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Where 2.0: Context is Everything

Last week, folks who work in the area of geo-location gathered in Santa Clarita to talk about the future of the biz. When they were done, they left behind a long list of video and slide presentations that you can access simply by visiting the Where 2.0 website.

Since location-based marketing is such a big trend right now, I wanted to introduce you to Genevieve Bell from Intel. She’s a cultural anthropologist and her specialty is human interaction. The speech she gave at Where 2.0 was called “Context is Everything” and it’s all about the concept of “where” and how it differs depending on who you’re talking to.

As Bell points out, many of us (myself included) think like Americans. Which is fine most of the time, but when you’re talking about technology and the internet, it’s easy to forget that not everyone in the world has broadband and a cell phone. In order to get people thinking more globally, she presented a series of anecdotal stories that I can’t do justice to here in this blog. I will give you the broader points and I hope that at the end, you’ll watch her video because it’s both informative and amusing.

Location Isn’t Just About Directions

Bell tells a story about how London cabbies must pass a rigorous test that includes not only how to get to places, but what establishments line those streets and the history behind them. Here, “location isn’t just about directions, it’s actually about the stories of London.” Where equals knowledge, it’s something that’s learned.

Location Can Be Relational

There’s a car commercial running right now where a driver refers to an “old GPS” which is an elderly man in the backseat telling him when to turn. Bell had this experience in real life when she visited Malaysia. Her companion made reference to picking up her “GPS,” which turned out to be her mother-in-law, a woman who had lived in the city all her life. She needed to do this because, in Malaysia, directions aren’t about street names. They’re about events and buildings, even buildings that aren’t there anymore. “Turn right at the corner where the fishmarket used to be, then left where Auntie had her tooth pulled.” So here, location isn’t enough, you have to understand how these places relate to people in order to get where you’re going.

Where You Are Going Can be as Important as Where You Are

As part of her cultural studies, Bell likes to photograph the contents of cars. These bits and bobs are very revealing and each one tells a story. In this case, she chose a car from Singapore which, among other things, had a collection of Ang Pao, red envelopes that are used to give money as a gift. When asked why he had them in his car, the man said it was in case of an “emergency wedding.”

We here in the US, don’t usually carry around emergency gifting supplies, but we might carry sneakers in case we find a good place to run, or a camera in case of a beautiful sunset. Location needs to be about where people are going, not just where they are now.

Location is About Identity

Says Bell,

“We lie about where we are, about who we’re with and where we haven’t been. More than half of Brits, when recently surveyed, said they lied about there location in text messaging and if half of them said they were lying, I’m willing to bet more of them were actually lying than that.”

Why lie? Because location equals identity and sometimes we want to be better than we really are. We want to be a person who eats at Sprouts not McDonalds or goes to the concert instead of watching the live stream from home.

What Does This All Mean to You?

Right now, your customers are somewhere and chances are they’ll be going somewhere else later on. Can you work with that? Sure you can. Reward them for location knowledge, give them an upgrade so they can be the person they wish they were and make the experience so great they won’t want to lie.

Location isn’t really about spots on a map. It’s about people and that’s what you need to remember when you work geo-location into your marketing plan.

If you have 16 minutes, watch Genvieve Bell’s full presentation.