Real-Time Marketing: How to Leverage a Sudden Surge in Impressions

Real time marketing leverages a surge in impressionsOne of the hottest trends in digital right now is real-time marketing.   The goal of real-time marketing is to leverage an abberationally high level of impressions in order to yield sales.

We are in the midst of one of those moments in which back-to-school searches and social impressions are at their peak for the year.  By now, most retailers for whom back to school matters have already built strategies and are executing against them in an attempt to win the highest impression share possible on key terms.  Other important retail events that drive huge impression volume throughout the year are Holiday, Mother’s Day, and to a lesser extent, Valentine’s Day. Most online retailers are all over these events, trying to secure maximum impressions share.

However, there are other more obscure events that happen throughout the year that also drive high levels of searches and social impressions.  Most are time-sensitive, and some are completely spontaneous. Many can recall Oreo’s “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet that went out during the blackout in the Super Bowl two years ago.  The Oreo marketing team was particularly nimble, but most marketers don’t react as quickly or even attempt to leverage these events for several reasons:

  • The event is not on the marketing manager’s radar
  • The marketing calendar is not fluid:  Whereas back-to-school and Holiday are planned out with precision, months in advance, there is no room for executing anything outside the annual, pre-defined cadence.
  • The budget has limited flexibility to get behind anything spontaneous
  • Not enough creative resources to quickly execute something new
  • Too many approvals needed (legal, senior management, etc) to get something off the ground as fast as would be necessary
  • A lack of foresight, creativity, or time on the part of the marketing team to go after these micro-marketing strategies

Nike is a company who is leveraging real-time marketing effectively.  They recently completed a digital campaign that was an interesting use of this.  During the World Cup, domestic and international impressions skyrocketed throughout all the digital channels.  Nike used display and search incorporating an array of interesting creative formats to target these impressions domestically and in 15 countries.  While real-time marketing (sometimes referred to as “newsjacking”) has been tried in sporting events before – the Super Bowl is the annual event that typically draws the most advertisers using this tactic – Nike was the most brand-appropriate company to use it during the World Cup.  The sheer volume of World Cup impressions took some marketers by surprise, but Nike was prepared.  During the World Cup, they leveraged big moments in key games, layering on a localized micro-type real-time marketing approach that resonated with fans and buyers.

Presumably, Nike has the agency and in-house resources to execute an effective – and likely expensive – real-time marketing campaign, but that doesn’t mean smaller brands can’t get in on the action, too.  If a brand or retailer wanted to test the value of real-time marketing, a simple, low cost, low-resource tactic would be to try it with RLSA (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads).  Back-to-School is an obvious term to add to the RLSA keyword list right now or the even more popular “Back-to-School shoes” – always a top impression-driving search term at this time of year.  Other timely examples might be “The US Open,” “iPhone 6,” “NFL schedule,” or the recently passed “VMAs.”  Using RLSA and paid social to opportunistically – albeit on a smaller scale than Nike – target high impression terms might help build the case internally for allocating some of the 2015 budget to real-time marketing, provided the sales from test efforts support an expansion.

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