Since Oreo’s major win at the Super Bowl in 2013, real time and always on content have been at the top of marketers’ minds. While there are similarities between the two approaches, they have subtle differences that can help your brand enrich and strengthen consumer relationships in the new year.
For the most part, real time content marketing focuses on the convergence of social, search and timing, responding to customer needs and topical events as they happen to create context. While great real time marketing can feel like a happy accident, it is always part of a great deal of planning and strategizing based off consumer insights. In practice, real time marketing will often employ brand newsrooms that staff an integrated team of data analysts, creators and publishers.
Always on marketing, on the other hand, can be considered an evolution of the real time approach. While it is both anticipatory and contextual like real time marketing, always on marketing focuses less on small, topical bumps of short term engagement and more on long term relationship building. According to this study by CivicScience.com, 60% of respondents admit to almost never unplugging from personal technology. Always on marketing delivers experiences across channels, screens and mediums, delivering on a consumer need before they even want it. It is constantly discoverable and evolving, building small interactions over a long period of time instead of short term campaigns.
Some of the very best examples merge the two together. Take Arby’s response to Pharrell’s hat at the Emmy’s. What started as a real-time response to a pop star’s fashion choice turned into something much bigger. Brand and celebrity started a conversation, resulting in Arby’s actually purchasing Pharrell’s hat in an eBay auction with the proceeds going to charity. One single message was favorited, rewteeted and praised by a number of brands in unrelated categories (i.e. Pepsi and Hyundai), but instead of staying content with one solitary viral engagement, Arby’s continued the dialogue and beefed (pun intended) up their responses to consumers by 170%.
At their best, both real time and always on marketing have the opportunity to create necessary context for consumers to engage with brands in moments that feel genuine and unplanned. But fact is, both require a tremendous amount of planning, strategy and collaboration to make those connections happen. Here are the basics on how to get started in 2015.
- Develop the culture internally. Having a lengthy approval process that requires numerous rounds of feedback will put your brand at a disadvantage when it comes to creating content on the fly. Of course, walking the fine line between brand control and spontaneity can take time to master, but you have to be ready to take the leap when it comes to green lighting real time creative. Making sure the next step is in place should ease the way considerably. Coke has mastered the operationalizing of the process by creating a Hub Network that acts as a “modern day call center” to host its 32 social centers around the world.
- Know your brand story from the get go. Not every news item will be right for your brand to have an opinion about. Having your identity, brand voice and visual guidelines clearly mapped out and knowing which topics your audience connects best with will allow you to streamline processes while weeding out less relevant themes. You wouldn’t necessarily think that the Red Cross could appropriately tweet about a movie as silly as Sharknado, but the brand engaged consumers in a lively but humorous Twitter conversation about disaster preparedness by striking a tone that was light, but never snarky.
- Build the right team. Your always on content army needs to have the right mercenaries to work effectively. At bare minimum, you’ll need two creative leads (one art, one copy), one social media lead who’s monitoring activity across channels and an analytics expert. On the brand side, make sure that you have enough stakeholders available to make quick decisions, but few enough to avoid unnecessary delays. Time and relevance are key. Hey, even last year’s Oreo Dunk in the Dark tweet was eighteen months in the making.
Timely marketing is not necessarily as simple as tracking trends and responding quickly, but it doesn’t have to be a harrowing process. With the right planning, team and practices in place, any brand can create effective contextual content marketing that delivers buzz and business results that live far beyond the moments you capture.
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