Are Geolocation Apps a Fad or Are They Here to Stay?

Will Franklin, Director of New Media & Research, Texans for Rick Perry and guest blogger for Austin AMA.

Please welcome Will Franklin, guest blogger for Austin AMA and Director of New Media & Research for Texans for Rick Perry. Want to join in the debate? Join us on Thursday, Sept. 16 where he’ll be presenting “The Impact of New Media and Research in Political Marketing.”

Marketers, especially in politics, are always looking to stay on the cutting edge of the “next big thing,” and after the explosion of successful social media strategies in the 2008 election, no candidate wants to appear “Luddite-ish” or hopelessly old-fashioned. Some candidates, on the other hand, misguidedly believe social media is not only a magic bullet, but also a free magic bullet that will trump television and radio ads and may even earn huge sums of money along the way.

Sounds a little bit like what caused the dot com bubble to burst nearly ten years ago.

In politics, there is a strange common wisdom that quickly settles in after one side wins and the other side loses. Everything the winning side did was right, and everything the losing side did was wrong. The winners are prophets and geniuses, and that prophetic genius is universalized across everything they did or did not do throughout the campaign. Errors and mistakes are overlooked. Accidental successes are rewritten as tactical, visionary decisions made by brilliant masterminds.

Let’s not take anything away from the Obama campaign’s tremendous success online and elsewhere, but the reaction to the 2008 election offers a glimpse at how political marketers often chase the blueprint from the last campaign.

Never mind that Barack Obama, with his millions of Twitter followers, admitted, “I have never used Twitter” in 2009 to a group of Chinese youth while in Shanghai. The Obama social media presence in 2008 dwarfed the McCain presence in size, scope, and quality. While the McCain campaign employed a handful of people to push out content online, the Obama campaign famously employed dozens of staffers just to maintain his social media presence across the web. Whether that staffing imbalance was the result or the cause of Obama’s complete domination in fundraising (Obama raised roughly three times the cash that McCain raised) is the ultimate chicken/egg argument in political circles.

In 2010, geolocation apps like Foursquare and Gowalla, which allow GPS-enabled mobile users to “check in” at spots, are emerging as the latest and greatest social media platforms. In a sense, they are virtual clipboards for sign-ins at events. Some restaurants and coffee shops offer discounts for people who check in. These apps are growing, but compared to Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, they are only reaching a narrow audience of relatively early adopters.

Are geolocation apps a fad, or are they here to stay? My hunch is that they are not a fad, but they may not pay dividends for political campaigns until that critical mass of people becomes comfortable using them. In the meantime, as with all social media platforms, early adopters are rewarded with more followers, friends, and connections, so why not give them a go? Campaigns that can creatively leverage even just their small but loyal followings into real life action (votes, volunteer hours, etc.) will continue to have an edge over those who cling to marketing strategies that data show are increasingly wastes of resources.

About Will Franklin

Will currently serves as Director of New Media & Research at Texans for Rick Perry. He guides a team that crafts online messaging, directs online fundraising, and engages supporters in grassroots efforts for Texas Governor Rick Perry’s 2010 re-election campaign. In December of 2004, Will began writing at the award-winning, still “the Classiest Blog Around.” To date, has received more than 2.8 million visits and 4.2 million page views.

Will graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in Government/History, and later, from the University of Houston with a Master’s Degree in Political Science (Public Policy/American Government/Comparative Politics). Will has a wife named Kristel and a Weimaraner named Heidi. They live in Austin.


Targeted, Tailored and Timely Innovations in Direct Mail

On November 19, USPS Business Alliance Manager Mike Naples broached a subject many of us new-media-obsessed marketers don’t think about very much: direct mail. Direct mail, Naples asserted, is the work horse of direct marketing. It has measurable results, it’s affordable, and it’s easy to target your best customers.

Lest you think that snail mail has gone the way of the dinosaur and eight track player, consider the numbers: we spend 47 billion dollars annually on direct mail marketing—about 9% the of GDP. Compare that to the 6 billion dollars spent on internet marketing.

Closer to home, think about how direct mail affects you. I, for instance, am a Web developer. I haven’t had a printer hooked up to my computer in at least two years. I tweet. I also have one Harry and David’s catalog, two Coldwater Creek catalogs, and a brochure for the AMA Face to Face training series on my coffee table. A kitchen drawer is crammed with 20% off coupons from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. So even the techiest of the techies are touched by good old-fashioned hard copy, especially when it is targeted precisely to our needs and wants.

Direct mail also has a much longer shelf life than, say, a marketing email, which drops like a rock into the abyss of the overcrowded in-box in a matter of days. (How long have those catalogs been sitting on my coffee table? You don’t wanna know.)

Direct Mail versus General Advertising

The age of mass media advertising is over. Today’s marketing must be personalized and non-intrusive to break through the barriers of spam filters, TIVO, and our general self-trained indifference to advertising. Direct mail, though massive in scope, is not the same as general advertising, said Naples.

General advertising, such as a sign on the side of a bus, sells a product. Direct mail sells offers. General advertising creates sales. Direct mail creates customers—whom you can learn about and collect data from for better CRM and future marketing efforts. General advertising is short, appeals to the emotions, and maybe even tries to make you laugh. Direct mail can use lengthy copy that focuses on facts, and, Naples, says, it makes you money.

Tips for Direct Mail Marketing

  • Use compelling offers in your mail: free trials, free samples, free information.
  • Size does matter. A brochure tucked inside a standard size envelope outperforms a postcard.
  • Make it personal. Send offers related to the recipient’s background, experience, and interests.
  • According to the Direct Marketing Association, 42% of direct mail recipients like to respond online. Personalized URLs (purls) allow you to direct traffic to the Web in a highly targeted fashion.
  • Direct mail can be used at any point (or every point) in the sales cycle.
  • Add a magnet or a sticky so recipients can tack the mail piece to their refrigerator or wall.
Amy Gelfand (Gelfand Design) is an independent Web designer and communications professional. Amy specializes in designing standards-compliant Web sites and spoiling her clients rotten. Contact her at

Marketing in Times of Turmoil

From Stacy Armijo, Vice President, Pierpont Communications. Stacy will speak at the AMA Marketing Jam on Tuesday, May 12th.

Some days, it feels like marketers are in the fight of our lives. Budgets are being cut, expectations are being raised and we must deliver more than ever with fewer resources.

Too often, we become insulated and assume our organization recognizes our value. We discover our mistake when budgets shrink and marketing is the first to be slashed.

Like the cobblers’ children with no shoes, we realize we’ve evangelized ardently for the brand, but done nothing to advocate for our own value internally.That’s the bad news. The good news is that tumultuous times can present some of the best opportunities for communication professionals.Now is a great time to go the extra mile and show your value. At Marketing Jam ’09, I’ll share tips for achieving this, such as:Creating outcomes, not implementing strategies;Speaking in the language of executives; andLearning to love metrics.Our organizations need us now more than ever. Join me at Marketing Jam ’09 to help them recognize it!At Marketing Jam ’09 we will rock out and share new ways to grow your business and make the most of your marketing dollars. Attendees will learn from some of Austin’s leading marketing experts, including: Pierpont Communications; TradeMark Media; and Emma Email Marketing. Following the presentations, attendees will enjoy networking, appetizers, cocktails and live music from Austin’s own Lip Service. Let’s rock!


Stacy Armijo is a Vice President for Pierpont Communications and leader of the firm’s public relations practice in Austin. A specialist in communication planning and media relations strategy, Stacy’s expertise lies in creating practical, effective communication programs that make the best use of every dollar invested. Learn more at