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Forget real-time marketing and just do your job

Oreo pulled a wonderful stunt at the superbowl when, unexpectedly, the power went out. There was a tweet from its official account "You can still dunk in the dark". This has been the star example used by everyone who has had anything to say about real-time marketing. This has received so much good press that nearly every brand has tried to pull something similar. Hardly anyone has been successful in doing so.

Oreo was successful in what it did because it was something new. The tweet was as unplanned as the power outage at the superbowl was. Since then, a host of brands have tried replicating the action at various other popular events. Its as though each brand has commissioned its own news coverage team in the garb of real-time marketing. Hardly any of their efforts remotely reflect what the brand stands for. Its as though every brand is trying to be Ramesh Srivats. In fact, the efforts have been so pathetic that they have resulted in a new website. Check out Real Time Marketing Sucks.

Real-time Marketing is not about having something funny to say (most of the times what is said is not even funny) at every popular event. Real-time Marketing is the art of delivering an engaging piece of communication that comes as a surprise. The key element here is the surprise. This is where Oreo succeeded and this is where all those others failed. Once the audience expects some brand or the other to put out a tweet about an event that's happening, the brands will have to be able to surprise and delight in other ways.

That is why you never do real-time marketing. It only happens inadvertently. You just give your marketing a little more autonomy and make it clear that they're not expected to deliver an expected number of real-time marketing messages in a given week or a month.

When Morpheus says in The Matrix "If you ask, you're not ready to know", he might as well have been talking about real-time marketing. If you're asking your marketing team to deliver on the real-time marketing front, you're simply not ready for real-time marketing. That is not how it works.

It is better to stop fussing about real-time marketing and to focus those energies on the traditional marketing efforts instead. Real-time marketing is meant to happen inadvertently and it will happen if you have creative people in your marketing team who have enough autonomy to take calls on what communication goes out when.

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