Monday, November 23, 2015

Cover Story - All about Real Time Marketing || Mehul Jogadia & Sumon Chaudhari || IIM Shillong || September October 2015 edition


In Marketing, every now and then comes along a new word that sticks. Some dismiss it, claiming it to be just another fish in the sea, a distraction, but a few indulge themselves in it. They let it grow, believing this new thing would change the face of marketing forever. You can imagine these CMO’s scurrying around their offices like Archimedes through the streets of Syracuse yelling “Eureka!” when they first discover it. We’re going to talk about Real-time Marketing (RTM) and I’ll let you be in-charge of dismissing it or running around the office yelling “Eureka” It all began in February 2013, with an interestingly clever live tweet by Oreo during the Super Bowl blackout at the Super Dome. All it said was, Power out? No problem. “You can still dunk in the dark”. Do you see the beauty of it? It sparked a craze amongst marketers across the globe. To their utter dismay marketing managers since, have been often asked by their bosses. “Hey, why can’t we do something like Oreo?” 

Brands have tried to recreate that magic though, with little success. I’m sure brands have been doing this long before Oreo but what this particular incident did was get everyone’s attention. Real-time marketing has been described by a few as the practice of brands engaging their audience via content, advertising, and product placement that is relevant to a specific current event or cultural happening. The content is most often in the form of a “meme” or graphic poster that is usually shared through social media channels. What makes real-time marketing so interesting is that it goes against the way we have been trained to think about marketing. Meticulous planning, research, understanding how the consumers would behave to our communication strategy among others. 

We probably spend weeks and months together to develop our marketing campaigns, perfecting them until the last minute. And here comes real-time marketing telling us that all that is good, but real conversations happen in real-time. ‘Marketing on-the-fly’ sums it up quite well though, I’m sure my marketing professor would not be too pleased with that definition. With brands embracing social media as a vital component of their marketing communications, realtime marketing becomes crucial. It offers brands an opportunity to engage with their fans, break through the clutter and resonate on real-time. Do this better than your competitors and you stand to gain. Let us look at a few examples of real-time marketing in the Indian context. Sometimes pictures need a fair bit of editing before it could be uploaded on social media. 

Flipkart had to learn this the hard way, as Reddit India made fun of them on Twitter for having an
Amazon delivery box in a picture of their office. Flipkart quickly retorted by suggesting they were using the box as a wastebin, but no one was about to buy that argument. The damage had already been done and Amazon quickly jumped into the conversation by simply stating that “There is a bit of Amazon in every eCommerce company”. Imagine asking for bathing soap and getting dishwashing soap instead. Doesn’t seem like a pleasant experience, especially if you’re an Indian consumer who is not the easiest to please. Now imagine asking for a Samsung Galaxy smartphone and getting a dish-washing soap instead. I am sure all of you are imagining a guy, sitting at home, opening his package and going absolutely ballistic. 

Well, this is what happened when Snapdeal accidentally delivered a Vim bar instead of the expensive phone that was ordered by one of its customers. Naturally, the man reached out to Snapdeal, demanding they do right by him and yes, the man did get his money back. But what made this seemingly infuriating experience excellent, was when HUL somehow caught wind of the incident and sent the man the phone he was looking for, by mail. The customer was ecstatic on receiving the
phone and the incident went viral on social media, which made HUL ecstatic as well. Audi and BMW have shared one of the most intense rivalries in business history. This rivalry has especially intensified over the past few years. This brief “billboard-war” perfectly captures that rivalry. Even if we look outside these prominent albeit rare examples, we could see larger than life companies incorporating real-time marketing tactics on a regular basis. 

Amul, one of India’s largest companies, has always strived to use current affairs in their promotions. For a long time, these milk moguls have entertained us and delighted us with their insightful. One of
their most popular, recent works is the caricature they made of Virat Kohli and the Amul girl dancing, with Anushka gazing at the couple helplessly. The circumstances surrounding the incidence was well documented, as Anushka was being blamed for Virat’s lacklustre performance in certain world cup matches. Through such ad campaigns over several years, Amul has shown that in order to be brilliant real-time marketers, you don’t need to be extremely tactical or deep-pocketed; if you’re creative enough and fast enough, you can outwit the best of them. Verdict: Real-time marketing does sound like an interesting trick to have up your sleeve but if you’re not too careful about how you use it, it may occasionally back fire. As one market very aptly put it: Real-time marketing success requires happenstance. Marketing cannot be built on happenstance. 

We as marketer still have a long time to go before we make ourselves comfortable in the skill of real-time marketing until then we have to do what we know best. Here’s what Edelman’s Global Strategy Director David Armano has to say about real-time marketing: “If real-time marketing is the thing that introduces change into our organizations – so be it. But it cannot be the strategy that drives that change.” Brian Solis, a digital marketing analyst echoes the same. He is of the following opinion: “Don’t compete for the moment. Compete for meaning. If you compete for the moment you’re irrelevant“ There has been a lot said and written about Real time marketing, everyone has an opinion. A lot of brands have tried and failed in their attempts. Marketers today are wary of real-time marketing though, a few have learned to embrace it. In our opinion, today with digital media we have more insights into who our customers are and how they perceive our brands than ever before. 

The ball is in our court, it is up to us as marketers to decide what to do with this data. Any brand looking to benefit from real-time marketing need to look at two things: Ensure that they have the internal resources to indulge in real-time marketing and secondly, understand their customers’ behaviours before they take the leap.

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