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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?

The company's followup the next day: "A million apologies. Did not read what the hashtag was about before posting."

Marketing in real time also requires a new mind-set and careful balance at many companies. It does not mean abandoning current business planning processes, but it also does not mean running off "barking at every car that drives by," said David Meerman Scott, author of books including Real-Time Marketing & PR. "Focus and collaboration are essential."

So, too, is close coordination between marketing and IT for systems integration and careful management of issues such as customer privacy, said Carl Doty, a vice president with Forrester Research.

"Privacy is enormously important here," Doty said. "Failing at privacy management will essentially render your real-time marketing investments useless."

There is no longer much doubt, however, that the benefits can be well worth the risks. "There are far more winners than losers," said Spredfast's Kerns.

"Employees, customers and other stakeholders are talking about your organization offline anyway, so unless you are participating online, you'll never know what's being said at all," Scott said. "The beauty of the Web is that you benefit from instant access to conversations you could never participate in before."


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