Navigating Your Way Through the Pandemic With Location Data

There's no need for brands to go dark

Geofencing should be employed to map every county. Pixabay
Headshot of Stan Coignard

The Covid-19 impact came out of the blue, leaving all brands in every vertical unprepared.

It’s been a three-phase adjustment process. First came the shock when we couldn’t believe what was happening as we were hit with a flood of collateral damage. Then, we moved into the reorientation phase as everyone merged the personal and the professional under one quarantined roof. Now, we are moving into the third phase of navigating the new normal.

Reasonable minds differ on the pace and timing of reopening, but one thing is certain if you are a brand marketer: A more granular, market-by-market approach with location targeting featuring geofencing capability needs to be at the heart of every brand’s plans. For the next six months to a year (or until the point there is treatment and a vaccine deployed at scale), marketers will need to look through an unfamiliar lens.

By taking a granular approach, digital advertising could be transformed even beyond the pandemic.

Narrower context

Even in this age of data-driven, personalized digital marketing, many brands still tend to look at their ad campaigns as national efforts. Unlike smaller countries like France (where I’m from), when a pandemic strikes in a sprawling country where individual state governments call the shots, U.S.-based marketers must take a more local approach. By local, I don’t mean the traditional Nielsen Designated Market Area segmentation, but a campaign activated and monitored in real-time using dynamic location targeting. This approach could then account for variances in localities. Which stores, restaurants and car dealerships are open? Which are not? Do they have new hours and days that they are open? Are they offering their full slate of products and services?

By taking a granular approach, digital advertising could be transformed even beyond the pandemic. We now have the ability to target consumers based on location in the most molecular way without violating privacy regulations like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Brands can now target areas within a discrete walking or driving time from store locations and know where the high-affinity zones for their brands lie.

Smart geofencing

Geofencing should be employed to map every county in every state in which your brand has invested. Your brand should employ privacy-first, location-based technology that offers the automated capacity to adapt campaigns with dynamic creative optimization and dynamic vicinity (to most accurately account for prospects) solutions for a more efficient spend of your dollars in a period of crisis. Through daily tracking, you will have the ability to shift dollars on the fly to optimize your spending to make the most impact on those who are open to your messaging.

This highly sophisticated geofencing practice will allow you to optimize spending by providing a constant feedback loop. If you know that a particular county is still sheltering in place, then the previous performance-based messaging to push sales is no longer appropriate. Some form of branding or service message would resonate better with a high level of granularity required. It could very well be that in any given state or county that is officially open, many stores may deem it too risky and remain closed. Your geofencing must account for those differences. To drill down deeper, among those store locations that have reopened, they will each have a different calibration of priorities. Some will emphasize in-store messaging while others will want to focus on drive-thru, click and collect or delivery.

Remember that regardless of a particular locality’s specific restrictions, there is no excuse to go dark. Even for those areas where only nonessential businesses are operating, brands across all verticals need to stay engaged with those customer bases. If your brand can be a source of utility and uplift, when business does open back up, people will be happy to buy your stuff.

This gradual reopening period will be a roller coaster as we as an industry and society attempt the tricky balance of public health and economic health. The coming year could be witness to a series of fits and starts and will require everyone to be patient, courageous and nimble in reacting and adjusting to the series of reopenings. I have great faith that we will manage it skillfully and thoughtfully.


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@Stancoignard Stan Coignard is the CEO, Americas at S4M.
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