Sunday, March 8, 2009

Location-based Mobile

You’re standing at the bus stop, wondering how long until your bus arrives. Your bus stop has a stop number, which you text to the local transit company shortcode. You receive a reply text immediately, which tells you that your bus won’t be there for another 25 minutes. Attached to that message is a coupon for 20% off any size coffee at the Starbucks right behind you.

So now you’re at Starbucks, enjoying a coffee and newspaper. You get another text message. This one is from a dating service that you signed up for yesterday. It informs you that, somewhere in the near vicinity is a tall brunette who fits your profile. Her name is Misha. She is 5’9”, an articling law student, and likes dogs. Attached to the message is an image, which you open. It’s a picture of her.

You also know that she got a text message with your profile information at exactly the same time. So you look up and there she is, looking at her phone while waiting for her grande latte. She grabs her drink, looks around and spots you, and comes over to your table. Now you’re wondering if you are going to miss the bus.

Sounds crazy? It’s not. Location based mobile activity is already in action in other parts of the world. It won’t be that far behind here in Canada.

Some smart phones have GPS locaters built into them. But almost any basic phone can be located by triangulation service - based on the distance from 3 or more local cellular site towers.

Bluetooth offers another possibility. You and your new lady-friend are now enjoying a walk in the shopping district. As you go past The Gap, your phone receives a bluetooth signal from transmitters in the store. A message on your phone includes a coupon for 25% off all jeans.

Later, both sporting some new Gap jeans, you continue your walk.

Of course, you have complete control over your bluetooth settings, so you can decide what kind of (or if any) proximity-based messages to receive.

These are the kinds of things that are coming. And they’re coming fast. Marketing departments and advertising agencies better sit up and take notice. Brands that achieve direct mobile engagement with their consumer are going to have a competitive advantage.


  1. The idea that my mobile phone would suddenly introduce me to a potential eligible bachelor while I'm gormlessly standing in the coffee queue (and his mobile meanwhile is introducing me to him) is excruciating...(oh, and who in their right mind would shop for JEANS of all things on an early date?)

    You mention that you have complete control over your bluetooth settings, but that might mean you can't necessarily control who from the dating agency can spontaneously spot you... I mean you might specify that you don't wish to be located, but a pirate dating agency might ignore that...and I'd end up getting stalked by some weirdo...

    So my question is how will and should these new marketing abilities be regulated, and by whom?

  2. Some really smart questions. The answers to these questions warranted a whole new post. See 'Sibling Rivalry?' posted Mar 15/09.