4 tips to kickstart your reactive marketing

Posted by: Megan Cliffe - 08.04.21

Reactive marketing has been around for a while. We all know it’s not the new cool kid on the block anymore, however this past year has meant it’s had a serious resurgence, a bit like double denim or those baggy jeans Gen Z love to cut about in these days.

We’re often asked how reactive marketing differs to proactive marketing. The differences are subtle, but have a huge impact on how you plan and activate the work.

Proactive marketing – this means you have planned the content way ahead and you’ll have a water-tight plan of what you’d like to go out and when.

Reactive marketing – is defined as the act of producing marketing collateral due to an unforeseen event, news story or decision made by your competition in order to stay relevant or included in a conversation.

60% of marketers have stated that they’re more reactive now than they’ve ever been[1].

And whilst we all know that Covid isn’t going anywhere for a while, it’s probably safe to say that reactive marketing isn’t either. So, if you’ve been one of the few that have been doing this for the past year, and you’re a marketer struggling to get everyone on board, we have a few tips for you.

1. Trust in your team (and your agencies)

Trust is absolutely vital to getting your reactive marketing activities off the ground. They know your brand inside and out; they know the little bits and pieces of the brand and your aims, and they dedicate their working days to these.

If one of them comes to you with a reactive idea for your next social or email campaign, do your due diligence of course (there are far too many examples out there of reactive marketing that misses the mark), but let them run with it. This could be the idea that gives your marketing a bit of an oomph, and gets people talking about you. However, this trust definitely needs to happen both ways. You also need to trust that the guidance from above is sound; you may be able to deliver on the idea perfectly well, but ensure that the insight informing the idea is also solid.

2. Be carefully courageous

Those of us who have ventured into the realms of reactive marketing know the risks, and we’ve all seen those reactive social posts or emails that just slightly miss the mark (we’re looking at you and your IWD tweet Burger King)[2]. To combat this, you can put a mini team together.

These will be the safe pairs of hands that reactive ideas go through before they go into production. Think agency representative, Copywriter, Marketing Director, or a rising star within your team.

The breadth of knowledge, experience and opinions in this team should help you avoid those awkward little mishaps and ensure your reactive marketing hits the right note. You can create a checklist that all reactive pieces of content have to adhere to, to add that extra level of safety before you press go.

This will ensure that the piece of content will help you achieve your targets as well as build your brand in the right way. After all, reactive doesn’t have to mean reckless, right? Take Dove Hair for example, last year as the Covid crisis hit they knew more and more customers were being furloughed, thus spending lots more time at home, meaning increased childcare and work commitments and less time for personal care.

We had to act quickly but effectively with the Dove Hair team in order to refine a new message to tap into their customers/Covid pain points. This was brought to life as self-care pledges and the selfie self-care across interactive Instagram stories to encourage consumers to take a moment to themselves during a super hectic time.

3. Read the news

Now I know this is an obvious one, but it’s arguably the most important. You can’t be reactive if you don’t know what’s going on around you. Of course, pay attention to general news stories, and that of what’s happening in your sector, but don’t forget to venture out of your comfort zone and challenge your thinking.

Being aware of what’s happening in other sectors, both those related and not, it might spark an idea for a piece of reactive marketing that gets people talking in areas you wouldn’t normally consider. Take this brilliant tweet from Innocent Smoothies, a timely, humorous use of Twitter commenting on a sector adjacent to their own[3].

4. Can you be proactive in being reactive?

Sounds counterproductive to the reactive marketing malarkey, right? But if you know something big is on the horizon that people will be chatting about – think international days of interest, sporting events or national holidays, you can plan to get some reactive content out there.

Be wary of jumping on the awareness days bandwagon, however, reactive marketing is all about inserting your brand into a conversation that you’re not normally in; there’s a fine line between doing this and alienating customers if there are areas and awareness days where your brand truly does not fit. Be prepared to alert your creative teams or agency to craft some up-to-the-minute content.

This could range from an inconspicuous social post, blog content, or a personalised email campaign. This low-level planning will remove some of the stress and unease your stakeholders can often feel about this tactic. Working with Plantastic, a plant-based treats brand, we proactively prepared social posts for Veganuary so we could actively participate in the conversation.

Reactive marketing boils down to two key components: bravery and agility.

Yes, we know the ‘A’ word is an agency buzzword, however, when you pair it with bravery you can create some really successful reactive marketing.

Prosperous reactive marketing can be split into 2 key areas: the emotional side and the practical side. From our tips it’s essential that you trust in your team to ensure that any reactive activity you produce is effective and timely, as well as having the courage to even put your brand out there in new and unexpected ways.

The practical side guarantees that the emotional one is grounded in safeguarding your brand and ensures that the chances of making any mistakes are low. Reading the news, having your finger on the pulse of what’s happening on social media is key – without any knowledge of what people are talking about online you have no chance of being able to discern anything to react to.

Low-level planning of what is coming up such as sports events or national days of interest can ensure you’ve alerted your agency or production team to the possibility of needing to craft some quickfire content, whilst also meaning you can take a step back and have a breather and craft quality content that will get the internet talking about you.

Stats show that 74% of marketers are currently finding it impossible to plan ahead[4]. Perhaps reactive marketing could serve as an effective tool to tide you over while we all get ourselves back on track?

You never know, with the right tools in place, you might just surprise yourselves with how effective and simple this approach can be.



[1] http://www.uptothelight.co.uk/home

[2] https://www.forbes.com/sites/suzannerowankelleher/2021/03/09/women-belong-in-the-kitchen-burger-kings-international-womens-day-tweet-goes-up-in-flames/?sh=11ecd22165c2

[3] https://twitter.com/innocent/status/1381512036501315584

[4] http://www.uptothelight.co.uk/home