Real Time Marketing: A Double Edged Sword

Friday 23rd, September 2016

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On September 20, 2016 Donald Trump Jr. tweeted a photo with the below text:

If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem’.

This was enough for the Twitterati to fuel a heated discussion on the Syrian immigrants.

Skittles, a candy brand owned by Mars Inc., was caught in the crossfire and started trending on Twitter.

After realizing the reason behind Skittles , Mars issued a press release mentioning:

“Skittles are candy; refugees are people. It’s an inappropriate analogy. We respectfully refrain from further comment, as that could be misinterpreted as marketing.”

Skittles cleverly avoided getting caught in an unnecessary controversy – and more importantly kept the brand away from any association with the tweet and public scrutiny.

Interestingly, Twitter users used the hashtag #SkittlesWelcome to support the Syrian refugees and mocked Donald Trump and his son for their derogatory remarks.

This way, Skittles won a positive sentiment towards the brand – when such a situation could’ve easily gone south.

Though it’s debatable if Skittles was involved in the mess, marketers were quick to realize the potential of brand exposure in such a scenario. Marketing in real time is nevertheless interesting.

Speaking of real time marketing, who can forget the ‘Dunk in the dark’ campaign by Oreo cookies during the 2013 Super Bowl?

Super Bowl XLVII is forever remembered for the power outage that stopped a match for 34 minutes.

These incidents beg the question whether a brand should jump right ahead on real-time marketing opportunities. Clearly, it’s not easy to tread that road.

But before that, let’s look at the ingredients of the perfect recipe for real time marketing:

  • A very attentive audience.
  • A perfect medium to reach them instantaneously.
  • A common emotion that forms the perfect hook to grab their attention

Black out during the Super Bowl was the perfect opportunity for marketers to take advantage of a highly frustrated audience glued to social media for updates.

Being Agile

Call it being agile, high-metabolism marketing or real-time marketing, the essential idea is that marketers need to be on their feet looking for fleeting opportunities when they can leverage their messages to seem most relevant to their ideas.

Brands cashed in during the Super Bowl power outage beautifully rising to new levels of savvy marketing.

Appealing to audience emotion is an oft-ignored aspect of marketing success.

Especially when you want your content to go viral, chances are that you would be able to do that easily by appealing one of the six emotions: surprise, fear, joy, sadness, anger or disgust.

Ignore the emotional appeal and the content ends up becoming rigid, boring and rather pointless in a sea of seemingly better content.

Chasing Real Time Opportunities

So how can you incorporate emotion in your content that will appeal to your audience?

  • For starters, understand your audience and figure out what appeals to them.
  • Map customer needs to your brand’s offerings.
  • Weave a story in your message which will keep the audience hooked.
  • In the message, focus on invoking one or two of the emotions mentioned above.
  • Ensure that the message is eminently shareable. Once your message invokes an emotion, your audience will want to share it – so make it easy for them.

Having said that, it is not always easy to use your common sense and wait for the perfect ‘real-time’ opportunity. Yet, sometimes it leads to unexpectedly pleasant results.

Consider Skittles for instance. It’s quite possible that their executives would’ve been surprised to see their hashtag trending. Nevertheless, analyzing the mood of the audience, they issued a measured response to a rather obnoxious rant. As a result, people who had never heard of the brand, now wanted to try their candies.

Bottom line

Real time marketing is a great occasion to show your brand’s creativity and to score brownie points.

That said, you also need to be aware of the consequences of an immediate reply – whether it can damage your brand’s reputation. Having an ‘emergency plan’ always comes in handy.

The only way to land on a successful formula is through trial and error. As with any other marketing initiative, ensure that you measure, manage and maximize your content to have the desired effect on your audience, real time or otherwise.

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