Whether you’re doing a print ad with a QR code, updating your brand’s Facebook page, or rigging for SEO, all of the instances of marketing that you create will ultimately be seen in a unique location by a unique viewer. 

People always encounter marketing in a specific context. Subsequently, marketers need to anticipate what that context is, in order to engage and connect more deeply with it.

Campaign and brand experiences can and should be integrated across physical space and multiple objects – the impact of multiple brand engagements has been proven to deliver positive results. Strategists need to make certain as best as possible that the chosen medium and messaging tactics accommodate and compliment people’s unique identities, activities, and location.

How can marketers get this mix right? By thinking it through.

There are several important questions every person who works on a marketing project should ask.

Where will the marketing be?

Tic Tac, as part of their “Shake it Up” campaign, has created a large number of unique print ads with an augmented reality layer that brings the campaign to life on viewers mobile devices.

Watch this video, and note how the AR environment changes according to the different settings in which the ads are located.

There is:

  • A poster, which is seen by people on the go, and has a clever fact that can be read quickly
  • A magazine with an interactive game for people who are sitting around
  • A drink coaster with a pick-up line spewing beaver, to aid conversations at bars.

There is one minor problem, though, that needs to be considered. Underground, on a subway platform is a good place for a poster. People are waiting, and will have lots of time to look at it. 

However, this isn’t the right place to prompt people to use their phones to text for a link to the app. There is no cellular service in most of the New York City subway. It is better than the campaigns who prompt you to scan a QR code that leads you directly to a website, but it still needs work.

Marketers need to consider all locations their ads may be in and plan accordingly. There could have been another call to action for subway posters that would give the user an experience straight away instead of waiting until they are above ground again – for example, if subway riders were prompted to use email, it would be queued, then automatically sent when they reemerged onto the surface.

How well does the marketing leverage the surrounding location?

This ad, for Koleston, a brand of natural hair dye, is an unique idea. It’s a fantastic execution that leverages the natural beauty of the ocean and sunset to communicate a narrative about natural hair color alteration.

Is this “digital marketing”? It is as soon as people share it.

In a world where images travel instantaneously, a compelling real-life scene is a must-share. This ad uses the environment in such a clever way, there’s no need to remind viewers to share it with their friends – they can be trusted to do it on their own. It’s a quality that more marketers should take notes from.

What does the marketing do to the expectations of visitors to a place?

 Who could forget this Apple ad from the Vista era?

In 2007, placement on a premium site, animated video, and integration between two banners was more than a little mind-blowing. Creating a novel experience in what is for many people a familiar setting is a surefire way to delight a crowd, and earn positive attention. 

Notably, though, there was no good way for digital viewers to share the Apple ad. The complete opposite of this is Wieden + Kennedy’s 2010 Old Spice campaign, with Isaiah Mustafa. This campaign amazed the marketing world by building a well-known television character, shepherding him into YouTube stardom, and then upending all expectations by creating content in reply to tastemakers both famous and obscure. 

In a conversation about strategy with Fast Company, Wieden’s creative director said: “It’s not just responding to tweets, it’s looking at the environment right now. YouTube is the place where people share video. Twitter is the place where–celebrities dying or whatever it is–those things blow up so quickly. We know we can only run this thing for a short time so Twitter felt like the place to create the explosion.”

In short, the Old Spice campaign didn’t succeed simply because it was funny. It succeeded because it understood the intricacies and interworking of the media environment – and created an infrastructure to carry a resonant narrative across every format, from print to television to digital.

Does the marketing compliment a location’s purpose?

The Tic Tac campaign does a good job about matching the content of their ads to the social context of their placement – quick facts in places of transit, games at rest, pickup lines at the bar. The Koleston billboard takes the beauty of a natural setting and works it into the fabric of the brand narrative. The Old Spice ads are delivered to people who are sitting in front of their televisions and are more or less expecting to see commercials.

But there are instances of insinuating a marketing product even more directly into the intent and motivations that people might have for visiting a place. Mobile technology is allowing digital vendors and storytellers to penetrate into locations and contexts that were previously thought to be inviolable. Customers aren’t bound to the desk, and increasingly digital marketers are going mobile and traveling along with them.

Case in point: Amazon’s Price Check mobile application, which compares in-store costs against Amazon’s own pricing. Amazon got in hot water with brick and mortar retailers during the past holiday season by offering consumers a 5% discount in exchange for using their app to scan the prices of competitors’ goods. The big box stores were upset because they felt penetrated. We’re now seeing that architectural infrastructure is no longer capable of securing a sales environment from hostile commercial incursion.

Did Amazon’s targeted customers think that Amazon was doing a “bad thing”? Probably not. After all, these are the same people who first chose big-box discounters over local shops anyway.