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They Know Where You Are and What You’re Watching

This past Monday I had the opportunity to spend part of my day at the MobileXCincy conference, a local iteration of the growing MobileX conferences. I bounced around the various tracks during the day, learning about the future of mobile app development and gaining insight on how companies and brands should tackle the growing mobile market. While there were many interesting nuggets throughout the day, the two keynotes (Daniel Odio of Socialize and Nihal Mehta of Local Response) brought up two mobile media trends that I think are interesting to take note of and watch closely as the future of brands and retailing unfolds.

Geo-fencing. Perhaps Mehta and Odio’s topic that resonated the most with the crowd of over 300 was geo-fencing, a digital perimeter created around a real geographic area. The discussion led to how brands might interact with their consumers via this technology. To get a feel for geo-fencing, think about this: you could be walking through your local lifestyle center and feel a smartphone notification in your pocket. When you look at your device, you see that you’ve received a coupon from the store you just passed, letting you know that there’s a sale on a blue version of the sweater you bought last month, and that if you come in now, you could have another 10% off. Big Brother-ish? Definitely. But is this a Big Brother that consumers will welcome if it helps them save money or time? Perhaps. As Mehta gauged the crowds “creepiness” factor, an overwhelming amount of hands shot up. So, at what point does your brand put its toe in the water to become a first mover and at what point does your brand wait back and see how consumers react?

Audio APIs. Odio’s keynote brought up a topic that brands should really take heed of—audio. Yes, many of us have heard about the APIs (Application Programming Interface) that many of our favorite sites and games are built on top of, but who thinks about non-visual interactions? Odio discussed the new Conan app, which uses audio technology to have your tablet’s app pick up cues from the show you’re watching. These cues will prompt bonus content on your tablet related to what you’re watching on your screen. The first thing that came to mind was soap-operas, and how they started and got their names—this could essentially be the next phase, as sponsors begin to emphasize their product placements with real, interactive coupons and deals on your tablet without you having to do anything at all. What if you go to the movies, watch the newest blockbuster (where the family in it drives around in a new Buick), then walk out of the theater only to have a text message on your phone offering you $1,000 off your Buick if you test drive within 24 hours—all happening because your phone picked up the audio track from the movie.

These new technologies are focused on bringing timeliness to what brands offer consumers. Both communicate with people via the device where they likely want it (their smartphone) at a time when they are seemingly more likely than not to be interested in the brand‘s offer.

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