Archive | March, 2012

Carrier-Based Geo-Fencing Gives Brands the Power to Push

29 Mar

The advantages of carrier-based geo-fencing are quite clear for marketers: The ability to push content via SMS to any opted-in consumer that wants it; no barrier to entry in the form of appn a built-in existing subscriber basen and typically a large sales force that already has relationship with major retailers and brands as potential customers. It simply makes a lot of sense.

Placecast and Locaid are two of the companies that have been empowering carriers like AT&T with ShopAlerts (US) and O2 with Priority Moments (UK) to do just that, and the consumers are responding.  O2 launched their program in June of 2011 and by Christmas had convinced almost half of their 23 million subscribes to opt-in.  That’s significant adoption when contrasted against Foursquare’s 3-year-old 15.5M user base.

I’ve said all along that location-based marketing will only be truly successful in attracting significant ad dollars when we realize that it more than just a mobile marketing concept — and really much more about the integration of any media that has the ability to influence somebody in a specific place.

It appears that some brands are getting the message.  Just last week The Gap completed a two-week long geo-fenced ad campaign. The geo-fences were created for Gap in bus shelters and stations throughout New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. In these transit areas, Gap had various standard poster ads for their brand, but also a geo-fenced area surrounding these posters, which triggered if someone entered the designated zone.  By entering this zone, a coupon was then pushed through the individual’s smartphone device, available if they opened Zynga gaming apps including the popular Words with Friends. If the smartphone user were to open the app, the next ad they see within the game would thus be for Gap but also include a discount that users have to click through to receive.

Although the campaign only ran for a short time period (February 20 – March 6), Dave Etherington, senior VP of Titan, the company that worked with Gap to create this campaign, explained that it delivered satisfying results in terms of interaction. He pointed out that the campaign delivered 2.5 million impressions with a 0.93 percent click-through-rate, a reasonable increase from the standard mobile click-through rate of 0.2 percent.

While there is a modicum of success in both the Gap and O2 examples, the key to growing user adoption on any geo-fenced service or campaign long term will be the ability to give the consumer a great deal of control.  It not simply about opt-in.  It must also be about enabling the consumer to choose what they want to receive and how often.

Push marketing is definitely back, and for the first time we know the who, what, when and where that we are pushing to.


Location-Based Tools Tying Music to Local Experiences

23 Mar

As location-based marketing becomes increasingly popular, the variation of place-centric apps is also increasing, with niche players competing to provide targeted local ads and promotions. The music industry, in particular, has staked out its place in the location-based marketing scrum through the development of applications that combine music and location into integrated marketing tools.

An important part of a musician’s success is their ability to connect with their fans and create “personal” relationships with them. This is exactly what location-based music apps allow them to do. The application, for instance, enables bands to upload their tracks according to location, allowing users on the app in the same location to view all the tracks and download them. The app empowers bands interested in creating a local identity within their hometown a great potential to connect with other locals.

A similar app, SoundTracking, utilizes a social network similar to Twitter to create a music sharing experience. Users are able to follow other users and gain followers, and then share whichever song is playing on their iPod or in their surroundings. If users are unaware of which song they are hearing out loud at a store or on the radio, they can hold their phone up and allow the app to recognize the song (similar to Shazam) and then publish it to their SoundTracking profile. The app provides artists with the opportunity to share their own music on their profile to their followers, but also provides them with more exposure as users share music with their followers.

Antony Bruno of (part of the National Association of Recording Merchandisers – NARM) said in an interview that “it’s all about fan engagement.” “Every band and artist should absolutely be exploring this stuff,” he said. “We need to use these emerging platforms to enable fans to feel connected to the artist, no matter where they are.”

Another way music is being reinvented is via location-based storytelling.  One company in this space is Broadcastr, an app where stories are recorded and shared in audio format, each pegged to a specific location. Users can search for stories by location or category, or may opt to “follow” a person who they consider to be a good storyteller, sorting stories by that person into a special tab. Listeners can rate stories as they hear them, and stories can be shared with others via email, Facebook or Twitter.

A similar platform is German startup SoundCloud. SoundCloud is the world’s leading social sound platform where anyone can create sounds and share them everywhere. As users create these sounds they can tag them to the places they were created via built-in Foursquare integration.

Thom Cummings, VP Marketing for SoundCloud, said in an interview that “creating memories linked to places and saving them though technology is simply amazing.” “Sound is one of the most powerful mediums we have for recording personal histories,” he said.

One band, Bluebrain, has taken this concept of location-based music sharing even further, creating two albums that integrate with the listener’s location. Bluebrain’s two albums, National Mall and Central Park, require users to download their application, which tracks their location and changes songs from each album based on their location in Washington, D.C., for the former, and New York City for the latter. As listeners navigate through different zones, their listening experience is altered. So far, these are the only two location-based albums of this type, and both provide a completely unique experience.

Music is simply the next expression of the vast array of location-services that have the power to not just help people get from one place to the next, but to also have an emotional connected experience around the places they visit.

photo credit: Gonso†Madrid via photopin cc

New Apps Facilitate Real-World Connections Via LBS

19 Mar



Business conferences and festivals can be a great way to meet and connect with people who have similar interests — as well as potential business partners. But many people have encountered the difficulty of actually finding the right connections amidst a sea of people.

A new cadre of location apps aimed at this problem took center stage last week at the South by Southwest Interactive festival, targeting both business and personal use cases, and I took a look at a couple of the more interesting ones.

Uberlife is an interesting solution for users trying to find people nearby that share their interests. Accessible online as well as through smartphone apps, the service is a location-based social networking tool that encourages likeminded individuals to engage in real world meet-ups. To sign up for Uberlife, users connect via their Facebook or Twitter account, and are then able to create local “hangouts” that are broadcast to their network as well as to the entire Uberlife community. Users can filter hangouts by adding their interests to their profile, enabling them to be notified when a hangout matching those interests is occurring within their proximity. Once a hangout is created, users can then add comments and photos to it as well as view others that are attending.

Uberlife founder and CEO Sanchita Saha explained to Street Fight recently that the company ultimately hopes to gain “transactional revenue share from local venues (bars, restaurants, cafes, etc.) offering group deals to users who are intending on hanging out together somewhere in the area.”

Continuing the Connection Offline
Although Uberlife is new to location-based social networking, apps such as have been playing at it bit longer. While Uberlife functions as its own social network, looks to serve as the host of connecting existing social networks. collects geo-data from all the social networks the user or their friends are connected to (like Foursquare and Facebook) and displays it on a proximal map. The app recognizes that one user might not be linked in to every social network, and therefore might miss check-ins or updates that their friends provide. But with, users don’t have to worry about missing their friends’ whereabouts, and can use their location to facilitate real world connections and meet-ups. Banjo, however, limits these connections to existing friends, and so it doesn’t really operate as a social discovery tool.

It’s Also About Business
Another player in this space is Unsocial, which is a location-based mobile networking tool that lets you connect with other business professionals near you — people that you don’t know, but should know. It’s primarily targeted at the business conference circuit.

Think about all those hours you spend in a hotel lobby or lounge, maybe in an airport, or a club, or at a conference. You look around see many professionals you could potentially hook up with, but the problem is that you don’t know any of them. Most people at conferences spend countless hours working the room, only to eventually discover a small minority of people who are interesting connections. Unsocial streamlines that process, pulling data from LinkedIn, Facebook and Foursquare to makes recommendations about who you should corner during the cocktail reception.

So, where is all of this leading?  Location-based social discovery is still an emerging space, but as a guy who spends most of my time on the road at conferences, services like Uberlife and UnSocial could potentially be invaluable in helping to filter out the noise and connect with the right people.  I think that we’ll see more of these types of services emerge and fail this year, but the LBS function of finding nearby real-life connections that I can actually do business or build a long-term relationship with is here to stay.

Looking for Location-Based Love

13 Mar

The rise of location-based services like Foursquare and Groupon have truly changed the way people explore cities and find deals on the things they’re looking for. But what about the people they’re looking for? With the rise of mobile location services comes new ways for singles to meet people, and new ways for dating apps to find customers. According to Juniper Research, the mobile dating market is expected to grow to $1.4 billion by 2013, and startups are poised to take advantage of that growth.

Location-based features are popping up in new and existing dating services. Users can take advantage of the GPS capabilities of today’s smartphones to show nearby singles who meet their dating criteria. Apps can make recommendations, enable people to digitally flirt, explore users’ profiles on other social services like Facebook or LinkedIn, and of course arrange to meet-up.

A recent study by online dating site Skout noted that 69 percent of people were comfortable meeting up with someone they met on their iPhone, and 40 percent were using a mobile dating service while out at bars, clubs and restaurants. Recently, location-based dating apps for those looking for local love have flooded the iPhone and Android markets.

One such app is Blendr – which allows users to network with other locals and check in at venues using their phone’s built-in GPS. The U.S.-based app also lets romance-seekers view “hotspots” on Google Maps as a fiery glow, representing what locations are currently trending.

With a slightly different spin is Grindr, the original app from the team behind Blendr, a mobile dating app targeted primarily at gay men. The app comes in both free and subscription-based versions (Grindr Xtra). It uses geolocation to enable users to find other men within close proximity. This is accomplished through a user interface that displays a grid of user pictures, arranged from nearest to farthest away. Tapping on a picture will display a brief profile for that user, as well as the option to chat, send pictures, and share one’s location.

Last month industry powerhouse acquired OKCupid for $50 million in cash. OKCupid has over eight million users, had previously raised $6 million in funding, and recently added a new Locals feature in their mobile apps. Locals shows users matches nearby. Members can then indicate that they would like to meet those locals, and the users they pick will get a notification.

Sharing location-based data brings up the question of safety. Ian Bell is the founder of Tingle, a dating app for iPhone. He said the idea of using location in a dating app can make users (especially women) wary. “When we talked to women we discovered, predictably, that the notion of having their exact location plotted on a map for the scrutiny of strangers was a no-go,” Bell said in an interview. “Still, that’s how the vast majority of mobile dating apps work today.” Though the app asks users to check in at specific locations they’d like to share, Bell says it doesn’t happen often enough to be useful for discovering new people. Tingle tracks a user’s location and shares their proximity, as opposed to a specific location, when users pass near one another. “In Vancouver, where we have our most densely-concentrated user base, this happens hundreds of times a day.”

Another challenge for these services is that users in smaller markets might not find as much value from location-based services, since population density directly impacts how many active users will be nearby at any given time. But if companies can incorporate real-time location-based features as value-add elements rather than a core product, while still offering members in more sparsely populated regions other alternatives, the downsides are considerably diminished.

Dating is obviously changing and with the penetration of smartphones and GPS-enabled devices on the rise, users can expect to find their next love interest no matter where they are. And for companies that are looking to tap into the dating industry’s expected $1.4 billion growth next year, integrating location-based features will be key, but so will be making sure users feel safe.

With additional reporting from Erin Bury.

Marketers Use LBS to Promote Health Awareness — And Remedies

9 Mar



With location-based services and the Internet, health information, particularly information about disease outbreaks, is now available at your fingertips. And a number of different services are using this location-specific data to inform users — and to target drugmakers’ ads.


Finding Outbreaks First
The website Flu Near You allows users to access information about flu activity in their area at a regional or state level. The RSS feed features regular updates on nearby flu outbreaks and related flu news. Users also have the option to receive customized emails that provide disease alerts based on location. As well, the site’s Flu Vaccine Finder points users to nearby locations offering flu shots or nasal spray flu vaccine.

Flu Near You is partnered with HealthMap, a similar web interface that allows users to track diseases worldwide. HealthMap doesn’t limit its disease tracking to flu epidemics, users can report about and track any type of outbreak within their area. The site provides real-time surveillance of emerging public health threats by utilizing a variety of data sources, ranging from online news aggregators to user reports to official warnings. HealthMap’s website utilizes an automated process which allows information to be monitored, filtered, organized, and disseminated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The information is available online in nine languages and helps facilitate the early detection of global public threats. Unlike Flu Near You, however, HealthMap has expanded past a basic online interface to offer a smartphone application on both iPhones and Android phones. The app provides users with an interactive map that allows them to track outbreaks as well as report their own.

Integrating Local Data and Ads
Given the availability of this data, several other location-based apps are now correlating this flu indexing with mobile advertising served based on the frequency and severity of the outbreak. A great example of this is eBay’s WHERE, which recently ran a campaign for Halls cough drops. By looking at the national flu index, and public data provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), WHERE was able to deliver ads for Halls cough drops wherever the flu index spiked within geo-fenced regions, so that the ads were only seen by users who were close to a participating retailer that carried the product.

Get Place-based Reminders Where and When They Matter

2 Mar



Location-based reminders function similarly to regular reminders – but rather than being reminded at a specific time, the reminder comes when you are at a specific location.

Setting a time-based prompt on reminders is great — if you’re always punctual. If you’re on your running late and on your way to work and the prompt for a reminder of something you have to do at work comes up in the car, chances are you probably already forgot about it the time you got to work. With location-based reminders, time becomes irrelevant and your physical environment is what is really of importance.

With Apple’s iOS 5, users can natively add location to their reminders, getting a prompt when they arrive or leave a particular destination. They simply have to add the location they would like to be reminded at and allow the app to use their current location. These location-based reminders ensure that you complete the tasks you need to when you’re in the right place to do so.


Non-Apple smartphone users need not worry, however, as there are a variety of useful apps that allow location-based reminders across various smartphone platforms. GeoNotes, an Android application, works similarly to the Reminders app in iOS 5 by allowing you to be reminded when you are arriving or leaving a designated destination. GeoNotes also allows you to label various locations (work, home, drugstore, etc.) by locating them on a map, using your current location if you are there, or by typing in the address. Unlike the iPhone’s reminders, this app groups your reminders by each labeled location, creating a neater and less clustered list of reminders. Additionally, GeoNotes allows users to set a distance in meters for when they would like the prompt to occur in relation to when they are arriving or leaving a specific location.

Coming at it from a different angle are companies like Airrand, which send you the reminders when you check-in at relevant locations on Foursquare.  Foursquare itself has recently taken this to a new level with a ‘Save to Foursquare’ function for publishers.  Essentially, if you’re reading an online article that references an interesting restaurant or retailer that you might what to check out sometime, you simply click the button and it adds it to your Foursquare to do list.  When you’re out and about and in proximity of one of those places it sends you a reminder.

While some may still prefer a traditional time-based reminder, these location-based reminders are great for on-the-go types who are prone to forgetting to complete a task or two.