On the MiC: Faris Yakob

The MDC Partners chief of innovation previews his NXNEi location-based marketing talk in advance of the event on Thursday.

The second year of the NXNEi conference kicks off on Wednesday with talks that promise to dig deep into the digital and music industries. Faris Yakob, chief innovation officer at MDC Partners and co-founder of its boutique agency Spies & Assassins takes to the stage at the Hyatt Regency Hotel this Thursday to talk, entitled “Proximity is Virtue: Why location-based marketing isn’t really about location” about how location-based marketing isn’t really about where consumers are, but what they’re near.

Check out our Q&A with Yakob for a sneak peek of what to expect later this week.

If location-based marketing isn’t about location then what is it about?

What I will do on Thursday is establish a number of provocations about the nature of proximity as it is distinct from geographical location. Location is where you are. It is a coordinate system that is displayed in a very specific way. But knowing the longitude and latitude of where someone is doesn’t help as much as knowing what someone is near. If you are near a shop, that is more important to know than where you are in space.

What brands are doing a good job using location-based marketing?

One of the examples I am looking at in detail is the Tesco shop in Korea, the QR-code based shop. Also, American Express is very good at it. They add discounts to Foursquare check-ins if you sign up with your card. It is a simple, value-adding equation.

Also Apple has announced that they will have a new update to Siri where you can ask your phone to remind you to do something when you leave your house. Connecting things to location, but not necessarily based on where you are at that moment.

How should brands be thinking about mobile?

In a number of ways: I think understanding the context is important, and then how to build and market around that. The earliest form of location-based marketing would be a poster, because they are in a location and you know where you placed them. In that location posters interrupt your stream and there is no value exchange. Increasingly people think location-based marketing is technology based. If something is going to be on my phone then it must add value to the location I am currently in, which could be a contextual location or a geographical one. If you are going to be on my phone, then tell me I am nearby you in some useful way. When I am doing something on my phone that isn’t geographically-based like email then provide a way to add value to that system.

What are a couple things people need to learn to help brands perform better in the location-based marketing space?

The most important thing to learn about this area is that how you use your phone is not the same as how anyone else uses their phone. But intuitively it looks like it’s the same, and your brain thinks it’s the same and it is a really hard thing for us to unlearn.

If you want to play in mobile you have to accept a degree of system complexity, because when you say mobile you are talking about 10 different things. We need to recognize which piece of mobile a client is asking about.

What will be some key takeaways from your talk on Thursday?

We need to think about context, and that what’s near the consumer is more important than where they are. And I think there is probably a lot of value to be gleaned from the ‘exhaust’ created with all the data left behind from these consumer interactions that no one has yet done something with.

NXNEi runs from Wednesday June 13 to Friday June 15 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Toronto.