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Location, location, location: why where you are is as important as the message

Mobile marketing is changing the way that brands interact with customers - with location adding a new layer of context and insight to brand messages

The advent of mobile marketing has created a wealth of possibilities for advertisers and brands – with one of the most exciting opportunities being location-based marketing. With a smartphone in every pocket, it’s now possible to target messages and campaigns on a much more precise level, using location data to ensure that they’re contextually relevant to consumers.

In partnership with navigation application Waze, Campaign brought together marketing experts from brands and media owners at Media360 in Brighton to discuss the present and future of location marketing.

Putting location in context

The debate opened with a discussion around whether location and intent are the strongest signals for advertising on a mobile device. Ed Smith, head of acquisition marketing at Wowcher, noted that location is a big indicator of customer intent, even in the context of search: "If they're typing in 'discount bar days', that's much less interesting than someone saying 'discount bar days in Birmingham' – because I can give them a much more personalised message and they're much more likely to react to it. And once they have reacted I can then put them onto the right area of our website – and they will convert better."

For Jem Lloyd-Williams, executive director – product & innovation at Vizeum, location is one of a number of layers of contextual information: "If you look at the different types of context, whether that's the medium you're in, your location, your mood, your activity, the group you're in – the more that you can triangulate those levels of context, the more specific you should be with your message." The challenge, however, is not how to gather this contextual information but how to make use of it – creating targeted messaging that covers all the different possible contexts: "Asking creative agencies to come up with 25 different iterations of a coffee message for BP – they aren’t anywhere near being able to do that yet."

Marc Zander, UK/global media director at Mars, used the example of mobile video to point out that location marketing is dependent on context – whatever media you’re using. "If I'm watching at home, because my daughters have taken over the room and are watching Kim Kardashian, then I'm watching very attentively. If I'm walking down the street, I'm not attentive, because I'm trying to avoid hitting a lamppost. Therefore: what are the triggers, and how do you communicate, and what role does that play?"

Brand building through location marketing

The discussion turned to performance KPIs in mobile advertising, and how location figures into these metrics. Location data isn’t just valuable for immediate sales – it can also be used in brand building, as Nigel Clarkson, managing director at Yahoo, pointed out. "If you know that somebody's phone goes to the gym five times a week, that's really valuable data to Lucozade, who might want to advertise in the app – even though it's not about an end, immediate sale."

For Chris Wood, head of media UK at Jaguar Land Rover, location-based sales are a challenge in the very specific world of automotive retail. "Until we've tapped into a world where you can pull forward previous online behaviour, I struggle with the conversion part. People now visit retailers to buy a car 1.2 times on average, and that includes their test drive, versus maybe 7 four or five years ago. So when they're there it's probably too late; if they're in a BMW dealer am I going to get them into a Land Rover dealer?"

John-Paul Major, marketplace director at MediaCom UK, noted that. "Everyone has a performance metric of some kind. If it's an e-com related one it's probably something traffic-related. As a physical store, you could be looking at whether or not the person walks past an iBeacon. So even though there is an effective need for a store, the brand building would not be done by the store but by the app."

Lighting the beacon

The use of beacons to pinpoint location was an exciting prospect for many delegates. Mungo Knott, marketing director at Primesight, revealed that the out of home provider is currently exploring the use of beacons to identify app users. "Not only do we own poster sites, we also own environments, so we could put our beacons outside convenience stores, or in cinemas. So you can actually say, ‘here is someone whom I've served ads to, but I also know that they are a regular cinema-goer,’ or that they've been to so many convenience stores and I have served ads."

The delegates turned to the question of whether location is simply a tactic for mobile advertising, or whether it can play a role in all their strategies. For Celia Pronto, digital integration director at Casual Dining Group, the answer was simple: "If you've got locations it's got to be both, because you're thinking about your brand messaging and how you're talking to people outside of locations; you're bringing it down to where you find us, and how does the brand come to life in locations."

Looking to the future, Nigel Clarkson noted that with new privacy regulations coming into force, one of the most important aspects of using location data will be user consent – placing apps like Waze, with their active user participation, at an advantage: "Other players in this market haven't got that; they're going to deem consent because they happen to have plugged an STK into another app that has got consent. And that's high-risk for them, to maintain that as a business model."

David Bratt, executive director at Manning Gottlieb OMD, was excited by the potential applications of location data beyond targeted advertising. "One of my clients is Odeon, which is a destination – so the ability for Odeon to text customers based on Waze data that says, ‘The road is backed up, you need to leave 20 minutes earlier, because we know you've got a screening at 1pm, would be a really powerful marketing tool. So there might be additional uses of your data that could become very powerful for advertisers."

As the discussion wrapped up, it was clear that while there are challenges to overcome, location is set to be a big piece of the mobile marketing puzzle in the coming years.

For more information about Waze advertising, check out Additional industry insights published on The Compass – a resource for mobile, native, and location-based marketing.