Instead of spending the next 5 minutes reading this post, you could be gaining 3,000 more followers. That is, if you are using (your toaster), if you have tiger blood or a general addiction to #winning, and if your name is Charlie Sheen.
It hit me that things happen mostly in the present, as I was trying to get an agency contact on the phone to set up a meeting-to-generate-ideas-for-2012-on-one-of-my-brands. He was at the airport, something happened with security, he had to jump on his flight and we couldn’t talk until the next day.
Coincidentally, at about the same time, Charlie Sheen started tweeting.
Within the 24 hours window it took us to start a conversation about the future, Sheen had build a 1,000,000 Twitter follower base from scratch… winning! What this highlights, is how more and more of what happens in our world (the marketing-world) happens in a fast-paced, topical and reactive way. Time measured in days, not months.
WHERE THERE’S A BUZZWORD, THERE’S ALSO B.S.
There’s already a name for the kind of marketing that builds off Social Media and makes the most of trending topics, hot memes and live conversations – it’s called Real-Time Marketing.
#TeamSheen is a great example – in a week, the actor has created his own media with 1,750,000 followers, global trending tags and countless top retweets. His public meltdown also inspired entrepreneurs (vultures?) with anything from t-shirts to dedicated satellite radio channels. Not the kind of marketing you can plan eons in advance – you just need to keep your ears fairly close to the ground, and react when you start hearing the buzz. Right?
Real-Time Marketing is riddled with misconceptions – fact is that it’s just like regular planned marketing, only harder. Here’s three key things to think about if you want to start marketing in Real-Time.
1. REAL TIME IS ABOUT IDEAS, NOT TOOLS
Listen to Facebook pitch their advertising platform: how awesome that you can trigger targeted ad campaigns – based on geography, demographics, interests, you name it – all from the comfort of your bed, with an iPad in one hand and your first mug of coffee in the other. Before your day even starts, your campaign can go live with one click.
This should make Real-Time Marketers Real-Happy, no? Track a few key trends, work a little targeting magic and boom! ads go live on Facebook, Twitter and other fancy Interwebs media platforms.
Except, who cares if you have nothing good to say?
Take the Old Spice personalized video campaign last summer – when P&Gs agency Wieden+Kennedy extended the already wildly successful campaign with close to 200 videos responding to live tweets, shot and posted within a 48 hours window.
Sure, I won’t dispute that Twitter and YouTube played a great role. But the stroke of genius was not to shoot-and-post-in-real-time… it was to lock up a small army of the most talented copywriters in the world, feeding them tweets and energy bars, with only one mandate – to write funny shit for two days.
What you need to create great stuff in real time is:
- Creative teams who work on their feet - now and anytime, what you need is creative horsepower more than media horsepower.
- Nimble production systems – to get ideas out the door cheap and fast… at least cheaper and faster than your typical three months and million bucks TV ad.
2. REAL TIME NEEDS GOVERNANCE
Recall the public outrage that followed a tweet by Kenneth Cole using the trending #Egypt tag to promote a new clothing collection; as many pointed out, not a sensitive thing to do when a nation is rising against dictatorship and people are dying in the streets. But hey! it’s Real-Time, right?
Of course Kenneth Cole won’t be firing himself over the incident (which allegedly was his own idea), but the damage to his brand image was not negligeable, despite his quick Facebook apology. Mistakes will be made. Question is how companies will deal with them, and with the employees responsible.
In most places, things look like this: a formal advertising approval process exists, with several stage-gates from marketing to legal, and often a GM or CEO sign-off; good luck being real-time with a process designed to deal with a handful of campaign executions produced over months… not days or hours. Or some forward-thinking individuals make judgement calls and put their own ass on the line in the interest of great work; it takes a special mindset to take this kind of risk, and it can get you fired – or seriously bruised. For most, the gamble just not worth it.
Either way, real-time cannot happen without the proper governance, such as:
- Clear definition of what the brand stands for – you can’t predict everything the brand will need to say, but you must set clear parameters, principles and values,
- Structured listening – for both the trends and the reactions to your real-time work,
- Single layer of instant approval or rejection – one senior decider with authority to call the shots fast. And if you insist on lawyers, fine – get one to sit with your team and be available anytime a legal sign-off is needed.
- Air-cover and permission to fail – teams need to feel confident that they won’t get fired over a bad campaign… when things go faster with less check-points, mistake can happen; but so can brilliance, and learning.
3. REAL TIME TAKES MORE PLANNING, NOT LESS
Finally, it should appear obvious by now, real-time should not be left to the last minute – before you can react to the latest trends with clever creative released within the day, you’ll need to organize your teams in quite a radically different way. It might be counter-intuitive, but ‘reactive’ takes more planning, not less.
A few thoughts starters:
- Brand Briefs – brands should not just randomly react to world events; but they can use live events as a creative surface to bounce their message against. Know what you want to say upfront… it’s ok to leave bits of the ‘how’ to the last minute.
- Identity and Art Direction Guidelines – much easier to let creative go out the door if you have a set of pre-approved templates.
- 80/20 Budgets – a smart thing to do it to give senior management comfort on 80% of your activity… to buy the flexibility to keep 20% more reactive and topical. This means working harder at the 80% to earn permission and trust.
- Pre-Planned Real Time Occasions – some things, you just can’t forecast (#tigerblood), but there are many event that you can see coming from very very far away. You may not know the specifics of what will be hot during, say, a major sports competition – but you can plan to have your creative teams ready in the days that matter.
- Flexibility – you’ll need to create time so you can drop stuff when needed to work on something that “came up” (perfect example here, this post really comes 3 days too late )
BACK TO TIGERBLOOD
In conclusion, “Winning in real time take a special kind of brain, bro, I’m an F-18″… or some other quote Charlie Sheen could have said. What else do you think about to make your marketing more reactive and topical?