Five approaches to real-time marketing that won’t make you look like a dimwitted copycat

Posted on April 2, 2013 11:05 am by | Content | Advertising | Marketing | Social Media

Real time marketing is the future of all marketing.

So writes Steve Hall on the HubSpot blog.

God help us if that means more of this:

Stella Artoi's miserable RTM failure

This example of real-time marketing (RTM) during the Oscars generated a whopping two retweets and one favorite for Stella Artois, a far cry from the way Hall describes RTM as a practice “that encourages people, not necessarily journalists, to identify with and share your message across social networks.”

I found the Stella example—along with several other nuggets of fail—on a new site called Real-Time Marketing Sucks, which bears the tagline, “Watch as brands poorly attempt to capitalize on the RTM trend.” The commentary beneath the image above comes directly from the site.

Ever since Oreo scored a hit with its Super Bowl blackout message, brands have been falling all over themselves to produce real-time memes based on whatever people are talking about. Oreo, it would seem, has cast a bright light on the new holy grail of marketing, a technique that will return marketing to its former glory. (A recent study indicates that 70% of CEOs have no faith in their marketers.)

Pepsi’s global head of digital, Shiv Singh, told Digiday, “It scares the living daylights out of me to think of if all brands had a newsroom and were culture-jacking every event.” Which means Shiv is quaking in his shoes if the list of banal, failed RTM efforts on the Real-Time Marketing Sucks site is any indication.

Is it any wonder young people are abandoning the networks that are increasingly polluted with these silly messages in favor of messaging apps like KakaoTalk, LINE, WeChat, Kik and WhatsApp? And as the feeds and streams adults view are increasingly littered with this content, will they be far behind?

The problem isn’t that RTM is a bad idea. Rather, it’s that the interpretation of what it means has been remarkably shallow (go back and look at that Stella Artois attempt again), most of the efforts stretch too far to be relevant, and far too much effort has been allocated to RTM. The idea that the future of marketing is all RTM is absurd. Imagine Disney Parks abandoning all its brilliant marketing efforts to pump marketing nickel it has into event and cultural memes.

Besides, it was the originality of Oreo’s RTM effort that got everybody excited. Lame efforts at duplication won’t have any such effect.

Nothing posted to this blog will stop the surge of dim-witted marketers piling onto the bandwagon until the wagon’s crack under the weight of . Wise marketers, however, will be more circumspect in their approach by focusing on two things:

  • They will exercise balance between RTM and other techniques that are strategic, aligned with their audiences, and crafted to produce measurable results.
  • They will view real-time marketing as more than just newsjacking and culture-jacking, more than wannabe-clever observations and jokes.

The idea of building and staffing a brand newsroom just to produce the kind of crap on display on the RTM Sucks blog suggests that those behind these efforts imagine all reporters and editors do all day is listen to the police scanner for breaking news. Anyone who has ever worked in a real newsroom knows how ridiculous that is. Journalists look ahead to upcoming events, including boring stuff like actions on the docket at city council meetings and county agency hearings. They provide insights to help readers understand these stories so they can take informed action and better understand what happens when the vote is taken or the hearing held. They conduct investigations into matters that are decidedly not real-time (although they will be when the story breaks). They look to the horizon to figure out what readers should know about beyond the superficiality of today’s liquor store heist or freeway pile-up.

For an effective RTM effort, marketers need to expand their thinking to reflect the mentality of a real newsroom. For example…

  • Plan in advance for your own company’s real-time events—Knowing that its participation in an annual air show was looming, Raytheon prepared extensive coverage, obtaining approvals and even preparing some content in advance. The real-time coverage led to considerable buzz among key audiences.

  • Go beyond a tweet and a graphic—A review of the RTM Sucks blog reveals clever tweets and hastily-composed images. Far more thoughtful is my favorite example from David Meerman Scott’s Newsjacking involving actress Kate Winslet’s rescue of Virgin CEO Richard Branson’s mother from a burning house. Seeing the story, the blogger for the London Fire Brigade published a post that invited Winslet to visit its training center for some formal fire-rescue training. The post was reported in multiple outlets, including the BBC. Another example: Children’s Hospital Boston built a lot of buzz by posting an interview with a pediatric speech-language pathologist explaining the science behind a YouTube video of two babies babbling at each other that was going viral.

  • Offer a unique perspective—Live blogging is a real-time activity that can produce solid results, particularly if your audience knows in advance that you’ll be providing running commentary that offers an angle on an event that is unique and compelling. Imagine, for example, a mobile app developer live-blogging the launch event for the new Samsung Galaxy 3, not just recounting what’s happening on stage but remarking on what it means for the future of apps.

  • Hold your own live events—Tweetchats and Google+ Hangouts can get a lot of traction if properly promoted and focused on relevant topics. Consider how U.S. President Obama stole the thunder from the opening of the Republican Party National Convention by conducting an IAMA chat on Reddit. Today, as the National Rifle Association unveils a plan for armed school staff, Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords—founders of Americans for Responsible Solutions—could announce an IAMA, a tweetchat in which they’d take questions, or a Google+ Hangout (among other options) and build plenty of buzz while producing tons of coverage.

  • Crowdsource your coverage—At South by Southwest, Taco Bell invited fans attending a concert to share their video that would ultimately be assembled into a rockumentary, all using Vine and all part of the fast foot chain’s Feed the Beat initiative, which provides meals to up-and-coming artists.

What differentiates the examples above from the garbage on the RTM Sucks blog—and from each other—is that they are well-thought-out efforts that serve a larger strategy, appeal to clearly-identified audiences and produce measurable results. They’re also harder to do than tossing off a dud like this:

US Cellular's miserable RTM failure



  • 1.Ever since the Oreo's Super Bowl black out tweet, companies has been coming up with unoriginal and disingenuous RTM efforts. To be successful, people need to be able to detect a sense of spontaneity. Here is an article I wrote right after the Super Bowl about real time media.

    Katie | April 2013 | Columbus

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