Can Real-Time Marketing Be Without Elephant-sized Backlash?

April 5, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Online Marketing

Social media has given us all the ability to get our information out in real-time. Through tweets, status updates and blog posts we can tell our customers what’s important, what we’re doing and what they need to do. And we can often do it faster than they can change the channel. It’s helped pave the way for both very smart and very aggressive real-time marketing.

For example:

  • When the Chilean miners were pulled from the Earth after spending 69 days beneath the surface, they came out wearing $180 Oakley sunglasses. Experts say the estimated brand exposure garnered by Oakley was $41 million.
  • After publicly losing his mind and becoming a pathetic Internet phenomenon, Charlie Sheen decided to cash on in his level of crazy by launching the Please Pay Attention To Me Tour. The tour sold out in 18 minutes, earning him $300,000 and paving the way for more shows to be added.
  • Last week, when Go Daddy CEO Bob Parson’s set the Internet on fire tweeting a video that showed himself shooting and killing an elephant (goes to video, which may offend some folks), Go Daddy competitor NameCheap jumped in to offer a discounted rate for anyone who wanted to switch from Go Daddy to NameCheap and donated money to save the elephants.

All three examples represent the best and worst of real-time marketing. And it’s something your brand will need to pay more attention to.

I look at real-time marketing a bit like social media all grown up. Social media got us all hooked on 24/7 brand monitoring and absolutely having to know what people were saying about us RIGHT NOW. Real-time marketing builds on that by encouraging us to take that knowledge and to actually do something with it, while things are still happening.

But, of course, there’s a danger in that as NameCheap is beginning to find out. Sometimes when you exploit a competitor’s vulnerability you get called out for doing just that – exploiting a competitor. That’s not really something you want your brand associated with. But does it have to be that way?

Is there a difference between being a real-time marketer and a slimy opportunist? How can you do real-time marketing effectively?

Here are some ways I’d recommend businesses take advantage of real-time marketing without coming off like an ambulance chaser. However, I’d like to know what you think.

Build “real-time” into your culture

Hopefully, social media has already hooked you on this and shown you that there’s no such thing as 9am-5pm work hours when the Internet never sleeps. For a brand to take advantage of real-time opportunities its needs to live in real time, because I can guarantee you the perfect marketing opp isn’t going to break at 9:30am on Monday morning. It’s going to break at 11:30pm on Friday night. And you’ll either have systems in place to immediately notify you or you’ll be sitting on your couch playing Call of Duty wondering why the freakin’ phone won’t stop ringing.

Having a real-time culture also means creating an environment where you encourage failure. David Meerman-Scott (who just so happens to have written a book on Real-Time Marketing & PR [not an affiliate link]) wrote a great post on planning for failure and why it’s important. I’d recommend you give that a read.

Have tools in place before you need them

  • It takes two minutes to register a new domain, but only if you already have an account with a registrar. Otherwise, it takes longer.
  • It only takes a few minutes to throw up a blog post, but only if you’re already established on the platform and you know how to work it.
  • It only takes a few minutes to get your content in front of hundreds of eyes, but only if you’ve already built up the followers.

Speed counts in real-time marketing. The person who does it the quickest will get the press. To aid that, make sure you have your tools in place before you need them. Whether it’s getting in with a registrar, learning how to build a widget, creating your media list for people to hit – build it before you need it so that you can do it quickly when the time comes.

Look for natural tie in

The quickest way to become labeled an ambulance chaser is attempt to tie your brand into something it has no relationship with. For example, when a Chilean reporter called Oakley and asked if they’d donate sunglasses to the miners who were being rescued – they said yes. They saw the value that would have to their brand and to the people involved, and they made it happen. It made sense for them to be there, as protecting the miners’ eyes after spending 69 days underground was a legitimate issue. If Oakley tried to donate sunglasses to the folks in Japan after the devastating tsunami, that would have appeared self-serving. NameCheap says they’re longtime supporters of the International Tree Foundation and that’s why protecting the elephants made sense for them. As a brand, you want to hone in on the opportunities that make sense for you. It’s not about the latest and greatest cause, it’s about what matters to your audience and your company.

Be a story-shaper

Much of real-time marketing falls alongside causes or large pieces of news. Something happens and your brand decides to jump in as a way of helping, bringing awareness or generating some goodwill. Whether your launching something yourself or reaching out to the reporters who are covering it – make it about the issue or that news piece. Don’t make it about your brand and how awesome you are for getting involved. While I supported the NameCheap promotion, what did irk me was the coupon code they decided to use – BYEBYEGD [Bye, Bye Go Daddy]. It seemed mean-spirited and spiteful. If the promotion was about the elephants, than it should have been about the elephants, not about giving one to Go Daddy. Customers notice those little details and so does the media. Taking advantage of real-time means knowing how to shape the story as its happening or, sometimes, even as you’re creating it.

Those are some of my thoughts on the proper way of doing real-time marketing, but I’m really asking you. Can you do real-time marketing without coming off like an ambulance chaser? Is a brand that seizes an opportunity smart or just an opportunist?

I want to hear from you.

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