This article originally appeared in Yorokobu, a Madrid-based marketing and design magazine, in December, 2009. [And it’s translated from the Spanish by yours truly and appears in my book, Latino Link]

by Pedro Mujica, CEO of interactive map consultancy wecolab

These days, we all know and use online maps, the most well known of which is Google Maps. Thanks to these online maps, we find the places and the directions for all of our day-to-day needs: trips, shopping, leisure activities, cultural events and so on. The advantages of using online maps are clear. We find directions to destinations, making sure we choose the shortest and quickest route, but also discovering new, interesting places along the way. They definitely make our lives easier because they help us save time and make better decisions. But there is always something more profound and powerful in a map because good maps always lead us towards hidden treasure.

Where is the treasure?
The first generation of online maps focused on offering practical services with speed, utility and ease-of-use. The principal objective of this stage had been to provide maps that work, without interruptions while improving search results. Mission accomplished. Nowadays, maps undergo continuous technological improvement and millions use them everyday. Their authentic value allow to transform our lives and generate new business opportunities.

Interactive maps supply information about products and services from businesses but each time with more feedback from users. In this way, brands have begun to utilize maps to offer their products and services to consumers. In fact, some brands have already begun to find treasure: improved sales, new business units, etc. But this is just the beginning.

New Maps, New Treasures
We embark upon a new generation of interactive maps that allow us to create and explore new experiences with consumers – more emotional, more entertaining, and more useful. Maps have become a useful platform for winning and building customer loyalty as well as getting to know our customers. For example, look at what Google has done with “Local Business Center,” its advertising service based upon Google Maps.

In the coming months, we will see how maps evolve and become a more powerful communication and business channel.

One of the best examples of this new era of online maps is Tokyo Fashion Map, which premiered at the Cannes Festival in 2009 – an innovative ad campaign with 1,000 consumers passing along a parka coat to one another in a video above the map. The campaign introduced and promoted the new line of UNIQLO branded parkas. It was so successful that they doubled their sales.

Source: Tokyo Fashion Map

Also utilizing this new approach of geomarketing via online maps, Coca-Cola created a happiness map for “Happing,” its online community for young consumers. Members can search and demarcate their favorite places in the world on the “happing” map, sharing them with other community members. The campaign aimed to create a clear brand experience, build customer loyalty and generate understanding about consumers.

Source: Coca-Cola Happing Map

To develop an effective geomarketing strategy, it is necessary to consider your target market, ROI objectives, key performance indicators, the technology plan, communication tactics, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) as well as development and maintenance of the map.

In a world where we never lose our way because we always have a map of “our world” at hand on our computer or cell phone, the most important thing brands can do is translate their benefits and values into a personalized and relevant map for consumers. What isn’t on a map, doesn’t exist.

With geomarketing, there are no secret maps with short cuts to hidden treasure. The strategy is the map. And only by beginning to explore can you begin to draw your own map and discover where the treasure is for your brand. Consumers use maps everyday and already create their own. And your brand? Do you already have your treasure map?

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