Blog: The fast and furious arrival of the SoLoMo era

Robin Hassan from Starcom reports on the latest in the social, location-based and mobile marketing from the iMedia Agency Summit in Colorado Springs.

Robin Hassan (@robinkayh) is digital VP for Starcom Canada and chief of engagement lead for social and mobile at SMG. You can follow her posts on Tumblr Idea Emporium. She blogged the  iMedia Agency Summit for MiC

The iMedia Agency Summit was hosted in the stunning Colorado Springs over the Victoria Day long weekend with the theme of “The Impending Era of SoLoMo.”

For those not familiar with the term SoLoMo (arguably becoming the most love-to-hate buzzword of the year), here is a quick definition: SoLoMo is an acronym for social, location-based and mobile marketing. In its truest sense this new approach to marketing aims to deliver on the long-elusive goal of “hyper-targeting”: reach the right consumer, at the right time, in the right place (on and offline).

This (by invitation only) conference’s unique blend of keynotes, agency-only breakout sessions and sponsored sessions are always a great way to get a first glimpse at new product and research announcements (versus the typical media kit or case study presentations). And it did not disappoint this time. After 50 sessions over three days, here are the key themes I took away:

Be Bold!

Many of the supplier presentations focused around great innovations in measurement and attribution tracking, a hot topic with many clients and agencies both sides of the border. But as we continued to talk about this new SoLoMo era, it is consistently clear that too narrow a focus on immediate direct response metrics will stifle innovation. In a space where first-mover advantage is critical, it’s important to approach this space boldly by having a hypothesis and proving (or disproving) it. The ideal is to ensure “tests” are funded appropriately, and that incorporating learnings from failures and wins is a must in a space that is evolving at lightning speed. This understanding is demonstrated by several top Fortune 100 companies that have rolled out independent innovation groups to address this. To name a few: Walmart Labs, P&G Innovation Labs and Pepsico10 Incubator.

At the conference, Michael Berner, director of global social media strategy, American Express, spoke to the audience about how their Twitter campaign “Sync. Tweet. Save.” was an evolution of learnings from the Facebook Small Business Saturdays program and was built on a core insight around a unique product solution that specifically spoke to the Twitter audience. The program, launched in SXSW this year, was one of the top performing promotions that the company has ever done. The Amex mantra on how to approach this new space said it well: “Think like a start up: rooted in reality with an eye towards scale.”

People. Not Brands.

Lots of discussion took place around the fact that when social media is being considered by brands, it begins (and sometimes ends) with Facebook. While that platform is critical in many cases, there is room for many more players to innovate and create real social value for consumers and brands. The biggest opportunity (for Facebook and others) is to deliver on storytelling vs. traditional ad placements. The role for agencies is to help brands ensure that the right experiences are created to engage consumers in a credible and authentic way across point of engagement media.

To further this, the concept of native ad placements was another big topic. The idea behind this is to move towards placing brand “stories” within the context of the content well, versus ad placements that are to the side or pre the content. Essentially, the priority should be for the industry to work together to move further away from the interruptive nature of today’s ad placements, and collaborate to provide true added value for target consumers. Telling and allowing for experiences that generate stories that people will want to amplify via their networks should be the priority. This comes to life with the fact that some of the top new properties (Pinterest, Spotify, Foursquare and even Facebook mobile) have none of the traditional ad placements.

This is an exciting time for innovative thinking to change the communication model, particularly in mobile. Because of this it is a big opportunity to rethink the mobile canvas, versus trying to re-create the existing display ecosystem into a channel that is far more tied to real world (on the go) experiences. Several examples were illustrated as unique opportunities could engage targets in this way, like Kiip (brand rewards in games) and Zoove (vanity telephone number for opt-in content/offers).


Data will be at the core of successfully navigating the SoLoMo marketing era, and this is really where first-mover advantage will be key to driving success. In order to successfully do this, location-based marketing should not be limited to thinking about how paid ads work to drive results. It’s about the role of these new location-based apps/tools to deliver on everything from promotions to shopper marketing experiences. While mobile tracking and targeting continues to have its issues, making sure that a solid understanding of how consumer behaviour changes across all elements of SoLoMo is going to be key to delivering a model that works in the long run.

Unfortunately, not all of these solutions are ready to roll out in Canada yet. But love or hate it, SoLoMo is definitely here to stay. Thinking about how consumers are changing their media consumption patterns proactively is key for marketers to think about, regardless of discipline. Just remember, be bold.