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Location, Location, Location (Part 1)

The oldest adage in real estate can now be applied to the latest thinking in marketing thanks to our ever-present mobile devices, writes Arc’s Tod Szewczyk

Where are you?

We’ve all said this to a friend, spouse or child. It’s a conversational call and response similar to the well-known musical technique where one player plays a phrase and another answers with a similar phrase in succession. One of my favorite examples of this is “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me” by Duke Ellington. Cootie Williams’ muted trumpet sings the opening notes, followed by a mellow trombone that leads us into the vocal. Brilliant and haunting. And somewhat reminiscent of how our phones are constantly pinging cell towers, WiFi signals and satellites to understand where we are.

Our phones won’t be the only things in our lives reporting back location. All of the Internet of Things devices either already have or will start to have this capability. So it’s natural to think of location as the next big thing for marketing. For perspective, Cisco says there will be 50 billion IoT devices by 2020 (four years from now), and the Pew Research Center published a study last October that showed 68% of adults (approximately 2 out of 3) have a smartphone that is capable of reporting back their location.

When thinking about marketing use-cases for location, there are two different universes to consider: the world outside and the world inside. Each area requires different ways of thinking about how to create valuable consumer interactions. Each area has a huge multitude of technologies, companies and approaches. This post will focus on some of the examples of how location is being used in out-of-home settings. My next post will cover the world inside in a few weeks.

The World Outside.
When thinking about the world outside and proximity, a good starting point is Google. We have all used its search service when on the go, in a so-called “micro-moment.” In fact, Google released a report last April that showed “mobile makes up 88% of all ‘near me’ searches, with those mobile searches growing at 146% year over year.”

Intuitively this makes sense. Think about how often you have used your phone to find something around you, from coffee shops and restaurants to that out-of-the-way store you were hoping to visit.

But this is really just the beginning. Platforms like xAd and Skyhook Wireless have essentially mapped the physical world down to the store on your corner level and can tell, with a high degree of certainty, where you go before you visit the store and where you go after. Scary? Maybe. Valuable? You bet, for both brands and consumers, when done well. All of this points to being able to understand the intent and context of a consumer’s journey. Selecting those particular places where a consumer, in all likelihood, would be most receptive to brand messaging is becoming a new discipline in the marketing universe. I like to think of it as the contextualist, a locative guru who can pinpoint key places in the world and map use-cases for brands to deliver valuable content and experiences: think bus stops, gas pumps and the drive-thru. Not the most glamorous collection of places, but when you consider the on-the-go lifestyle we lead today, they are places that we spend time at every day.

Content + Context.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of how location is being used to reach consumers in context, and what it means for brands. Clothing retailer Columbia recently used location to target and prompt people around its stores to learn more about its Omni-Heat jacket. A localized ad in the Weather Channel app opened to a custom landing page that offered contact information, a map and directions to the nearest store selling the jacket. XAd reported an increase of 52% in click-through rates on the ad, showing that your proximity to a store, combined with the right message in the right moment, can help drive interest and visits.

Elle Magazine took a slightly different approach on location, using beacons from Swirl, geo-fences from Gimbal and partnerships with shopping apps ShopAdvisor and Retailmenot (a combined 25 million monthly active users). When people were within a mile of stores like Levi’s, Vince Camuto, Barnes & Noble or Guess, they were sent a push message from Elle letting them know one of its editorial picks was nearby. This ingenious use of content to drive engagement resulted in approximately 500,000 store visits, which is incredible when you consider that store traffic has been taking a beating lately across the board. Just goes to show that putting relevant content in consumers’ hands in location can be a boon to brands and retailers.

The Shazamable Bus.
Recently in London, Exterion Media installed beacons in 500 buses with a daily audience of approximately 300,000 commuters. The first campaign to leverage this beacon network was by 20th Century Fox for the movie “Kung Fu Panda 3.” The really interesting piece of how they used the beacon network was to make Shazam the entry point to the campaign. Shazam has close to 120 million monthly active users, so people understand there is discoverable content when they see the app’s logo on a poster or TV ad. Chances are that of those 300,000 people taking the bus every day, more have the Shazam app on their phones than have the Kung Fu Panda/Fox/Other app installed—and they will know what to do when they see that poster with the logo. This is critical because it’s hard enough to get people engaged with brand messaging, let alone train them on a new behavior like shazaming for content.

This points to the beginning of how to reach consumers on the go and in the moment, and potentially boost consideration in trying a product, or movie in this case.

These examples are just the beginning of how location is becoming an incredibly important aspect to consider when reaching consumers. While the location data that our phones are emitting might seem ripe for big-brother-type exploitation, smart brands realize that providing utility to the consumer in the moment at a particular place benefits both parties. So the next time you are out in the world and notice that content is starting to reflect your surroundings, remember the words from Duke Ellington and “do nothin’ till you hear from me.”

Tod Szewczyk is VP, director of innovation, with Arc Worldwide, part of The Leo Burnett Group.

The views expressed by the author are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Leo Burnett Group.