Just because you know where I am, doesn’t mean I’m listening.

Here’s an interesting story that makes us step down from the ivory tower and take a real world look at proximity marketing.

4 people are are sitting drinking in a pub, a psychologist, a salesman, a lawyer and a marketing man. No this isn’t a joke, there’s no punchline, it’s just the way it was.

Golden fleece

I was out with a number of friends from my climbing club in a pub when the conversation moved towards mobiles and advertising, “I hate those bloody videos they put on before the YouTube video you want to watch. They even put one for Justine Bieber before an Iron Maiden video. Is that what you marketers call relevant placement.”

One part of me naturally defends our industry, but the pragmatic side agrees with my friends. As a consumer I also hate ads that get in the way, especially pre-roll videos.

The conversation moved onto ads that pop up on Facebook, “I’m married so why do I keep getting ads for dating sites?” What can you say, “I guess you clicked on something that some pointy head programmer assumes means you’re single,” I replied.

At that point a SMS hit one of my friend’s mobiles. “What!?” he exclaimed. We all looked at his mobile. It was an ad promoting an alcohol brand with a voucher. “That takes the biscuit, no way will I even buy that brand, how dare they poke around in my personal space, how the hell do they know I’m in a pub?”

This is the big danger of assuming that proximity targeting of push messaging is a good thing. We know 83% of consumers hate push ads on mobile, and see the mobile space as a more personal space than the PC. They also don’t like brands appearing to have too much data on them. Respecting consumers privacy is essential to creating trust.

So when you get a push message that says “I know where you are,” far from winning the customer over, it stands more chance to push the customer away. Hardly a good strategy for brand engagement and selling. Pull is a far smarter way to engage consumers.

You don’t need a degree in consumer psychology to work that one out, which is what one of my friends does have. It’s intrusive and invasive, exactly what the digital community has been saying was wrong with the old ad industry – “how often do we repeat the mistakes of our father?”

Blind assumptions

This is one of two critical ‘blind assumptions’ we are making, the other is assuming that ‘relevance’ is all you need to sell. It isn’t. Yes its important, but it’s not the be all and end all as some think. Direct Marketing discovered that way before the digital revolution, you still need to persuade.

As any good salesman will tell you (we had one of them with us), with all the information in the world you still need an ability to sell and that’s an art not a science. As my friend points out, “Just because a man walks into a car showroom, wants to buy a car and has the cash, doesn’t mean he will. You need a salesman to sell the car, cars don’t sell themselves.”

This is exactly the reality of placing ads based on just data and proximity, it’s great targeting but it’s not selling. The mentality of a vending machine with no understanding of human psychology. The miss-assumption is two fold, one that just because you know where I am – job done, or just by delivering a relevant message – job done.

“ Just because you know where I am, doesn’t mean I’m listening unless you grab my attention.”  The principles of AIDA haven’t changed.

Great proximity marketing requires first rate creative ideas to sell. After all, if you can target people so can everyone else.

The other reality we miss, is that while we sat in the pub, no one looked at any  ads on their mobile phones, we were out having a good time with friends, chatting, drinking and eating.

Where we did see ads were on the beer mats, the postcards in the rack, the bar mat, the poster in the toilets, the poster in the street as we walked to the restaurant, the window display… each one in the right place to sell to us in a  non invasive and more persuasive way. Now that’s proximity marketing. Right place, right time.

Proximity Mobile Marketing

It’s a fact that 88.5% of retail spends happens in the real world, off-line, so targeting consumers where they shop, eat, drink, have fun, socialise is obviously good marketing. It’s no wonder Proximity Mobile Marketing (PMM) is estimated to be worth over $9bn across Europe within the next few years.

But to drive retail sales by engaging consumers, it can be far more effective to use off-mobile (pull methodology) than on-mobile (push methodology) strategies, given the variety of technologies that now allow consumers to instantly connect with brands via mobile, like NFC, and lesser so, Wi-Fi and BLE.

Once you have the customer and have developed a relationship, on-mobile is brilliant for CRM. It’s a more sensible way to go. And the two strategies can work together to create better marketing effectiveness.

And in case you think we are about to buy everything online and the high street is dead, ignore the hype and look at the real figures, the Government’s Office of National Statistics says online spend will reach only 12.5% by 2018. Look at the high street and you can see that a large percentage can never be converted to e-tail.

Having a good Proximity Mobile Marketing strategy as part of your overall mobile strategy is a critical factor today, especially for FMCG brands.

The other key factor is to concentrate on real numbers, like sales, not the Monopoly numbers we’ve seen with the social media world make up that mean nothing, like views, likes, followers and intent.

Meanwhile, back in the pub we’re playing a digital game of darts on a strange machine by the bar. “It’s nothing like the real thing is it?” commented my friend. “No,” I replied, as we left for a curry.


  • Steven Herron

    This is spot-on Chris and your comment “…having a good Proximity Mobile Marketing” strategy could be stated with more emphasis such as “…having a smart Proximity Mobile Marketing strategy is critical” and an imperative if mobile advertising ever has a chance of being successful. And we as marketers must force our clients to understand this and adapt to it.