Real time marketing – problem or opportunity?

We’ve all heard people talk about how the Internet has made everything move faster. When something dramatic happens (whether it’s a crisis or a cause for celebration) it travels quickly around personal networks, industries and even the world.

Marketers often see this as dangerous. The watchmen guarding your brand must be vigilant and ready to react the minute they hear the slightest whisperings of a problem. Those that don’t notice, fail to act quickly or react badly are punished heavily by customers.

But the Internet as a real time gauge of feeling can be positive, amazing and ultimately useful for marketers. When Christian Hernandez from Facebook spoke at The Economist Big Rethink event earlier this month, he described seeing Facebook behaviour during the World Cup. When they tracked the word ‘goal’ in status updates they could literally see millions of people around the world shouting goal through social media. This is a nice image, taking the traditional goal celebration shared between football fans and the people in their living room or a bar and connecting it to an even bigger network.

Another example of the benefit of realtime was shown by Håkan Thyr from Bazaarvoice when he spoke at eCircle Connect Europe conference (see Myles Davidson from I-kos blog here for more on this event). He showed how Dell uses reviews as a crucial component in product management and R&D. At a time when Dell was being criticized heavily, the company decided to set a goal that all their products should be getting a rating of at least 4.5 out of 5. When the project started they were getting 3.7 average.

Developers trawled the reviews for insight and changed their products accordingly. In order to maintain the high standard, new products are given a set time on the market and if they are rated as 3.5 upwards reviews are used to adjust the product. Lower scoring products are simply dropped altogether. This whole process has sped up the process of product development, customer feedback and product assessment compared to traditional evaluations through focus groups. By doing this Dell has moved away from the ‘Dell hell’ tag and re-built its reputation for quality products.

Today, as the UK budget is announced, whilst journalists are interviewing experts for newspaper articles and TV slots, the coalition government will be able to see a much more instant reaction through twitter, forums and social media. They may not be able to react instantly or even do anything with that information in the next few months, but they still have the ability to listen in on the instant reaction which offers new opportunities and possibilities.

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This time it’s (too) personal?

Real-time location based marketing – the ideal made real or a step towards a very scary future?

“There’s been some increasingly excited chatter about real-time location based marketing recently, with some particularly interesting examples that have been generating debate about whether this new technology is a really good or a really bad idea.

It’s no secret anymore that smartphones and branded apps are an incredibly effective way to target and engage consumers, in a way that is also very cost effective. By creating tools that your customer base can download and use on a regular basis you can integrate with their lives in a way that ‘mere’ advertising never has. Virgin’s iPhone app for example, based around its ‘Flying without fear’ course allows consumers to access relaxation exercises, fear therapies with a personal video introduction from Sir Richard Branson himself. It’s smart, intimate and useful on a runway (in safe mode of course).

However, the next generation of apps are all using smartphone’s GPS capabilities in a way that enables brands to hit a moving target, so to speak. The mobile social network / game Foursquare signed up its first national UK brands (Debenhams and Domino’s Pizza) this month. The app detects players’ whereabouts and when they visit shops and restaurants they gain points for ‘checking-in’.

Brands get involved by offering deals to users based on for example the number of times someone ‘checks in’ to their local branch. Businesses get increased footfall, and ideally, a network of brand ambassadors who will pass on recommendations. The consumer gets great deals that are relevant not only to who they are, but where they are.

Win-win right? Well not according to pleaserobme.com which aims to highlight the dangers of giving your exact location on social media sites in case the information is used to burgle your house.

Personally I think that’s a bit reactionary (although a number of Liverpool FC’s players may disagree with me) but it does raise an interesting point all the same. The ideal of advertising is similar to the ideal of PR in that the greater the relevance to the audience, the greater the value, whether it’s a genuinely interesting and newsworthy story to a journo or a half price burger to a hungry commuter. But where do you draw the line?

Don't be...

Google Buzz is another new development which has been getting a great deal of ink but it’s the mobile version of the platform that appears the most powerful, by some distance. However, as has been pointed out, you could argue that “Google isn’t really a search engine, or a chat tool, or an email provider. It’s an online advertisement-pushing juggernaut”

So just as Gmail scans the content of your emails to present you with relevant ads, Buzz will combine this with your locational data.

All of which could lead to a day where from waking up and being immediately offered a hangover cure (because Google knows you were at the pub last night) to the local Buzz-linked McDonald’s ‘Buzzing’ you at lunch time and asking if you’re in need of a quarter pounder (as Google knows you went there last week) to a local bar ‘buzzing’ you to see if you fancy another post-work beer (because Google knows what time you leave the office)… And so it goes ad infinitum until there’s no one point in your day when you’re not sharing personal data with Google, and having personalised ads thrust upon you.

It will be fascinating to see how brands will be able to heap innovation upon innovation with this new technology, but it will be crucial that consumers are handed the power to control the medium, otherwise the potential for brand damage could exceed the huge opportunites for new forms of engagement.”