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From doughnuts to Dressgate: How real-time marketing helps brands stay relevant

Katherine Noyes | June 17, 2015
It would have been easy enough for Dunkin' Donuts to dismiss the Internet phenomenon "Dressgate" as irrelevant to its brand. What, after all, could an online debate over optical illusions and the color of a dress possibly have to do with pastry and coffee?

Programmatic and real-time bidding technologies have enabled the instantaneous delivery of personalized messages. Other products that may be involved in a real-time marketing effort include data-management platforms, cross-channel campaign-management tools, real-time analytics software and packages for curating content in real time.

Spredfast's intelligence tool sheds light on trends in 330 geographies around the globe on Twitter and Facebook. Within seconds, users can see not just the history of any given trend but also which other brands are jumping in to capitalize on it, Kerns said.

The Humane Society of the United States uses Spredfast's software to track hashtags and insert its brand into select online conversations. For example, on June 8 the tool revealed that #NationalBestFriendsDay was trending, said Carie Lewis Carlson, the Humane Society's director of communications marketing.

"We didn't even know it was National Best Friends Day," Carlson said. "So we pivoted from our planned post and posted a photo of a staffer with her dog and asked people to share with us photos of their furry best friends."

It was a low-risk opportunity that successfully built community around the organization, she added.

In general, real-time marketing tools are helping the Humane Society stay relevant, Carlson said.

"Before, the only option we had was trying to 'create' news," she explained. "Now, we can insert our brand into conversations that are already happening."

The technology also helps the group stay aware of what people care about. "We can engage with them on issues they want to get involved in rather than trying to get everyone to sign a petition on wolves at this very moment," she said. "It's all about timing. We determine what's most relevant to our audience and serve the right kind of content to them at the right time."

The Humane Society is still relatively new to the Spredfast platform, so it does not have any hard ROI numbers yet. But Carlson believes it is helping her organization provide better customer service. The Humane Society is also about to integrate the technology with its call center, so she expects it to break down internal silos as well, she said.

Perhaps the most widely articulated caveat associated with real-time marketing is the need to be selective.

"You can't just jump on a trending hashtag and talk about your brand and expect everyone to care," Spredfast's Kerns warned.

There have been some spectacular examples of failures in this regard, such as a particularly misguided tweet from DiGiorno Pizza last fall that seemed to trivialize domestic violence. DiGiorno jumped too hastily on the #WhyIStayed hashtag that became popular after athlete Ray Rice was terminated from the Baltimore Ravens after a video became public depicting him punching his then-fiancee Janay Palmer. Whereas the hashtag's topic was abusive relationships, DiGiorno's regrettable tweet read, "#whyistayed You had pizza."


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