n my view the term “local” has aways been misunderstood. Many agencies, investors and brands have historically seen it as a surrogate for “small business,” which is equated in some circles with “small time.”
I have frequently joked in the past about living and working in the “local ghetto.” This, despite the fact that well over 90% of all US businesses are SMBs and that there are trillions of dollars in consumer spending and billions in advertising flowing through the local market.
Regardless, for whatever combination of reasons, the term “local” has not done a great job of carrying or conveying what I and others have been trying to express – essentially the “online-to-offline” consumer buying pattern.
The concept of online-to-offline (or “O2O”) has also been around for a long time, beside the now unused “ROBO” (research online, buy offline). Online-to-offline however may be gaining new currency; I heard it used at Facebook the other day.
The most immediate and obvious alternative to “local” is “location” (“geo” may be a bit clinical). The term “location” is used by the IAB and MMA pretty extensively. Location is more descriptive and not as burdened by a small business association.
Now “location” may also be falling out of favor. In a different way than “local” that term may also have grown tired.
An anecdotal case-in-point: xAd did a slight rebranding and repositioning earlier this year. The company now says that it delivers “the intersection of places and people.” If you dig deeper into the company’s collateral the word “location” repeatedly appears but the new positioning elevates audience targeting (“people”) as much as emphasizes location (“places”).
Mobile networks, in an effort to appeal to brands and national marketers, have translated location/geo into audience profiling and targeting in a many instances (see, xAd, Verve, JiWire, Factual, Skyhook, Sense Networks/YP, Thinknear). Indeed, a speaker from YP’s Sense Networks said on a webinar recently that audience targeting was more effective than geofencing.
We can debate what’s more effective but it shows how audience has stolen location’s thunder to a degree. The xAd tag line “people and places” attempts to balance the two.
Behind the scenes of course location is a critical variable to derive audience data. But from a marketing and branding perspective “location” appears to have lost some of its luster.
Accordingly, the language of “places” and “place based marketing” is starting to creep into use. As another example, I organized indoor location conference “Place 2013” last October (Place 2014 is happening in July in New York). Part of the reason for the “place” terminology is its relative freshness and the absence of some of the earlier associations.
What do you think about whether “local” and “location” have grown tired and whether there are better terms out there?
Update: I was reminded this evening of the term “SoLoMo.” It was popularized by Mary Meeker in 2011 and has arguably, already run its course.