Location, location, location...
William Shakespeare once said, "All the world's a stage, and we are merely players." That was then and this is now. Now all the world's a location waiting to be "checked in" at! Our modern lives are nothing more than a growing trail of digital breadcrumbs as we actively, and passively, broadcast our every move to friends and strangers alike. Despite the perceived perils of privacy (or the lack thereof), the liberation of our location is not necessarily the epitome of all evil. There can be benefits to location awareness, if we are just aware of them.
You are here
There is no question that we live in a mobile world. Numerous studies predict that there will soon be more mobile phones than there are people on the planet, and just as many studies state that in a matter of years more people will be accessing the internet from their mobile phones than from desktop and laptop PCs. Thanks to the proliferation of these mobile devices, and especially the growing popularity of high-end smart phones, complete with always-on connectivity and internal GPS functions, your very specific location can be made readily available if you so desire. To find someone today, you needn't hire a spy or P.I., or secretly stash a tracking chip in their pocket. More than likely you can find them through one of the many mobile apps, social networks, and location-based services that they have opted into that share their location from their mobile phone, actively or passively.
Location changes everything
For many of us, our mobile phone is the center of our daily universe. It is the focal point for our information, entertainment, and communications, and it has changed the way we look at advertising and commerce. As much as mobile changes everything, location changes mobile.
We have all heard that "content is king" but in an always-on, interactive, digital world, really it is "context" that is king. Context is especially important for advertisers and marketers who are reaching out to hyper-targeted consumers, leveraging the power of digital to narrowcast their offers and messaging to the audience they believe is most likely to respond. The person on a boat ride is not likely to be responsive to notice of an afternoon sale from a midtown retailer; however, the person across the street from the store is. If context is king, location creates context.
Location creates context and context creates relevance. In a mobile, location-aware world, everything should be relevant to your interests. The challenge for marketers is that most advertising is still an interruption. Worse, because the mobile phone is such a deeply personal device, and one we carry with us nearly 24/7, the potential of an ad being an interruption is amplified. The person relaxing on that boat does not want to be bothered by an ad on their phone for a sale occurring back on shore. For the person near the store, an ad about the afternoon sale is relevant, and thus to that person the ad is much less of an interruption. Hence, the Relevance of Interruption. Popular location services such as Foursquare and Gowalla are learning to leverage where someone "checks in" to deliver increasingly relevant offers. A check in at your office may present an offer for a discount at the Ben & Jerry's next door (which happened to me). If you believe that at some level all mobile ads are interruptions, the more relevant the ad is, the less of an interruption it will be. Successful mobile advertising can be gauged by this new ROI -- the relevance of interruption. And location can be a meaningful way to increase relevance and improve your standard ROI (return on investment).
Content can be relevant too
Location-created relevance is not limited to advertising. Mobile content can also be more relevant based on a person's location. We are just beginning to scratch the surface of what may be able to be done with "mobile aware" content that leverages a person's place as well as their interests. For example, my company has launched an Android app called GeoPix that lets you set different wallpaper images for an unlimited number of locations, based on your phone's GPS information. You can set a location zone of any size and then assign a unique wallpaper image to that zone. Then as you go about your daily routines, your phone's wallpaper image changes automatically as you enter one of your pre-set zones.
As another example, music video site Vevo has announced that its upcoming iPhone App will be location aware and will recommend local artists that might interest you based on your location. It is likely you will soon see many more examples of ways mobile content can be influenced by a person's location. Geo-based ringtones, music, and playlists are inevitable and will create more ways to make mobile a highly personal, highly relevant experience.
In a mobile world, location creates context, relevance and opportunity.
What do you think? Should mobile marketers be considering location and the relevance of interruption?
(This article is based on a presentation given at the 2010 SFIMA Summit. You can view the presentation slides here and the video here.)
Jeffrey W. Sass is VP of marketing and business development and chief evangelist at Myxer.
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