There is a new vision of the future…not in an Arthur C Clark style but more like an episode of ‘The West Wing’ on campaign night or ‘Broadcast News’. Being a 24 hour society, where opinions can be shared, praised then disputed so easily via social media, and where brands and their multi-million pound campaigns can be destroyed within the click of a mouse, marketing departments and their agencies now have to react as quickly as their journalistic and political party counterparts.
For a long time social media was feared by brands. No longer could a brand control its look and language via simple marketing and ad campaigns. When the consumer become involved, all control of a brand’s carefully monitored and honed values and identity became fair game to Tweeters, bloggers and Facebookers. Now, crack ‘brand social’ teams can react in a heartbeat to try and field off any negative comment, or worse still, the complaint which has gone viral, and so threatening a new campaign. A recent example of this being KFC’s breaded chicken kidney viral tweet, not ‘So Good’!
This shift in working style for advertisers was perfectly demonstrated this year at the Super Bowl. Typically, Super Bowl advertisers carefully plan every aspect of their presence months in advance of the game. However, this time Coca-Cola, Audi, and Oreo opted not to sit back and simply watch the game but put in place ‘rapid response teams’ that adapted to events as they happened. So when the power outage in the stadium occurred (and who could have predicted that in advance!), the brands responded “appropriately and in their own brand voice”. Oreo’s now famous tweeted ad with the caption “Power Out? No Problem. You can still dunk in the dark” went viral in seconds and was the Monday morning office talking point
Many would argue that the campaign-based model of advertising for brands is heading for the bin, and tweeting during an event clearly isn’t enough – you need to be lightning fast, reactive and smart in your response.
Enter a new process that kicks off with ‘creative context development’, where brands and their agencies create reactive content through visuals, text and multimedia. A fast online media purchase then occurs e.g promoted posts, ads etc, finishing up with ‘promotion and engagement’ through the distribution of content. It’s quick and as The Harvard Business Review (HBR) suggested in its blog ”the future of advertising is for advertisers to act like newsrooms – to be prolific, audience-centric and agile”.
But it is questionable whether brand marketing departments and their agencies can adapt their working style sufficiently to act more like newsrooms to promote and protect a brand’s values. They are by trade different animals that operate in their own distinct ways. Will we see more journalists in the marketing department so that they can continuously reflect the consumer culture? Perhaps.
Ad Age’s Sarah Hofsetter disagrees that marketing departments need to change radically. Writing after February’s Oscars, where brands delivering real-time marketing reached a new high: “Real-time marketing may not be right for every brand. Even for brands that have the strategy and structures in place to warrant it, not every major cultural moment deserves a real-time response…Real-time content can be created and distributed in minutes, but putting yourself in a position to do this successfully takes a lot of upfront planning. Brands need to create a strong social foundation in order to be ready for success when the right opportunity strikes”.
One thing is a given, whether your brand opts for real-time responses or not, every brand is required to develop a social persona, tone of voice and guidelines for how your brand behaves and converses in social channels. As Hofsetter says “You must also ask some hard questions. How does your social personality impact the types of content you create, comment on or share?”. A social response can raise your brand to the heady heights of ‘favourite tweet’ and water-cooler moment discussion which then leads to purchase, or it can damage a reputation, going viral for all the wrong reasons.