3:10PM March 23 2012

Arriving at a definition for Always-On Marketing

If you’re a fan of buzzword bingo, you may have added a new word to the card recently. ‘Always-On’ has been mentioned more and more as an important new approach for marketers. But what does it actually mean? When we decided to dig a little further, we found both limited and conflicting information.  


We asked our clients for their own interpretation of ‘Always-On’, and received several different definitions, the main two being: 

-         Always investing in paid media (ad-words, social ads).

-         Real-time marketing in response to social media, listening and responding to conversations.

Then we took a look at what our peers think. We found interpretations primarily from media agencies that focused on audiences and the need for brands to adapt to the ‘Always-On’ connected consumer. These definitions are not wrong but they describe the many effects of being Always-On rather than the approach of Always-On Marketing.

So what is it? Having carried out research into blog posts and slideshare presentations, we concluded that Always-On Marketing is a system made up of many moving parts that affect one another. It can be broken down further to mean frequency, agility, and duration.

The Long Idea

The primary factor influencing Always-On Marketing is the recent change in consumer behaviour and marketing’s need to adapt to it.  As we know, marketers are no longer in charge of the conversation.  This factor coupled with a fragmented media landscape has resulted in the decline of the ‘BIG’ idea.

Strategist Gareth Kay describes it as a process whereby brands are moving towards creating many small ideas to create the LONG idea.  

The challenge for brands is to create smaller, more compelling content that has value and is inter-linked to form the long idea. To illustrate this approach, take a look at Twitter’s UK Chief Marketing Officer, Bruce Daisley’s presentation, which compares Rihanna’s long (and highly transparent) approach with her fans with Madonna’s more traditional, big idea.

Blurred lines

The decline of the big idea, coupled with consumers increasingly being ‘Always-On’ themselves, has resulted in media fragmentation and blurred the lines between advertising and PR.  To respond to this, last year we developed PONBE, a framework that allows us to plan where content is distributed in order to generate earned media.

The approach to distribution will vary depending on the sector.  In TV, games and entertainment, it’s possible to create a ‘story world’ made up of many small pieces of content where the long idea will play out.

With verticals such as FMCG, B2B, Retail, we anchor content to a brand purpose or ideal. The smaller pieces of content emanate from this and help form the long idea.

This channel agnostic approach requires marketers to ensure that each piece of content not only tells its own story, but hooks back into the brand purpose or story world.

Some brands are already embracing this shift in radical ways; Coca Cola recently restructured its marketing department, terming their new approach ‘liquid and linked’ content.

The Consumer

The behaviour of the always-on consumer and the demand for immediacy affects Always-On Marketing in two ways: 
a)  To react and respond in real-time.
b)  To satisfy consumer needs.

In order to achieve b), a) must be in place. Content needs to be agile, which affects not just content production, but also how we plan and budget campaigns.  In the future agility and real-time will affect all marketing, but we’ll save that discussion for another post.

So there we have it, Always-On Marketing: a (LONG) journey made up of valuable communication content (small) – from campaign messaging to deeper brand experiences.

Posted by: at 3:10pm March 23 2012 | Permalink

  • Anonymous

    seems to me that only brands with big, deep, committed pockets can afford to be always on. It would be interesting to see how smaller, younger, niche brands are adopting this approach.

  • Tom Chapman

    I think that younger niche brands have an advantage as there is no legacy barrier, so it could be easier to up skill or just get on and produce content.  Well produced (not expensive) content with value, can have more of an impact as big brand activity  

  • Pingback: Real-time marketing « The Headstream blog