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Can you launch a product using Real Time Marketing?

What is Real Time Marketing?

Let’s start with the basics.

Essentially Real Time Marketing is when you base your marketing strategy around current trends, news and customer reactions. It is making consumers believe that your marketing is responding to something that has just happened. But how ‘real’ is real time? Below we explore different scenarios together with the opportunities and pitfalls.

The Unknown.

This is when an unpredictable event takes place that hits the news and a brand reacts. A great example of this is Norwegian Airways’ with their ‘Brad is single. Flights for only £149 one way to New York’. This went out the day after it was announced that Brangelina were splitting up. A ballsy approach that generated huge coverage and brand kudos whilst also selling the low fare dream to the US.

Another good example was Airbnb. They captured the moment perfectly when they launched a Disaster Response Program hours after Hurricane Irma first hit, encouraging homeowners not affected to list their homes for free and invite evacuees to seek shelter. It not only helped out victims going through a horrific time but it put the brand in a positive light with consumers worldwide.

A key to this scenario is often a fluid and immediate process. It requires significant planning and a clear process. How quickly can ads be made? Who is responsible for signing off work? How will it impact the brand or sales? Can you manage customer reaction?

Real Time Marketing that responds to the unknown is risky. You wouldn’t launch a product on the back of breaking news without balls of steel. Only Elon Musk would be that brave!

Known event but unknown result.

These are events that you know are going to take place but no one is sure of the final outcome. Perfect examples of this would be the referendum, the Grand National or a football match. Paddy Power is the king of this type of real time marketing. One of their memorable examples being their mockery of Boris Johnson just after the Brexit vote was announced (see image above).

Consumers are often tricked into thinking that brands are being reactive to an event. The communication is designed to appear ‘in the moment’ but in hindsight, it is actually ‘planned spontaneity’. Brand communications can be planned months in advance and you can take the opportunity to identify a multitude of different ‘reactive’ scenarios and then script an outcome for each, picking the one to suit the ‘moment in time’.

An approach like this has become a regular occurrence for retailers, especially with the growing supply of programmatic digital inventory. They will have a sophisticated array of products and scenarios that account for weather changes, product offers and locations.

Just remember though, plan for all eventualities and you won’t be caught at the final post. Riding your launch on the back of an event is much like our views on seasonal marketing. An example would be Pepsi who tend to have endless annual battles with Coca Cola at the Super Bowl. 2017 was Pepsi’s year to headline and with the world’s eyes on the stage, it chose to launch a brand new product called Lifewtr in response to Coca Cola’s recently launched Smartwater. Although they had a much larger launch strategy, they used their social media channels to react real time to what was going on at the Super Bowl.

If you are well prepared this will make you stand out from the crowd. However bear in mind planning a launch already takes up a lot of resource, it could be a little much to try and plan in real time marketing contingencies for the varied results as well. Maybe just a ‘well done for winning!’.

Being comical comes with a brand’s recognition and may be seen as fake or phoney as your opening message for a new product. If you can get it spot on, this type of real time marketing can by right on the money for launches as it does hold a level of risk that most brands are averse to.

Known event and known result.

These are easy to plan for months, even years in advance. From the birth of Prince George to the sugar tax legislation being passed through the courts recently, there is often no unpredictability in them but they are still considered real time as they are very much current.

Passing of legislations often causes quite a lot of media hype which is why Coca Cola utilised the sugar tax and took the opportunity to relaunch their brand positioning, underlining that despite lowering the sugar content in their other lines, they will not change their original Coke formula.

Virgin Airways, on the other hand, took the more comical approach by putting out an image showing two champagne flutes and copy suggesting it was time to take a honeymoon when the gay marriage act went through.

Fundamentally, as long as you stay on brand and don’t try to make a tenuous link to the event that no one will grasp, then this can be a great way to showcase your currentness to the situation and launch a new product. It gives you time to fully plan for all outcomes as you know the final result. Do ensure that your brand does not get lost in the wash of competitor though as it is the most risk-averse of scenarios so make sure you make your mark and stand out.


Often brands are too nervous of the negative stigma related to Real Time Marketing but in hindsight a lot of the risky unpredictability can be reduced through planning. It’s a great opportunity to showcase you were the brave one to take the leap amongst your competitors and if done well, can increase your customer base tenfold.

If we were to choose any launch scenario, we would say ‘known event, unknown result’. Plan for launching at the event with a fully thought through Real Time Marketing strategy in place to counter any scenarios that may happen on the day. Hardly anyone does it so you will have the cut through needed!

Image Credits
  • http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/2016/brad-is-single/
  • https://twitter.com/paddypower
  • Shutterstock

By Alexis Eyre
Head of Marketing

Let’s launch something together. Get in touch.