Real-time marketing did not attract much attention until Oreo’s blackout tweet stood out from all the million-dollar commercials that ran during the Super Bowl broadcast in February. As the seven-word tweet ("You can still dunk in the dark") showed, real-time marketing is all about optimising a brand’s marketing strategy in response to events.
“It must be quick, timely, and adjustments are made on-the-go,” Jeffrey Seah, VivaKi country chair for Southeast Asia, told Campaign Asia-Pacific. “It’s about data first, which in turn becomes information and then transforms into intelligence.”
Seah said brands need to ask how they can shorten this process when they need to respond in real time; what the accuracy of the data is considering it can come from a myriad of sources; as well as how and when to react. “The challenges of real-time marketing lie in the quality of data one receives, the analysis of it and the call to action,” he said.
Paul Soon, CEO of XM Asia-Pacific, is concerned about a lack of conviction from top management to see real-time marketing as an opportunity to change for the better.
“One happy experience today will lead to a greater spread of influence,” he said. “It’s about having the ability to be relevant at the right moments that ends with the consumer being delighted with the brand experience. It is a long-term strategy centred around data, processes and business transformation.”
Although the Asian market still needs to be further educated, we have already seen good examples of brands in Asia using real-time marketing to engage with consumers.
“In Asia, we are starting to see the benefits of setting aside budgets to optimise data and to better appreciate the value of technology to help deliver that overall experience,” Soon said. “Brands like Maxis and Singapore Tourism Board are really taking the hard but right steps to fulfil the true benefits of digital being central to their business and brand experience.”
When Ikea Singapore put meatballs back on the menu after the UK horse meat scandal in March, the brand ran an ad in Today newspaper headlined: ‘It's time to start jockeying for position again in our restaurants’. The ad attracted a long queue at the store, which Ikea photographed and posted with the headline: "Singaporeans not passionate? Balls"—an allusion to a global survey that found Singaporeans to be the least emotional people.
Johnnie Walker, as a sponsor of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 team, worked with iris Singapore to create full documentary-style films a few days ahead of Grand Prix last year. During the race weekend, Johnnie Walker was able to edit the three-minute films for final programming while the real-time events happened in those 48-72 hours.
Grant Hunter, regional creative director for APAC at iris Worldwide, said that with companies like Tube Mogul, a real-time advertising buying service, set to expand in Asia, he expected to see more Asian press and media companies exploring the real-time potential of contextual ad buying and placement.
“We've also been looking at how start-ups in Asia are using real-time behaviour tools to improve their products and services,” he said, citing Mention as an example. The consulting agency specialising in engagement design and game mechanics won a startup funding competition in Beijing in May. Its flagship product, Traintracks, is a real-time behavioural analytics tool made for game designers.
“Although it’s not in the communications sector, Mention would be a good demonstration of the types of fledgling companies that are starting to emerge in the real-time space,” Hunter added. “This is a trend that we are bound to see in analytic tools for our industry.”
Real-time marketing can be adopted by most brands and agencies, but to become a master of the concept will still take some time.
Soon suggested brands can simply start with a curious mind. “Decide upon your key performance indicators [KPIs] and keep these KPIs organic with a long-term objective that charts the vision for the brand,” he said. “Build an ecosystem to ensure hard work is put into making the experiences connected, so you can build on a data strategy that is useful and ready to be executed through actionable activities.”
Client approval of actions is vital. So brands and agencies need to build trusting relationships and streamline the approval process, Hunter said.
Seah stressed that human experiences enhance lives and build brands. “On the side of brands, it is shifting from making people want things to make things people want,” he said. “A brand needs to be sensitive, respectful and meaningful to consumers’ lives. It’s the experience that counts and this is one of the key factors in successful real-time marketing.”