Location Based Marketing – Could it Really Work? Part One

When ZagMe, my previous foray into Location Based Marketing (LBM), was shut by its investors, I wrote at the time that we were 5 years too early. This didn’t mean 5 years too early for user acceptance, incidentally, but too early for marketers and the available technology.

However, ZagMe closed 5 years ago now and I sense that the world and technology is catching up with the thinking, so I thought it would be interesting to re-examine the business case.

Whenever location based marketing is mentioned, there are usually a number of predictable reactions.

At one end, we have what I’ll call the traditional techie, or possibly the anti-marketer (not always one and the same person) who tend to run around shouting stuff about invasion of privacy and calling for damn-fool advertisers to leave us alone. “We don’t,” they say, “want marketing messages on our phones (or anywhere else, in our heart of hearts) under any circumstances. It’s Evil.

Well, unless it’s Pull Marketing, where we get to decide when we want to be marketed to – obviously maybe that’s OK.”

At the other end of the spectrum is the traditional marketer or ad agency. They know the traditional channels are dying. People PVR out ads, have spam filters and their minds are adept at ignoring marketing messages.

They need a new magic bullet and mobile marketing may be the answer.

What both parties seem to be missing is what the ordinary mobile phone user might want. So I thought I’d have a look at this and see what the role of marketing on a mobile phone might be.

Firstly, let’s bust the Pull myth. Most ordinary people don’t want the hassle of pulling down information. They want it presented to them as a seamless part of their device experience, to ignore or act on, as they see fit.

That’s not to say that there isn’t an important role for Pull – I think being able to access information to supplement other media, as an example, is a great idea. And some die-hards will always stick to Pull and that’s fine too.

But the ordinary person wants to access marketing messages without any hassle, provided that the messages will be of interest – more of that anon.

I’m also not going to belabour the the Opt In Rule here. Trying to run non-Opt-In campaigns is not only illegal in Europe, but will be anywhere where marketers try to run this type of campaign. It’s simply too annoying for recipients and too tempting for politicians to run vote-catching legislation to ban it.

Having said that, illegal or not, it’s fundamentally Stone Age marketing, akin to bludgeoning passers-by with a huge marketing club and shouting after those you miss “Oi, shithead come back here, so I can smack you round the head and tell you how much I much I disrespect you”. In other words, it’s not for reputable brands, as they’ll find out damn quickly if they try it.

So let’s assume that your user has signed up to receive LBM from you.

Yes, this is a very big assumption and leads to the first fundamental LBM question: Would anyone sign up and if so, why would they?

Well, I think we can tackle this pretty quickly. Yes, they would sign up or opt-in to receive LBM. And they’ll sign up because of the type of marketing messages you promise (and they believe) that you’ll send them.

At ZagMe, for instance, we had 85,000 people sign up to our opt-in mobile marketing channel. These people weren’t tricked into something, they were simply promised marketing messages from shops in the mall, as in “great deals on essential brands direct to your mobile ÇƒÏ free”.

So, in fact, the really important question when studying LBM, the-answer-to-life-death-and-the-universe question of the subject, is: what kind of marketing messages should you say you’re going to send that will attract opt-in in the first place, that recipients will welcome and that they’ll respond to? In other words, what kind of messages will work? Knowing what the user wants is key to both opt-in in the first place and subsequently, optimising the channel’s effectiveness.

I’ll examine this in Part Two of this exploration and I’ll publish it later this week. If you have any ideas or feedback, leave a comment and I’ll incorporate the best in the follow-up.

Have a great week.

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