Tom Webster, writing and speaking

I Do Not Think Real Time Marketing Means What They Think It Means

Added on by Tom Webster.

The current usage of "Real-Time Marketing" confuses me, to be honest. It has certainly inspired a lot of hashtaggery, and gotten the chattering classes talking about Oreos again. A leading publisher is now sending me a "Real Time Media and Marketing" newsletter. And yes, it has inspired a lot of blog posts, including this one. I hesitated writing this, because curmudgeonry is not becoming to me. However, two aspects of what we seem to be calling "real time marketing" don't really jibe:

1. Real Time Marketing was already a thing. Its been a thing since the 90's. When profile data is used to generate a just-in-time offer for an individual customer on the fly (what CRM systems have been doing for well over a decade,) THAT'S real-time marketing. You know when you search for a product on Amazon, and you get two more products recommended to you for one package price? RTM has been used to describe that process for some time now, so the term's current usage in reference to "I tweeted that really fast" is a little misleading. The key to RTM is personalization, not tweet speed.

2. …which leads me to my second point: that thing that is currently being referred to as "real time marketing" is not marketing. I suppose you could call it "responsive advertising," but it kinda isn't that either. When I lived in New York City, one of the local radio stations used to position their "street team" at the George Washington Bridge, and pay the tolls of incoming drivers. It was a "real time" act that got people to talk about the brand. And that, I always thought, fell under the umbrella of "Promotions," not Marketing.

I guess I am a stickler about the use of the word "marketing." To me, it's the theory of the firm; the name we give to the process of anticipating and creating demand for products with a combination of price, product, people, and--yes--promotion that constitutes the firm's raison d'être. Getting people to retweet a brand message (no matter how quickly that message is generated or disseminated) plays a promotional role, but there's nothing personalized or strategic at play here, so there doesn't seem to be much justification for co-opting a perfectly good term for what seems to be an inaccurate use.

Now get off my lawn!