I was at a conference the other day and much to my dismay, I heard an entire panel of what seemed to be reasonably smart people repeating the old canard about location based advertising and how great the world will be once it’s up and running.
Not at all.
I remember reading a piece by Robert Scoble about 4 or 5 years ago where he waxed enthusiastically about a scenario where he’s walking down the street in his hometown of Half Moon Bay at lunchtime, receiving text messages with offers from every restaurant serving lunch. And all I could think was “this is the seventh level of hell.”
Users, guys. Users.
So easy to forget, yet so critical to the success of whatever it is you want to do.
So, to use an example from someone on stage at this panel: I am walking down the street and pass a pub where I have had dinner before. The pub texts me with an offer for a free drink if I come inside.
My reaction? Best case is that I’m a little flattered the first time it happens and give the pub some props for being proactive. Second time, I’m starting to get a little creeped out. Third time it’s feeling a littler stalkerish.
Then every restaurant and retail store I’ve ever shopped at and every TV show I’ve ever watched starts texting me as I walk down the street. And I’m back in Scoble’s Seventh Ring of Hell.
Brands and marketers can only insert themselves in people’s lives so much before cool turns into creepy. What’s unique and sort of cool when one brand does it turns into a whole lot of noise when every brand does it.
The lesson here isn’t that proactive marketing is bad, but rather that it’s not the panacea it’s being made out to be. Everything in moderation. It’s one thing to get a text telling me there’s a new episode of my favorite show waiting on my watch list. Quite another to get one telling me that you’ve noticed I’ve got the TV on and did I want to tune into that show since there’s a new episode waiting.
One is possibly helpful (possibly, because if I’m a fan of the show and am aware of its schedule, I might find the text to be annoying. The other is just creepy and Big Brotherish.
It all goes back to something I wrote about six years ago: Your Brand Is Not My Friend™ Which is why you need to stop following me when I walk down Main Street.