A big reason for the success of marketing is the ability for marketers to be flexible. If you’re involved in marketing in any way, whether this be in digital marketing or in more traditional avenues, you will have seen the myriad methods that agencies utilise to get a product or service out there.
This flexibility is a learned response to the unpredictable and ever-evolving nature of the economy and our spending habits and as a result of this, two types of marketing have arisen – ‘reactive’ marketing and ‘proactive’ marketing – each with their own techniques and results.
In this blog, we’re going to dive deep into each type of marketing approach to try and understand the circumstances they come about in, how you can implement each type of approach, and to what level of success depending on when you use it.
Proactive vs Reactive Marketing – what’s the difference?
The main difference between each of these marketing approaches is how much is spent on resources before a campaign. As the names may suggest, proactive marketing takes a proactive, planned approach, whereas reactive marketing involves reacting to current trends and markets as they transpire.
You’ll usually see reactive marketing take place in the face of unforeseen competition. If a company aren’t doing their due diligence by noticing growing trends in consumer habits, they may be forced to react in real time.
This involves advertising a product in the places people are already looking. Reactive marketing relies heavily on disruptive forms of advertising that allows your brand to be seen before anyone else’s; think pop up ads and banners online.
In this way, reactive marketing can be seen as brash, impulsive, and done without much forethought. The marketing budget can be used inefficiently as time and resources are quickly wasted and brand awareness is unlikely to be created.
However, if you do choose to sell something that people are looking for, reactive marketing is probably your best bet, especially for short term financial gains, because those looking for the product are first time buyers with the potential of becoming a lifetime customer.
I’d like to add another spanner in the works here. As I mentioned at the top of the post, marketing changes flexibly alongside the everchanging nature of the society and the economy that exists within it, and what bigger change has cropped up in modern society than social media?
Existing initially as a place to socialise over the web, companies and marketers soon jumped onto the platforms as they saw the multi, multi millions of people climbing onto them.
Years later, and brands now have dedicated social media managers to keep a healthy online presence and maintain cost-effective promotional efforts that reaches the wide span of their online following.
The instantaneous nature of social media sites like Twitter (and the internet as a whole) has paved a path for a new breed of reactive marketing that, when done right, allows savvy brands to become a part of an otherwise irrelevant conversation.
Reactive marketing in the age of the internet and social media is often a much more effective and impactful approach than what has been seen in other settings, for better or worse. Here are examples of good and bad reactive marketing attempts:
KFC Chicken Shortage, 2018
If you were in the UK in early 2018 and not living under a rock, you’ll very clearly remember the absolute outrage towards the chicken shortage that befell KFC.
Whilst this was ostensibly a first world problem, this didn’t stop the Great British public from expressing their anger at their predicament
On top of the comical news reports that came out of it, KFC responded with a simple yet highly effective piece of crisis management:
As you can probably imagine, this went down a treat with KFC’s online following, with many people ‘forgiving’ the restaurant’s blunder based solely off of the way they held up their hands and said: “We FCK’d up!’
Reactive marketing done right – quick, humble and brave – easily done for bigger brands who can afford the possible hit to sales but an endearing thing for customers to read, nonetheless.
After the tragic death of Carrie Fisher in late 2016, thousands around the world took to Twitter to share their shock and grief with other fans, but when American bakery chain Cinnabon took to its social media accounts, it wasn’t in the same spirit as everyone else.
Referring to Fisher’s famous hairstyle that she donned in Star Wars, the tweet, although probably not intended, came across as tasteless and exploiting of a person’s death to promote a brand. Unsurprisingly, the tweet has since been deleted.
This highlights the volatile nature of reactive marketing in response to the passing nature of current events. It may seem like a good idea for your brand to join in on an online conversation if there is some relevance to your product, but without proper consolidation with a marketing team, you may just find that you do more harm for your brand than good.
Or, as newswhip.com said:
- Be aware of what’s going on in the world
- Be concise
- Have a sense of humour
On the other side of the marketing coin, proactive marketing lends itself to a more planned approach. It focuses on the inevitable ebb and flow of the market, it involves analysing real-time, data driven changes and aim to understand the shifting needs of potential customers.
As opposed to the short term gains of reactive marketing, proactive marketing is much more forward thinking and assesses where a company would like to be in the future – sometimes many months ahead.
This brand awareness strategy offers much lower conversion over the short term but aims instead to gather a steady snowballing of more loyal customers over a stretched period of time.
There is also a risk that, if executed improperly, your proactive marketing campaign will fail and will return very little in comparison to the time and money you spent on it.
Despite this, the extended exposure of your brand is intended to eventually put your customers into a stage of consideration for purchasing because you are the brand at the top of their mind.
Proactive marketing like this are usually seen in traditional methods of marketing like TV ads and radio ads. These kinds of advertising are usually much higher in production value and take full advantage of creative marketing teams.
The analysis of proactive marketing isn’t all just forethought either. An efficient proactive marketing plan will ensure that spending data, ad engagement and customer reactions are all monitored throughout the course of the campaign so that necessary changes and adjustments are made at relevant times.
This allows brands to make a more effective use of their marketing budget due to a more flexible, agile approach to potential developments that take place in the interim.
There are fewer examples of notable proactive marketing campaigns simply by virtue of the fact that most ad campaigns are probably proactive instead of reactive.
You’d be hard-pressed to find any company worth their salt spontaneously launch a marketing campaign with no forethought implemented. Any ad you see at a bus stop or on your social media feed has undoubtedly gone through rigorous discussion and analysis with marketing companies.
There is one example of companies being proactive in their approach to the future and although it isn’t ‘marketing’ in the typical sense, it does involve a lot of forward thinking on their part.
I’m talking about net-zero pledges. If you’ve kept up with business news at all in recent years, you’ll have noticed that many companies, in the wake of the climate crisis, are taking it upon themselves to do their bit in curbing the corporate effects of climate change.
Net-zero pledges are proactive approaches to a global issue that affects everyone and, in a society that is increasingly concerned about it, holds a lot of goodwill with current and future customers and will no doubt encourage custom Recent companies that have pledged net-zero in the coming decades include 02, Water UK, Uber and Amazon.
As you can see, there is no one size fits all for marketing but there are also right and wrong ways of approaching either. At the end of the day, it’s up to you on how you do your marketing but with this information in mind, you might just avoid your next big company blunder or even take your company to the next level.