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Can Reactive Marketing Be Automated?

In our Micro-Moments driven digital landscape, reactivity is everything. Every minute of every day, consumers are exposed to countless tiny moments to pique their interest and encourage them to pick up their smartphones and search Google for whatever trigger appealed to them. As a result, brands now pride themselves on their ability to be reactive, often having teams of staff and key meetings booked in to respond to big news from big events as soon as they happen. It’s a big draw of resource, but many brands and agencies believe it’s the only way. This, however, isn’t always true.

What is Reactive Marketing?

As the name suggests, Reactive Marketing is the art of creating and distributing marketing activity that reacts to certain events. Designed to tap into Micro Moments, reactive marketing is all about associating with major events and talking points as they happen, or shortly after they happen. So by its nature, it needs to be quick, otherwise it loses its appeal; nobody’s interested in talking about that incredible play the Denver Broncos made two days after they made it. When it comes to Reactive Marketing, ‘being there’ is absolutely paramount.

More significantly, reactive marketing can also deliver impressive results. One of the first significant, and still most impressive, examples of reactive marketing came during the 2013 Super Bowl, when a power outage caused some of the lights to go out for 34 minutes. The incident was completely unpredictable, but it got people talking on Twitter, meaning there was a huge opportunity for fast enough, witty enough brands to get involved in the conversation and essentially own this moment. And that’s exactly what Oreo did.

During the outage, the cookie company posted an image that comprised of nothing but a single Oreo emanating light in an otherwise dark picture. In the bottom right corner reads the caption: “You can still dunk in the dark.” It was a masterstroke that tapped into, and eventually came to own, the national and international conversation around this most unusual of occurrences. Four years, 15,000 retweets and nearly 7,000 likes later and the post is still regarded as one of the finest examples of reactive social media marketing around.

Can Reactive Marketing Be Automated | mporium

Oreo isn’t the only brand tapping into the power of reactivity in unpredictable moments. When host Steve Harvey announced the wrong winner at the 2015 Miss Universe Contest, Burger King responded by tweeting out that it lets everyone “keep their crown” even if the falsely-announced Miss Universe didn’t. Three years earlier, during the 2012 Olympic Games, a football game between Scotland and North Korea caused controversy when video packages aired at the stadium displayed the national flag of South Korea. Specsavers was quickest off the blocks this time round, using its ‘Should have gone to Specsavers’ motto to cleverly comment on the situation.

Can Reactive Marketing Be Automated | mporium

How is this done?

Reactivity like this isn’t easy and, conversely, much of it’s driven by careful planning. To produce its Dunk in the Dark tweet, Oreo’s key agency 360i had a team of 15 people on hand to respond to whatever happened during the game. This team included a range of people from different departments (copywriters, strategists, designers) and together, they worked out possible scenarios and had certain assets ready to respond with – all ahead of time.

This is called a War Room, and brands and agencies across the globe use them to get the best results in this reactive world. “The new world order of communications today incorporates the whole of the way people are interacting with brands right now,” Sarah Hofstetter, president of digital marketing agency at 360i, told Wired. “Once the blackout [in the 2013 Super Bowl] happened, no one was distracted – there was nothing going on. The combination of speed and cultural relevance propelled it to the forefront.”

Can reactive marketing be automated?

Of course, War Rooms and reactivity like that implemented by Oreo can be a drain on resource, so the key question going forward is not just ‘how can it be done?’, but ‘how can it be done more efficiently?’. As far as campaigns like the ones we’ve explored in this article go, automation is very difficult. The successes or Oreo, Burger King and Specsavers were driven not just by reactivity but creativity. All three were witty responses to unpredictable occurrences and they engaged people because of their originality, as well as their timing. That kind of marketing simply can’t be emulated in full through automation.

However, not all reactive marketing hinges on this level of creativity and not all needs to be so complicated. As mentioned, Oreo had a number of simpler messages pre-planned, and had the 2013 Superbowl been like any other, the company would have likely pushed them out as it had mapped out. It would have been much more simple, but no less effective and, most importantly, possible to automate, because all it takes is careful planning beforehand. A War Room during the event itself likely would not have been necessary.

When you’re dealing with copy-based messaging (such as on Google Adwords), it’s just a case of making the advertising dynamic, so you can drop a reactive piece of information into a pre-written piece. In the case of a sporting occasion, the planning can be very well organised as there are a limited number of possible permutations. This team will win or that team will win. Such and such a player will score a touchdown. Another player may be ejected or get injured. So you might end up with copy along the lines of:

Touchdown for [INSERT TEAM] as [INSERT PLAYER] makes it to the endzone!

In this example, thanks to tools such as mporium IMPACT, a brand can easily map out the messaging and line up a variety of dynamic options to fill in INSERT TEAM and INSERT PLAYER as necessary depending on who’s playing. It’s not quite at Oreo’s level, but when users are triggered by a Micro-Moment during a football game, get out their smartphone and search for whatever has interested them in that Micro-Moment, they won’t find some bland and unengaging copy. They’ll find messaging that’s responded to the moment and is delivering something live, up to date and much more relevant to other ads that surround it.


Automation of reactive marketing may seem like a pipe dream, but it’s a very real possibility. We still need human intervention to create the kind of spur-of-the-moment invention seen from the likes of Oreo, Specsavers and Burger King, but with careful planning and tools like mporium IMPACT, brands can tap into Micro-Moments and deliver relevant, reactive copy that engages the audience, encourages clicks and ultimately drives sales.

What do you think of reactive marketing? Has your business used any and have you come across any? Tweet us @mporiumgroup to let us know your thoughts.

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