Real-Time Data Isn’t Always Necessary

jeff-bander"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Ephraim (Jeff) Bander, president and chief revenue officer at Sticky.

Two-thirds of of publishers, regardless of size, believe that real-time data is important to their efforts, according to a recent Forrester Consulting study. While nearly as many believe real-time data increases revenue, only 27% of respondents actually receive data in real time. Similar trends can be found with brand advertisers as well.

Is “real-time” data absolutely necessary for brands to effectively engage consumers? Maybe not. Marketers say this real-time effort, or the establishment of a “brand newsroom,” is one of the more “overhyped” initiatives in the advertising industry, according to a new survey from the PR Council.

Yet major social media hits, such as Oreo’s watershed tweet during the Super Bowl blackout or Arby’s infamously clever tweet directed at Pharrell Williams during last year’s Grammys, only continue to spur fascination and a perceived need for real-time marketing strategies and specialists.

I would caution brand advertisers to proceed carefully with this hype and adopt a diligent process for vetting the use of “real-time” data. By evaluating several factors in advance, marketers can make better decisions around when to invest their time in responsive marketing. More importantly, they’ll be better informed about when to pull in the reins and focus elsewhere.

Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

Marketers have an abundance of tools they can use to monitor social conversations or generate snackable pieces of content within minutes or, in Vine’s case, mere seconds, which can be distributed across multiple devices with the push of a button. But just because it has become easier to engage different audiences across multiple channels instantaneously, marketers should still approach the decision to pursue real-time marketing with equal gravitas as the rest of their digital strategies. There are ample examples of successful campaigns, but there are likely tenfold as many botched brand attempts to reach consumers in a timely way.

Instead of jumping on the real-time marketing bandwagon and deferring it to the “experimental” marketing budget, brands should constantly ask themselves key questions to uncover the value of pursuing a time-based strategy.

For example: “Do we even need to connect with consumers in real time?” That’s a basic but vital question to start with because a buyer’s path to product purchases with one brand can widely vary from another.

B2B versus B2C provides a clear example of the gap in consumers’ journeys: Arby’s strategy of engaging millennials with lighthearted jokes on Twitter is not a strategy that a Salesforce.com or Oracle should start testing with enterprise prospects. Brands should make sure their activities are aligned with their core values and consumers’ expectations.

What’s The Opportunity Cost Of Real-Time Marketing?

In a perfect world, marketing organizations have ample budgets, well-stocked resources and buttoned-up processes to execute integrated campaigns flawlessly. But in most cases, chief marketing officers (CMOs) constantly face decisions on how to prioritize investments. Real-time marketing, as with any other initiative, requires a microsystem of people, processes and technology to develop timely ideas, monitor trends, execute campaigns in the proper platforms, recap performance and optimize.

Altogether, the opportunity cost of pursuing this strategy can add up significantly. Therefore, the CMO must ask, “Is it worth it? Or is my team’s time better spent and more impactful in other areas at this stage in our company’s growth?”

The Devil Is In The Execution

While global brands have become accustomed to extended periods of time to strategize and execute multinational campaigns, real-time marketing forgoes traditional methods and requires things to happen on an instantaneous time scale.

For example, the social media manager at Coca-Cola can’t wait for Marcos de Quinto, the company’s CMO, to approve each tweet or Facebook post before publishing. Therefore, these marketers with boots on the ground, while highly empowered to engage audiences in creative and entertaining ways, can prove risky for a brand with a large base of followers. The Texas Rangers, with almost 630,000 followers, are the latest to fire a member of their social media department because of an inappropriate post.

This minor example illustrates how brands must be especially buttoned up before they begin to go down the path of activating real-time data. Without proper alignment and processes in place, brands put themselves at risk. One hiccup can severely damage years of hard-earned branding efforts. Brands: Proceed with caution.

Follow Ephraim (Jeff) Bander (@Stickyadman), Sticky (@sticky_ad) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

 

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