Social media has come a long way in a very short amount of time. It has allowed business owners to take a whole new approach with their brand awareness campaigns, marketing and PR. Location-based marketing, while fairly new, has already yielded fantastic results for brands, both large and small, as they focus more and more on customer loyalty initiatives and strategy.
One of the biggest challenges is that new topics like location-based marketing typically have very little reference material available. Sure there are thousands of blog posts full of opinions to wade through but sifting through all of these opinions would be daunting for any decision maker new to the category, leaving them overwhelmed at best.
Experienced marketing/PR guys Aaron Strout and Mike Schneider have been following the geo-location craze since it started a few years ago. As the desire to use geo-location tools and concepts for business grew, they knew it was important for businesses to have an easy-to-use handbook. Knowing this, they have worked feverishly to get such a handbook out to the masses. Enter "Location-Based Marketing for Dummies."
You guys have been involved with all facets of social media/marketing for awhile now. How did you two meet?
[Mike] I'm not exactly sure how we met, but I know it was on twitter. I think I started noticing some of the after work events that Aaron's previous company was doing and actually couldn't make. I then DMed Aaron about an event on the future of advertising to ensure that we would get a few minutes to chat. That was 2007. From that moment on we have just always talked about what we think about emerging technologies. No pretense, no competition, just a couple of guys who care about what the other thinks.
[Aaron] We actually met through a common acquaintance/colleague, Colin Browning. I worked with Colin and he had met Mike shortly before Mike and I connected at the aforementioned MITX event back in 2007. After that, we stayed in touch and our friendship grew over time.
What is it about location-based marketing inspired you to write a book about it?
[Mike] For me it was about the potential for lowering the amount of advertising noise. My philosophy is that ads are good if they carry a message that is useful to a person. That's why I got into the space in the first place. I brought my database and analytics experience to an agency to optimize messaging in digital and mobile.
Before smart phones we used to sit around the office fantasizing about what we could do if we knew where people were going, when they were there and where they were going next. We even had our own little failure in 2002 that was based on getting data from carrier providers, then Dodgeball and Brightkite came along with check-ins and we thought it was better to focus on the ideas these guys had than to keep ours going.
[Aaron] I started playing with location-based services back in 2007 when BrightKite was first launched. For the most part, I used it as a photo blog (allowed me to geo-tag photos from a specific location/event). Eventually, I migrated to Foursquare when they launched in 2009. Immediately, I could tell that there was potential value for business. After writing about them for a while on my blog, I started thinking more about how we could help clients use LBS to deepen loyalty and engage their customers.
How long did it take you guys to write it? Being that the category is fairly young, was the research phase challenging?
[Mike] it took us about 5 months start to finish. The research wasn’t too bad because we were already staying as close to the space as possible. We spoke to companies and asked them to expound on some of the cases we already knew about.
[Aaron] By my count, I think it was closer to 7-8 months but maybe it just felt like that. Like Mike said, we had to do a lot of research on the fly given the fact that it was a fast evolving space. It’s funny, when we started the book writing process, Facebook Places didn’t exist. Just after ending the process, Facebook announced that they were “evolving” the service to be more of a feature. During that time, Groupon acquired Whrrl and eBay bought WHERE. Needless to say, it’s hard to keep up.
What brands do you think have done the best job leveraging location-based marketing?
[Mike] We like gas and convenience player MurphyUSA's innovation and willingness to constantly be ahead of the curve. Their LBS scratch game on WHRRL, foursquare specials combined with their mobile payments platform has been very successful. Buffalo Wild Wings did a great job with their SCVNGR gaming campaign that gave people ways to interact with one another and get deals on wings. It was wildly successful.
Tastidlite has done a phenomenal job of incorporating location based services into their loyalty program. It checks you in and gives you extra points. They built their program on top of the foursquare, twitter and Facebook APIs. We also like Xfinity's campaign that partnered with local businesses to run specials to attract students to tell them about cable. They also used radio to promote the campaign.
Explaining the business benefit of social media is already a challenge with some of the older brands. If a company is considering the integration of location-based marketing for a consumer product launch, at a high-level, how would you explain the benefit?
[Mike] I like to tell them that we don't know exactly what to expect, but that we can encourage trial and seed loyalty for the kinds of customers who will return and pay full price. I tell them we can use fuzzy metrics like checkins, tweets and posts and combine them with recency, frequency and monetary metrics.
[Aaron] In particular, I’m really jazzed about the partnership that Amex and foursquare announced. I call that a win/win/win/win meaning Amex wins out for partnering with a hip technology company. They also extend their loyalty program to include social loyalty and offer a great program for some of their small and medium-sized partners. Foursquare wins because they get the validation of a 150 year old Fortune 100 company. This partnership should also drive greater adoption for foursquare. We as customers win because Amex and foursquare give us real rewards for checking in. And finally, the location-based industry at large wins because this sends a message that LBS marketing is for real and big companies are using it.
Obviously the leaders in this category are foursquare and Gowalla. With access to so many customers, why do you think Facebook Places didn't really take off?
[Mike] Is it obvious? Don't forget SCVNGR. Facebook did not take off because Facebook did not put in the proper amount of effort to make it take off. They are just a self-serve, repeatable group of services and some rudimentary analytics away from taking serious market share from foursquare. But I don't see Facebook investing a lot of time in that because of the still relatively small amount of people who check-in versus the total Facebook universe.
[Aaron] Like Mike said, Facebook never really committed to making Places fun or engaging. It has always been more of a feature -- something they finally acknowledged after a year of only semi-supporting the service. Gamification isn’t for everyone but it’s key for those audiences that do like it.
What types of features would you like to see within these apps moving forward? In other words, what's still missing or could be improved?
[Aaron] Mike and I are both bullish about LBS moving toward the passive check-in. Active should always be an option but more people would use it if it weren’t such a clunky activity to check-in. More future or intent-based applications like Forecast and Ditto will help marketers better leverage the data (but obviously there has to be value for the customers). And finally, tying it into point of sale systems (PoS) will also help create traction, better tracking and a closer tie into existing loyalty programs.
Thanks guys for your time!
About the authors
Aaron Strout is a 17-year marketing veteran who specializes in the convergence of mobile, social and digital marketing. Aaron is the head of location-based marketing at global communications firm, WCG. At WCG, Aaron helps customers with social, mobile/LBS strategies. In addition, Aaron is a regular speaker, podcaster and blogger.
Mike Schneider is the SVP Director Digital Incubator for Allen & Gerritsen, named by AdAge as #1 place to work in media and advertising. Mike has over 17 years of experience strategically solving communication problems by building or combining emerging and established technologies.
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