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Real time marketing has been an industry buzzword (okay, three industry buzzwords) for some time now. The potential is huge-the opportunity to generate real time insight, to optimize and iterate in response, to deliver ever more relevant and effective content.
The reality has been somewhat less compelling.
For too many brands, real time means simply reactive-frantic competition to make the best and most topical quip in response to the Super Bowl, the Olympics or the Oscars. Yet in a world where barriers to entry are non-existent and competition is infinite-where anyone with access to Photoshop and a twitter account is a player- this is a game with rapidly diminishing returns.
Oreo, who broke new ground with their “Dunk in the Dark” Superbowl tweet in 2013, wisely decided to sit this one out. No brand’s Oscars attempts could begin to compete with Ellen de Generes’ selfie heard around the world. The real time=reactive movement perhaps reaches it’s nadir in the extraordinary spectacle of brands talking to one another in social media-the industry, quite literally, talking to itself.
So in an age of ever faster and more accessible creative tools, where creativity can come from anywhere, speed alone is no longer a differentiator, or a novelty. So how can real time add real value, rather than simply compouding the clutter?
From reactive to responsive
It’s easy to forget that search (and increasingly social) is not simply a marketing channel, but as John Battelle so memorably put it, a “database of intentions”. Rather than simply reacting to events as they break, real value is about real time insight-using insights from search and social to understand what users are asking for or buzzing about and developing timely, relevant content in response. Once we create and publish content, analytics give us a fresh wave of insight, telling us what resonates, what we should amplify and how we should adapt our future strategies.
From reporting to predicting
Digital metrics move fast. If we just watch them move, however, that doesn’t really help us (no matter how shiny and beautiful our dashboards are).
Digital metrics (search volumes, interaction levels, sentiment analysis) are important behavioural signals that if modeled and understood correctly can be used to predict slower moving brand and business metrics (awareness, consideration, and ultimately sales).
Think Google Flu Trends-the ability to predict where flu outbreaks are happening based purely on search volumes.
Understood in this context, these metrics are not simply indicators of how our digital assets are performing but early warning (and early opportunity) indicators for the business.
The opportunity to build predictive metrics into our businesses, measures that give us 2 or 4 weeks competitive intelligence advantage far outstrips the value of a gag with a 24 hour news cycle.
From noise to signal
Another challenge with real time content is there is so simply so damn much of it. 2014 kicked off with many industry commentators-smart, tech savvy, lean forward individuals-resolving to find ways to step back from the frantic rushing of the stream, questioning the value of recency as our primary way of filtering content. As Alexis Madrgial put it, in “The Year the Stream Crested”:
“The Stream represents the triumph of reverse-chronology, where importance—above-the-foldness—is based exclusively on newness.”
One response to the overwhelming volume of content in the world is of course the rise of snackable content-the listification of everything perfected so successfully by Buzzfeed, to the point where we have lists of the most ridiculous lists….
There is another way, however, which is the rise of brands as curators. Rather than adding to the noise, brands can help users make sense of the noise, offering them tools to help filter meaning from the chaos. A number of the live projects we have in hand for clients today offer exactly this-tools which empower users to cut through and curate the clutter.
From real time marketing to real time buying
In our focus on real time content, it is easy to overlook the bigger opportunity that is the blurring of the boundaries between content and commerce. If we accept that a majority of consumers will now experience our brands not on destination websites but distributed across the stream it is essential that we begin to build the ability to transact within the stream.
Numerous brands are experimenting with shoppable content propositions (perhaps most notably Net a Porter’s new venture into publishing) while start ups from Soldsie to Stipple are aiming to make any image, or status update, a shoppable experience. Meanwhile initiatives such as Starbuck’s “Tweet a Coffee”, Amex’s twitter partnership and indeed Agencia Click Isobar’s SkyRec product-a service which enables users to record a programme with a tweet-show the potential for deep transactional integration with the twitter platform.
So how can brands start to use real time to add real value?
Chief Strategy Officer, Isobar
Pats graduated from Oxford University with a double first in 1997. In 1999, she joined BBH as a strategic planner. In 2004, she was promoted to the Board, one the youngest appointees in the company’s history at just 28.
Between 2007 and 2010 she lead the agency’s flagship Levi’s account, helping return the brand to creative highs (Cannes Lions wins in 2007 and 2009) and developing the brand’s first truly global campaign for the iconic 501 jean.
She also helped drive the agency’s effectiveness agenda, winning numerous IPA Effectiveness Awards and mentoring many others, as well as partnering with digital specialists Made by Many to develop bespoke social media monitoring and visualisation software for the company.
Between 2009 and 2010 she acted as a Strategy Director within BBH Labs, the agency’s innovation hub founded by Mel Exon and Ben Malbon, where she wrote extensively on all things digital and social, helping building the agency’s reputation for digital thought leadership.
In 2010 she joined CHI & Partners as a Planning Partner. Within 6 months she was promoted to Head of Digital Strategy and in 2011 set up the agency’s social media division, The Social Practice. The Social Practice took a pioneering approach to social media, integrating all disciplines from design and build through to community management, social listening and analytics. The agency helped build Argos’ social presence from the earliest days through to being one of the UK’s most followed and socially engaged retailers, as well as working with Anchor butter, the RSPCA and the Mobile Money Network.
In June 2012 Pats joined Isobar as Chief Strategy Officer. She is responsible for partnering with the CEO Nick Bailey to shape the agency’s strategic agenda and has been instrumental in the agency’s extraordinary run of new business and in creating a culture of commercial ambition and effectiveness. She is regular speaker and commentator on industry events and writes a popular digital strategy blog, Planning in High Heels.