What a difference a few weeks makes.
At the start of this month, the ad industry was falling all over itself to laud Oreo for its real-time marketing moment during the Super Bowl power outage. When the brand posted a picture of an Oreo with a sassy comment, it was as if the collective lights went ON among the marketing community:
“Real time is hot!”
“Real-time is the answer!”
“I need some real-time, stat!”
And then came the Oscars. And we saw, unfortunately, what happens when brands try too hard to jump on a trend. Most of the marketing I saw posted on Twitter during the Oscars was content that was already developed, “canned” so to speak, or simply deployed at an opportune moment. Only a few marketers took it to the next level, developing creative that was actually timed to what was going on during the telecast.
A hashtag set up by Edelman Digital exec David Armano to track the Oscars real-time marketing, #OscarsRTM, saw discussion quickly change from a few industry intelligentsia talking about the pros and cons of real-time marketing (myself included) to a mass of naysayers eager to bash everything they saw. To be sure, there were a lot of hamfisted attempts at being “relevant.” But the negative reaction will no doubt send many brands and their agencies back to square one when it comes to using real-time marketing. Some will probably not return, and deem the concept a flash in the pan. This couldn’t be further from the truth; there is so much to be learned about what it means to be responsive, reactive and relevant, for brands. As I tweeted yesterday during the aftermath of the Oscars,
It’s been really fun over the past few months to see the growth in the amount of commentary and analysis of the real-time marketing trend. Recently, two Gartner execs offered their own takes on it.
Mark P. McDonald, a group vice president and head of research for Gartner Executive Programs, wrote about the role of digital technology in shaping consumers’ behavior and experiences in real time.
Some key snippets:
There are two sides to behavior. One is marketing in real time, which the Gartner for Marketing Leaders team defines as “a deliberate, sustained commitment to garnering business advantages through speed.” Real time in this sense focuses on increasing the dynamism within the customer – company marketing dialog to enable organizations to sense and respond quickly to changing demands, for example airlines use of dynamic pricing, dynamic offers, and the like. The focus on real time in this sense is on organization for speed, agility and rapid response to unplanned events — within time frames that can impact business advantage.
A digital edge customer experience realizes that the best experience an individual can have is one that they create for themselves, in real time. Consider an experience shaped by the customer, open to their context, past experience and delivered in their own time, on their own terms and specific to their situation.
Research VP Richard Fouts wrote about turning an organization into a real-time marketing machine. In his opinion, the transformation doesn’t involve a massive top-to-bottom business transformation. “Those efforts usually fail,” he writes, “because they try to deal with too much, and they often fight well established culture norms that need to handled more delicately. A more measured approach that leads by example is usually the better way to go.”
Good advice to remember for marketers, and for me as I cover this topic in more depth. It won’t do anyone any good to put out sweeping declarations about the need for real-time marketing. Better to show how the things marketers are already doing – using social analytics, doing search marketing, developing creative, etc. – can happen faster.
I spend a lot of time in this blog thinking about why real-time is a good thing, and certainly most of the people I talk to agree that it is, despite the challenges.
However, I just came across this personal blog post, written by Dan McKinley, an engineer at Etsy.com. He describes several compelling reasons why using real-time web analytics to make immediate changes is NOT a good idea. It’s important stuff to remember as marketers figure out what path to take in the push toward real-time.
Here are some of the points he makes:
- “Confusing how we do things with how we decide which things to do is a fatal mistake.”
- “Depending on the change that’s being made, making any decision based on a single day of data could be ill-conceived. Even if you think you have plenty of data, it’s not farfetched to imagine that user behavior has its own rhythms.”
- “Real-time web analytics is a seductive concept. It appeals to our desire for instant gratification. But the truth is that there are very few product decisions that can be made in real time, if there are any at all. Analysis is difficult enough already, without attempting to do it at speed.”