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Is real-time marketing the next big thing? Ever since Oreo's "you can still dunk in the dark" tweet during this year's Super Bowl, marketers have been talking about real-time marketing and how it might help brands connect with consumers during major events. Just last month, many brands - with varying degrees of success - tried to capitalize on the birth of the Royal Baby.

Even publishers are starting to bet on this trend. Recently, Mashable announced plans to make it easier for advertisers to take advantage of real time marketing.

Whether you call it newsjacking or agile marketing, the idea behind real-time marketing is to create marketing content that will add to trending cultural conversations. It's all about timeliness.

On paper, real-time marketing is great: It helps brands get their name out there in an unobtrusive, interesting and timely way. But when done in bad taste, it can also make brands look bad.

If your marketing team is thinking of dabbling in any form of real-time marketing, here are 4 ways customer insights can help:

  1. Know the media they consume

Real-time marketing is tied closely to major events happening around the world. And in many cases, brands try to produce real time content as a reaction to TV events. Oreo's tweet, for instance, was crafted during the unexpected black out at this year's Super Bowl. Stella Artois also tried real-time marketing - although not quite successfully - during the live broadcast of the Oscar Awards. If you're looking to identify opportunities where real-time marketing might work, your first step is to find out which media your customers consume regularly.

  1. Understand your target audience's values

Because of the nature of real-time marketing, you won't have the time to check with customers before releasing an ad or an online content. That said, your customers can still help inform your content. If you have an insight community, work with your customers in advance and do regular studies to get a better grasp of their values. Knowing what matters to consumers, your marketing team can better develop content people will find interesting and shareable.

  1. Learn where they turn to for real time news

Real-time marketing only works when you can engage your online community quickly while the related event is still a hot topic. With real-time marketing, you don't have to be everywhere at once; you just need to be where people go as the event is taking place.

For this to happen, you should know where your target audience hangs out online. Major social networks such as Twitter and Facebook might be safe bets - but niche platforms such as Tumblr, Vine or even Reddit might make sense too if you are trying to reach specific audiences. Perhaps your customers actually bypass social networks and go straight to news websites. Find out and track your customers' news gathering habits through your insight community to focus your efforts.

  1. Test images and copy

What you think is cute and humorous may not fly with your target audience - just ask American Apparel, who got in trouble for their "Hurricane Sandy Sale" last year.

To avoid embarrassing your brand, test possible images and copy in advance with your insight community. This helps flag content that may be deemed offensive or boring when used in the future. Having a clear idea of the language and images that resonates with customers, you can make better decisions when looking for real time marketing opportunities.

Real-time marketing is about being spontaneous - but it doesn't mean you can't engage your insight community to help guide your tactics. In fact, the opposite is true: Knowing your target audience, their values, and their language can help make your real-time marketing efforts more impactful.

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Kelvin Claveria

Kelvin Claveria was formerly a Content Marketing Manager at Vision Critical.

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