Marketing is essential to scaling any business because it allows companies to snap up new customers and position themselves as a strong brand.
However, the perils of trying to promote a product or service off the back of a newsworthy event – otherwise known as real-time marketing – were highlighted last week when Woolworths pulled its “fresh in our memories” advertising campaign.
The initiative asked Australians to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of Gallipoli by uploading an image, which was then overlayed with the text “Lest we forget ANZAC 1915-2015 – fresh in our memories”.
The campaign unsurprisingly sparked outrage on social media and it was later revealed the supermarket had not asked the federal government for permission to use the word ‘ANZAC’ as required by law.
SmartCompany spoke to two marketing experts for their thoughts on how to get real-time marketing right and not become a lesson on what not to do.
1. Choose a topic or issue that is relevant to your business
Trevor Young, the founder of Expermedia, says real-time marketing is often social media content that coincides with or is relevant to a specific news or cultural event.
“It’s quite a wide definition as it can manifest itself in so many ways,” he says.
“But it could also be customer service orientated. Getting back to someone in real time in a customer service situation is still marketing.”
The problem with real-time marketing, though, is that there is so much news out there it’s hard to know where to begin. Young says the trick is finding a topic that you’re an expert in.
Janey Paton, director of marketing and public relations agency Belles and Whistles, told SmartCompany real-time marketing is often thought to be about reacting as quickly as possible to breaking news. However, it needs to be more than that.
“You need to choose an event or an issue that is relevant,” she says.
“It has to have some sort of correlation to your brand. You have to be able to input your voice into that event and for it to impact in a meaningful way because you don’t want to become one of those lessons in what not to do. Real-time marketing can be really good, but when it’s bad it can be very bad and remembered for a long time to come.”
2. Be cautious and use a hefty dose of common sense
Young says business owners – and in fact everyone within an organisation – needs to understand that real-time marketing has the potential to backfire if done in a way that is insensitive.
“I think you have got to be really careful because it can backfire pretty quickly unless there’s relevance there,” he says.
“It’s the same when there’s a disaster and people are trying to jump on a disaster. The no-goes are certainly when there’s human tragedy and disasters – you’re just not going to win by jumping on them.”
Paton agrees, pointing out that the overall purpose should be about giving the customer additional value instead of trying to put your business first.
“The goal is to connect the product or service with something a consumer needs now – which involves understanding your target audience, their buying behaviour and their routines.”
3. Get the message right and understand your audience
Paton says a good rule of thumb is to take the time to formulate the right message as opposed to rushing in and trying to be first. After all, that’s the job of the media.
“The right content can add long-term value,” she says.
“I’d say social media is a very competitive and cluttered space and the idea that social media is easy is very outdated. So it’s worth investing in storytelling talent and giving some time to creating something tactically strong. If you don’t have that skill you’re wasting that opportunity to make every touch point you have with your customers count.”
A good way to understand your audience is to listen to them on social media, according to Young.
“If you’re trying to be too clever, rethink it,” he says.
“Be aware on social and what’s going on so when there is something relevant to your business you can be involved – it might be a news item that’s come up and you’re an expert in that space. Instead of just tackling the media, now you can write a blog post and get it out on Twitter and put it on Facebook and that in turn sometimes ignites the media’s interest.”
4. Be proactive and source good stories
Paton says there are so many opportunities out there when it comes to good real-time marketing – the trick is to know what will appeal to your customers and make for a good campaign.
“It’s no longer about being nine to five, it’s about being 24/7,” she says.
“So there are opportunities for effective marketing – effective marketing doesn’t always fall within office hours. But I think you need to understand your customers. Your customers’ routine can make your messaging more effective. So that’s staying ahead of the trends and knowing where stories that connect with your audience come from so you can be on the front foot.”