necessarily take part in every conversation

Even if we decide to include Real-Time Marketing in our communication strategy, we are still not forced to have our say on whatever topic becomes popular. Not only would it be almost impossible in terms of time but, above all, not everything that becomes popular has a positive connotation or is aligned with our brand.

Some issues related above all to current events and society are difficult to deal with and to translate into brand communication. Therefore, in order to avoid mistakes that would end up damaging the image and reputation of our brand – perhaps determined precisely by the haste to say something – it is better to address these topics within a broader awareness and inclusiveness strategy.

Take advantage of the digital but don’t forget traditional channels

Digital certainly plays a major role when it comes to making a certain content popular. It is therefore obvious that part of our responses as a brand should exploit digital channels, especially social media.

However, newspapers, radio, TV, billboards and sector media can prove to be effective means to do Real-Time Marketing – as we will see shortly, talking about successful Real-Time Marketing campaigns.

The benefits of Real-Time Marketing

Now that we have seen what to do (and what not to do) when it comes to Real-Time Marketing, let’s see what are the benefits that effective real-time communication can bring.

Seizing unexpected opportunities

The often-unpredictable nature of Real-Time Marketing gives us the opportunity to emerge as a brand in a new way, and communicate differently from the standard, going beyond (but always respecting the brand) the typical corporate communication.

This could bring a breath of fresh air to our social feeds, as well as positively surprise our audience.

Increasing the engagement 

One of the reasons why Real-Time Marketing works is because of its ability to capture people’s attention and increase engagement. Whenever we deal with a topic that is of interest to our audience, it is much easier for them to feel engaged and therefore take part in the conversation, through shares, likes or comments.

Increasing brand awareness e gaining a competitive advantage

The increase in engagement also entails an increase in brand awareness, a very important factor to reach new prospects and convince potential customers to turn into customers.

A well-executed Real-Time Marketing strategy can also bring us a competitive advantage that can differentiate us from the competition.

5 examples of effective Real-Time Marketing campaigns…

For Thanksgiving Day 2021, Oreo Cookies – a company notoriously devoted to Real-Time Marketing – published a series of funny tweets, focusing as always on irony and playing on the fact that, even though during the holidays we tend to overeat, there is always room for dessert. In this case we can speak of proactive Real-Time Marketing, based on an already scheduled event.

On the other hand, Ikea provides a great example of responsive marketing. In 2017, the fashion company Balenciaga launched a blue bag which resembled a lot Ikea’s famous Frakta shopping bag. The Balenciaga bag, which sold for $ 2,145, immediately generated debates, comments and articles such as the one by the New York Post titled “Balenciaga’s Ikea-Bag Knockoff Is Even Dumber Than It Looks”. For its part, Ikea seized the opportunity by publishing a Clio Awards winning advertisement that ironically explains how to recognize an original Frakta bag.

Another funny and out of the ordinary example comes from ASOS, which demonstrates how to do responsive Real-Time Marketing exploiting internal events. In this case, the result of a mistake (17,000 bags printed with a typo) was communicated by the company in an ironic way, playing on the uniqueness of the product. This generated a lot of reactions on Twitter, where users appreciated that ASOS admitted its mistake and laughed about it alongside the company. By doing so, ASOS also played ahead, avoiding the inevitable criticism that would have followed as soon as someone noticed the mistake.

Netflix is another company that has embraced Real-Time Marketing. Not only because its products go viral and become the protagonists of Instant Marketing campaigns but also because Netflix itself is very attentive to current events and social issues.

In 2018, on the occasion of the Pride celebrations in Milan, the Porta Venezia metro station was invaded by billboards that read in capital letters “Rainbow is the new black”. Other posters in the station featured photos of famous gay couples from Netflix series – such as Piper and Alex from Orange Is The New Black or Lito and Hernando from Sense8. Under the photos, you could find the names of the characters with the words “non esistono” – [they] “do not exist”. This was a direct reference to the words of the then Minister of Families, Lorenzo Fontana, who in an interview with the Corriere della Sera newspaper declared that according to the law, Rainbow families “do not exist”. Netflix’ marketing campaign appropriated Fontana’s statement and subverted it by giving visibility to queer characters who – both in fiction and in life – do exist, and infiltrating them in a real public space. The campaign is an excellent example of Real-Time Marketing which uses traditional channels such as Out of Home ads and that skilfully deals with sensitive issues.

Finally, let’s conclude with another Netflix-themed example. As we have said, often the products of the streaming platform become the protagonist of Real-Time Marketing. The latest product to go viral was Squid Game, the South Korean series that broke all records, becoming the most watched series ever on Netflix. Many brands wasted no time in riding the wave of the Squid Game phenomenon, creating advertising and social posts using some iconic and symbolic elements of the series. Here are some of them, including a B2B company specialized in industrial coatings, which demonstrates that Real-Time Marketing knows no boundaries.

… and 1 example of Real-Time Marketing fail

After all these examples of successful campaigns, it seemed right to also report an example of a Real-Time Marketing fail to highlight how important it is to keep calm and be rational even when timeliness is needed.

In 2018, an audio in which some people heard Yannel and others Laurel went viral on Twitter. The debate ignited, attracting the attention of various brands and institutions, which in turn participated in the conversation. The US Air Force joined the trend, as well, with a promptly deleted tweet that read:

“The Taliban Forces in Farah city #Afghanistan would much rather have heard #Yanny or #Laurel than the deafening #BRRRT they got courtesy of our #A10.”

After receiving backlash, the tweet was deleted and followed by another one of apology.

But the lesson is clear: be careful to pursue a trend at all costs, especially when it comes to sensitive issues. Furthermore, let’s make sure that the trend we want to align with is consistent with our brand and that, above all, it makes sense for us and for our audience.

What do you think of Real-Time Marketing? Do you know other examples of Real-Time Marketing campaigns? Let us know in the comments and contact us to learn about our marketing services.

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After graduating in Languages at the Università degli Studi di Milano, my interest and curiosity towards the digital world led me to pursue a career in this field and to get a Specializing Master in Digital Marketing. Today, I am responsible for the definition and application of marketing and communication strategies for both EOS and the ipcm® magazines. In my free time I travel, I read a lot and I binge-watch TV series. A place to visit at least once in your life: Oman. Must read: Lehman Trilogy by Stefano Massini. What you should binge-watch next: Mr. Robot.

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