A memory continues to pop into my head every time I hear about mobile overtaking the world of marketing. I remember back when they first allowed you to text other networks and the press jumped on it like a dog chasing a ball with restless enthusiasm. They created futuristic stories of simple technology that understood your location based and could send you offers when you were close to your favourite shops. (I know it doesnt sound that futuristic but we are talking about the late 90's) Every time if hear the 'you are walking along the street close to your favourite store when BOOM you get a text from that store with an offer right as you walked past'. (The weird thing is it was about 14 years ago but I still visualise the same street and store whenever I think about it.)
Fast forward to London, January 2011. In one of the most depressing times of the year, post Xmas and NYE everyone has run out of money and feels like the month will never end.. dying for pay day. Some of the juniors of an undisclosed agency suggest to everyone they go out for a cheap bite to break the winter blues. 'I think I have a voucher for Zizzi's'. 'Wait I got one for pizza express.' They all scream to each other. So off they go to Zizzi's only to realise they are not alone. So the herd move onto Pizza Express just down the road. Throughout the meal people 'check in' on facebook and foursquare and look where other people are to potentially meet up with after wards. Using the phones to share images of holidays, funny videos and places they had checked into or been mayor of for a short amount of time. But as the meal seems to be drawing to a close someone asks. 'Did anyone bring the voucher for the deal? I thought you brought it, no I bought the Zizzis one. Well what are we going to do?'. As the waiter walks up he asks do you have a voucher... NO... 'well all I need is a voucher code... so...' So what.. so get on your phone and get one. Within two minutes they have the code and all of a sudden a reasonable costing meal turns into a cheap meal and that sense that they have dodged the system and come out on top.
That little story was a realisation to me of two trends that are building at such a rapid pace we will probably miss them by summer. Groupon has been getting a lot of publicity lately as Google tries to move in to purchase the company after only launching two years ago but supposedly being worth $6billion. The growth of location based services like foursquare and facebook places is creating opportunities for companies to get closer to their audience in a physical sense not just a supposed emotional.
This is great. People working together to get a better deal and generally taking whatever opportunities arise in relation to their location. But is this a positive for the value of a brand or a negative ? I remember my mum being invited to a co-op buying group when I was a kid. Each mum out their money in and took their turn going and picking everything up. We didnt last long as my mum felt that the quality wasnt great and she always felt we didnt get quite what we needed/wanted. Also isnt the job of marketing to bring intangible value to products to differentiate and allow our clients to charge a higher price. So giving deals as you walk past the location seems a counterpoint to that. But the positivity of the experience seems like the perfect opportunity. But what also seems to be interesting is the herd like behaviour of the masses to strive for a deal together. Its like those jokes on facebook 'My wife will let me call our first child batman if I get 10,000 members'. So how do we utilise this growing consumer interest to help build value for our brands and restrict the search for a cheap deal ??. How can we utilise them to engage a larger mass within more herd like behaviour to create someone large out of something small.
Thats one to throw into a preso !!