Wednesday 07 December 2016

Real-Time Marketing is Driving the Long-Term Brand Narrative

First in a series of posts exploring real-time marketing and Edelman’s Creative Newsroom.

The real-time imperative is here. Consumers have higher expectations for responsiveness, participation and relevance than ever before. 42% of consumers think brands should respond to their questions within an hour. News, memes and trends are traveling faster than ever, as our attention spans get shorter, dropping by 58% in the last 10 years.

There’s too much information to process: there’s 60 times more content from brands in our newsfeeds than just two years ago. People have started ignoring everything on the periphery of their screens. They are 400 times more likely to survive a plane crash than click on a banner ad.

We’re focused on images – which have 5x more engagement on Facebook than non-visual posts – and what’s trending NOW.

These changes are fueling a real-time, creative content revolution. In order to break through the clutter, brands must create engaging, visual content that connects with consumers about things they are thinking and talking about in real-time.

Real Time Becomes Real

While interest in real-time marketing began to surge during the Oreo Daily Twist campaign in summer 2012, the Super Bowl was the true tipping point for real-time content, evolving from marketing debates about creative newsrooms to household conversations in the living rooms of millions of people.

After Oreo won the Super Bowl with its dunk in the dark post, dozens of brands jumped on the real-time marketing train. The first big test was the Academy Awards. Sensing a surge in interest, Edelman’s David Armano proposed – and brands used – the #OscarsRTM hashtag to track the branded real-time marketing efforts. Some posts were good. Many were not. All of the results were minimal.

Despite the mixed success of opportunistic content around the Academy Awards, the pace with which brands have adopted real-time content has only increased. The Harlem Shake surged from the antics of five Australian teenagers to dorm rooms, break rooms and boardrooms around the world in record time, reaching a billion views in 40 days, half the time it took Gangnam style to reach this milestone. From the Simpsons’ “Homer Shake” to Sony’s “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2”, many brands created their own iterations of the Harlem Shake. A few were wildly successful. But only a handful of the early videos created any kind of traction for a brand.

Brands jumped in on the declarations, including Pepsi Next which tried its hand at Hadoken.

The prominent placement of the Chic-Fil-A cup in the first Vadering photo led many to speculate that the company was behind the meme.

And even the Russian Army got in on Hogwarting.

The Promise of Real-Time Marketing

There’s good reason for brands to activate real-time marketing programs. Data from Edelman’s clients who are using our real-time marketing services has shown that this opportunistic content drives a 400% to 600% increase in engagement.

Like your favorite blog, most-informed friend or go-to news source, well-executed, real-time marketing can help a brand become the lens through which fans view conversation topics and trends that are important to them. Repeated engagement with real-time, relevant content builds anticipation for future stories.

This isn’t just about generating more likes on Facebook, views on YouTube, or additional retweets. It’s about the long-term health of the brand. Whether looking forward to the next product or the next story, customers who actively seek out a brand become its most loyal advocates long-term. Driving anticipation is the key to building genuine brand love.

In order to be truly beneficial for the brand, real-time marketing must align short-term, fleeting attention on the stories of the day with the long-term brand narrative. This real-time principle is similar to that followed by TV shows. Individual episodes tell a self-contained story that reaches a tidy conclusion at the end of the hour, but the episode must also advance the broader story arcs for the entire season. Viewers must be entertained today, but interested enough in what will happen long-term to tune in next time. If there’s a disconnect between these two objectives, people will tune out.

The same is true for brands, particularly in the context of real-time marketing. In order to keep fans interested and engaged, there should be a spectrum of posts that collectively address the audience’s varied interests, with each piece fitting into the same overarching storyline.

Choosing topics that are relevant for the brand, resonate with audience interests AND are timely will help ensure that real-time content has a long-term, additive benefit instead of just generating a flurry of likes that amount to fleeting interest.

Content creators should evaluate real-time opportunities based on three factors:

  • Relevant –Alignment with brand values, orientation and priorities online
  • Resonates – Mapping to audience affinities and fan interests beyond your brand
  • Timely - Stories that are driving interest and conversation online now

 

Real-time is About More than Being Timely

Content must be more than just visual and timely to succeed. It must also be prominent – appearing in the places where your fans are spending their time. It should be relevant to the audience – piquing their interest at the peak of conversation – when people are thinking and talking about a subject. Branded content also must be immediately recognizable at a glance in the feed, so that fans are more likely to read it, remember it, and credit the brand for the time spent with it.

This is where the effective blend of real-time and planned content is key.

There’s a difference between real-time marketing and relevant editorial content. True real-time marketing—in which an opportunity is identified and content is created in the same conversation cycle—should only represent a small, but important, fraction of your content mix. You can plan for most content through proper editorial strategy. We know that St. Patrick’s Day is on March 17th. We know two years in advance what days the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards are on. However, we don’t know when an unlikely pop star will break 1.5 billion views on YouTube, or when the lights will go out at a major sporting event.

Real-time marketing works best when brands are able to plan for what they can anticipate, and react quickly to what they cannot.

Putting the Theory into Practice

Edelman Digital manages 1,000 communities – and more than 100 million fans. We have been developing real-time branded content for our clients over the last 12 months. On average, these real-time creative posts generated 4 to 6 times the level of engagement of a typical post. After validating the approach and developing best practices along the way, we have formalized our approach to real-time marketing in the form of The Creative Newsroom.

We will explore Edelman’s Creative Newsroom model in a subsequent post. You can also find information about the offering in our white paper, The Creative Newsroom: Real-time Marketing is Driving the Long-Term Brand Narrative.

If you have additional questions, please ask them here in the comments or @montelutz.

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