Real-time Brands

Real-time content, real-time analytics, and real-time marketing all sound increasingly interesting and cool, but they’re also increasingly expensive and require real-time permission, real-time resources, and real-time creative insights. At the end of it all who’s to say what the results of all that real-time marketing will be, or when they’ll deliver? Is the reward, real-time brand, real-time trust, and real-time results?

I have a feeling that whatever the return on real-time marketing are, companies may be forced to embrace it because of how well tuned consumers are to real-time and have developed a hyper focus on the present. Real-time might be the ultimate connection one can make with consumers. In fact, real-time might be the only way people are able to operate anymore.

Present Shock

Those are some of the things I started thinking about after reading an interview with Douglas Rushkoff in the Nieman Journalism Lab about his new book, Present Shock. What immediately got my attention was when Rushkoff laid out five of the principals of the phenomenon he calls Present Shock, and how people and media are changing their behaviour and perception of the world, only a few years after of the introduction of real-time and mobile media.

While the interview covers a couple of interesting topics and talks about the impact these behaviours have on journalism, attention, social media, and technology, the behaviours outlined most likely manifest in every aspect of our lives without us realizing it.

When peoples perception of the world around them is characterized by an inability to escape the here and now, how do brands demonstrate their relevance to consumers? More broadly, what’s the impact that Present Shock has on the notion of a brand?

The idea of a brand as a feeling or as a word in consumer’s mind that builds trust over time through a series of positive experiences doesn’t appear congruous with the symptoms of Present Shock.

Oreo Briefly Shimmers

Let’s take an example of a real-time success with Oreo’s Superbowl Twitter ad. During the Super Bowl XLVII blackout, Oreo most effectively reacted to the event and pushed an ad over Twitter that captured the attention of the Super Bowl spectators while they waited for the game to resume. What made it such a successful tactic was that they were able to generate a huge amount of attention towards their brand for millions less than a Super Bowl ad would have cost. As an ad it was decent also because it aligned with their brand and reminded people to “dunk”.

Even though Oreo had a very successful real-time ad and had all the resources in place to support such an activity, what were the benefits? Did the bottom line of the Oreo brand change between the start and end of the Super Bowl? Or was the Oreo ad successful only as a useful distraction from the blackout? It’s no mystery that people have a difficult time staying offline during a show or while watching television, it was only natural that everyone’s attention turned to Twitter once the blackout occurred.

The Oreo ad was popular thanks to the behaviour of people and their perception of being part of a big event (the blackout) within a big event (Super Bowl). It was Oreo who did it, but it could have been another brand, or maybe there could have been no brand at all.

Brands are increasingly trying to find ways to engage users with relevant marketing by taking advantage of real-time events, or by hijacking memes and news stories. But to what affect?

To answer that question I think we need to look higher than just whether having a real-time brand is gainful or unrewarding. It’s more useful to understand that people’s attention may now be more on the real-time, and less on the brand.

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