If you still think you can build a breakthrough brand through interruptive messaging, another wake-up call is on the horizon. Recent reports suggest that Apple is developing software called iBeacon, which will allow its devices to communicate via indoor-mapping with Bluetooth Low Energy beacons within 150 feet. PayPal has announced an initiative with a technology so similar, it basically has the same name -- Beacon.
This micro location technology will allow consumers to walk into retailers and have access via their mobile devices to unlimited information about products in the store. With this information, they will have a kind of x-ray vision, able to see through a product's marketing, advertising and packaging. For some brands, this is a scary concept. For others, it provides an incredible opportunity to differentiate.
Consider a customer shopping for a new camera. Micro location technology will enable access to information on products up to 50 yards away. Let's assume, in this example, that only two cameras being considered in the store. Both will have strong advertising and packaging and an enthusiastic salesperson. But, one enables the customer to hold up his phone, quickly and easily receive product specs, filter those specs based on his exact preferences, watch videos, download promotions and read reviews from photography aficionados. The other manufacturer offers no such information; consumers have to start searching in their mobile browsers to find out anything. The winner is clear. There's no way that a great ad or shiny packaging can offset that amount of customized information.
This doesn't mean that great advertising and packaging will be useless. But brands are increasingly transparent. Those that thrive will think of advertising as immersive content, not interruptive messages. They will provide the exact information the consumer needs, exactly when he or she needs it.
As a marketer, you can ignore micro location technology and hope traditional advertising can build a great brand. Or, you can go all-in and fully embrace it. If you do that, you'll need the strategies and resources to provide the information needed, ranging from custom content to independent reviews.
Micro location technology is going to grow exponentially, but it's barely in its infancy. The time is now to get your plans in place. It will likely take months to conduct the research, strategy and creative work. You'll need to map out the entire consumer journey and identify the exact information that is needed and how you can embrace the new technology to deliver it. The investment in research, strategy, concepting and ideation is relatively small. The cost of being late to the ballgame will be huge.