What Happened To Proximity Marketing?

I’ve always been intrigued with the concept of proximity marketing, but a perceived lack of interest in the U.S has made any news or advancements in the technology all but lost in the shuffle.  To me the concept provides a unique and inexpensive opportunity for marketers, but there has to be underlying factors prohibiting its …   Read More

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What Happened To Proximity MarketingI’ve always been intrigued with the concept of proximity marketing, but a perceived lack of interest in the U.S has made any news or advancements in the technology all but lost in the shuffle.  To me the concept provides a unique and inexpensive opportunity for marketers, but there has to be underlying factors prohibiting its advancement, but what are they?

With increased interest surrounding mobile marketing, it’s interesting that proximity marketing has been largely looked over, though both concepts are fundamentally different.  While there’s really no definition that exists which separates the two, the easiest way to distinguish proximity marketing from mobile marketing is simply the concept of localized content. Potential advertising audiences must enter a “localized” area such as a grocery store or a shopping center in order to receive the advertisement with proximity marketing, while mobile marketing doesn’t require such an attribute.

Education of marketers in the U.S is one prohibiting factor in my mind, with almost no news coming out regarding the technology, even though numerous companies exist on U.S soil that provide proximity marketing solutions.  Marketers are already bombarded with so-called new-age marketing channels, and adding one more to the mix will confuse the masses even more than they already are.  Still, proximity marketing offers something even mobile marketing in large part can’t provide; being extremely inexpensive and very easy to integrate.

Integrating a proximity marketing campaign involves acquiring a simple, inexpensive module to place on-location, in billboards and posters, or even on people at events, and loading it up with content to send to consumers who come within close “proximity” of the module.  Once it’s in place, the module does everything, sending highly relevant, location-based ads and content without any further interaction on part of the marketer.  It’s a simple concept that has proven to be very successful in areas of the world with high usage, especially on a hyperlocal level.

Maybe I’m missing something here, which is why I ask you, the reader, to fill me in on why you think proximity marketing has fallen into obscurity.  Lack of bluetooth penetration? Lack of overall interest? Lack of education?  Take a moment and sound off in the comments.

In this article


  1. NFC: If it’s Not For Commerce, what is it for? — GigaOM Pro

    […] nature of unwanted “proximity ads” is the biggest reason Bluetooth-based marketing campaigns never caught on in the first place.) So NFC could become something of a complementary technology for mobile […]

  2. djskope

    Hi Justin, just found this – great article! I think the lack of traction is due to the general public being ultra-wary of unsolicited messages. i.e. they choose to reject the ‘Incoming message from KFC – Accept or Reject’ because they are virus wary or spam wary. I think the solution is general consumer education, but how can one do this for a whole society? Campaign success rates can be improved a little by supporting with printed signage at the premises – a call to action which legitimises the BT message.
    What are your thoughts on this?

  3. Custom IPhone Skins

    Has anyone got past the iphone problem yet? I cant seem to find out anywhere!

  4. aviation121

    what’s the big deal with Proximity Based Marketing? We have included this category in the Awards because it offers a huge opportunity for companies to engage with potential clients in a way that adds value to them. There are different ways of doing proximity marketing, our interest is specifically mobile and opt-in. That means that you only participate in a campaign if you chose to and in doing so there are some critical criteria. I will explain those, but first let’s get an idea of what the concept means, because a lot of people don’t really understand the concept.

  5. data recovery

    I read this blog carefully but still Proximity marketing is unclear for me, is it mobile marketing with concept of internet marketing

  6. John

    I believe the main failure is the technology. Most solutions have been over sold and under deliver. The proportion of phones that are not technically compatible with Bluetooth hotspots is very significant.

  7. Vagelis Antoniadis

    I think most of the comments made above are correct. The main reason, I believe, most of the proximity marketing campaigns don’t reach the expected figures are the following:

    1. High Expectations
    Marketeers and customers expect more than this medium can give them or they don’t know what to expect. They think that at the moment they turn on the system, their job is over. Proximity marketing, most of the times needs support from other media, needs call to action, fine tuning etc. It is like all other marketing media.

    2. Not well organized
    Most of the times, marketeers don’t know how to organize a proximity marketing event. How to convince customers to turn on their bluetooth or wifi, how to use sms, banners, press etc. to aid a proximity marketing campaigns

    3. Uneducated marketeers
    Marketeers need to be educated and they have to experiment a bit as it is a new medium. They have to offer personalised content to customers and not just a logo or a video. Mobile coupons, draws, discounts are good incentives.

    4. Uneducated customers
    Customers are not always ready to understand and accept this new medium. Need to be educated that it is risk free and they have something to win if they take part.

    5. Low quality proximity marketing platforms
    There are a lot of proximity marketing systems out there. Most of them are not high quality. They don’t have serious statistics, they don’t support any mean of interactivity and they don’t support iphone/blackberry/android or any other wifi enabled phone. They are cheap but they are not suitable for a serious campaign.

    I think this post is too long but I have seen all the above to happen so I thought I can share them with you.

  8. Jade

    Yeah it is interesting. The concepts it has a fundamentally difference.Proximity marketing and the mobile marketing.Potential advertising audiences must enter in a local area such as a grocery store, shopping mall for them to have a proximity marketing. And Mobile marketing don’t require such an attribute. Thank you for your informative article. More power to your site! God bless 😉

  9. QderoPateo Launches “Blu-Pons” Bluetooth Proximity Marketing & Media Solution : Mobile Marketing Watch - The Pulse Of The Mobile Marketing Community

    […] Advertising Network.”  The announcement, sent in a press release yesterday, comes after I mention a complete lack of interest in proximity marketing in the recent […]

  10. Marco Panichi

    I´ve asked myself about it and enjoyed your comments! I suppose the cause in the USA can also be related to the iPhone: The most sensitive target of Prox Mkt campaigns are ppl between 15-30 yo, the same as iPhone users. Due to iPhone limitation regarding bluetooth, the ones left for Prox Mkt are non-tech savvies (-Where do I turn my bluetooth on?) using ordinary phones.

    I´d add these campaigns are only interesting if relevant content with embbed advertisement is ditributed, an APP or something else…only receiving a flyer or ring tone wouldn´t make somebody turn the bluetooh on.

  11. Rebecca

    I think it all comes down to the privacy issue— who wants to be the first firm/company who turns their ad campaign from being convenient and interesting to becoming big brother esque.

  12. Lisa Bradner

    Interesting question and several people have touched on a number of factors here including the attempts to change behavior and or the lack of relevant content.

    As an analyst at Forrester I covered instore media and was appalled by the number of players who tried to present it as a reach and frequency play even though THE CUSTOMER IS STANDING IN THE STORE!!! I agree that the types of content and the sensitivity to progressing the marketing message haven’t been there. Technology issues aside if the content isn’t relevant and helpful to the shopper why would they enable a message? At Geomentum we’re taking on the hyperlocal challenge and I believe there are huge opportunities but it begins with relevance and many marketers miss that.


    Our experience, which is considerable, is that certain factors must be agreed upon with the end customer, such as appropriate signage and good relevant content. If these considerations are not suitably met then the campaign will fail. However, we believe the most important factor is educating the end customer about the realities and expectations of not just Bluetooth Marketing but Marketing as a whole. Many people happily use flyers but if they knew the successful penetration rate they would be horrified, therefore when given the results of a successful Bluetooth campaign, they are dissappointed with the low numbers, which in reality are very good. So it’s all about managing your customers expectations and regarding Bluetooth Marketing as another route to market which should be put into the overall company marketing mix.

  14. Douglas

    Done well (and in a space either “owned” by the marketer or highly visisble promotion) bluetooth can be OK.

    Bottom line – you’ll be able to deliver the same content and get far, far more response with an SMS call to action. Costs more money to deploy but is way better.

  15. Ollie

    We tried to get the concept off the ground a few years back, the problems we found were that people thought everyone was like them “well i never have my bluetooth on” (something easily solved by a sign that says “switch on your bluetooth to receive special offers”)

    This was backed up by some suspicions that bluetooth messages are viruses (so again education is a problem in the UK also).

    In the end the main problem that prevented us from taking it forward was that the modules themselves were not yet perfected, something about them smoking and catching on fire gave that one away.

    In the end it made sense to leave it alone until the technology was perfected and people were more open to it.

  16. Fred Dimesa

    I agree it is intriguing. I have personally been involved in several large and long term deployments. The primary issue is that the technology doesn’t work well in the U.S. Carriers and phone manufacturers block access to Bluetooth messages resulting in very few ads actually being served. As the use of smartphones increase the problem gets worse

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