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North Face debuts first LBS campaign for outdoor apparel

Outdoor gear and apparel giant The North Face Inc. is rolling out its first-ever location-based mobile marketing campaign this month in New York, Boston, San Francisco and Seattle.

The retailer has partnered with location-based mobile advertising company 1020 Placecast to power the campaign using geo-fencing technology to identify the handsets of opted-in consumers within a certain radius of bricks-and-mortar retail locations in the four cities. Placecast sends text messages featuring product announcements and discount offers from the North Face with the goal of driving those consumers in-store.

?We are early believers in Placecast and we rolled this location-based SMS platform out to our clients,? said Paul Gelb, national manager of emerging media at Razorfish, New York. ?For a couple of years, we had been looking for a way to make text-messaging programs more engaging and appealing to brands and figure out how they can connect with consumers beyond a mass push message to their entire audience.

?Location is a core function on mobile phones, and the ability to target a particular message to a consumer?s location increases its relevance and makes it more engaging by appealing to a consumer?s passion-driven activity or convenience due to physical proximity,? he said.

?A premium luxury brand would not find a push text message that engaging, but something that?s location-relevant and provides flexibility across all locations is a much more valuable proposition for our clients.?

Razorfish is a digital advertising agency that is a subsidiary of the Publicis Groupe. The North Face is not one of its clients. However, Razorfish has tapped Placecast for location-based campaigns for five brand clients.

The North Face, a division of VF Outdoor Inc., is an outdoor product company specializing in outerwear, fleece, footwear and equipment such as backpacks, tents and sleeping bags.

The clothing and equipment lines are catered towards the wilderness chic, climbers, mountaineers, skiers, snowboarders, hikers and endurance athletes.

The company did not respond to media inquiries in time for publication.

Last year, the North Face launched Snow Report 2.0, a free branded iPhone weather application for skiers and snowboarders that aggregates resort-specific Twitter updates and weather and snow condition feeds (see story).

Location-based mobile advertising
This campaign will be the North Face?s first foray into location-based mobile marketing.

An example of the type of text message that the North Face will send out to opted-in consumers: ?TNF: The new spring running apparel has hit the stores! Check it out @ TNF Downtown Seattle.?

The retailer hopes that by getting customers to opt-in to its mobile database and sending them messages when they are in the vicinity of a physical retail outlet, the brand will be able influence their purchase decision when they are able to act on it.

For the North Face campaign, Placecast set up 1,000 or so geo-fences around retail locations in New York, Boston, San Francisco and Seattle. The geo-fences have a radius of either a mile or a half-mile around the North Face stores.

These markets were chosen because they have a high density of North Face retail locations.

In addition, these cities all get a considerable amount of snow and rain, and the brand plans to customize its text messages to promote weather-appropriate apparel.

State of the industry
There is more and more demand for advertising targeted by location from brands, especially retailers.

Whether it is collected via GPS, carrier data, cell tower triangulation or consumers entering it themselves, marketers will continue to seek location as a targeting mechanism to make their advertising more relevant.

?The geo-fencing technology is flexible enough that it can be used for almost any vertical and provide value,? Mr. Gelb said. ?Retail is the first-entry vertical?it?s the first that comes to mind where location-based targeting creates obvious value.

?The messaging can also be less direct-response-oriented, connecting with consumers based on lifestyle passions, getting them to engage with brands and driving them to the point of sale,? he said. ?CPG clients, sports events, outdoor activities near ski mountain resorts can all use it to communicate relevant messages and get consumers to engage with their brand.

?Another vertical is publishers who are looking to create another channel and add monetization opportunities, generate reader opt-ins and target them with local info such as editors? picks for restaurants, nightlife, shopping boutiques or sales and attaching an advertising message as part of the whole campaign.?

While location-targeting can make an ad more relevant and effective, brands must be careful to follow the Mobile Marketing Association?s best-practice guidelines to avoid annoying or turning-off consumers.
Consumers must opt-in before a brand can send them text messages, location-based or otherwise.

?When you access a person?s location with an ad, have to be very cognizant of giving them something for accessing that location and personal information,? Mr. Gelb said. ?As long as you have an opt-in, you?re transparent and clearly communicate the value exchange, consumers will be accepting of it.

?You have to make sure they know what the value is and what they?re getting with these messages,? he said.

The intersection of mobile commerce and location-based advertisers is increasingly appealing for retailers and marketers.

?Overall, the mobile phone and its uses with shopping has just exploded, whereas at the end of 2008, you couldn?t get data on mobile commerce other than ringtones and wallpapers.

?As mobile shopping and commerce become more prevalent, communicating with consumers close to the point of sale at a particular time will boost the effectiveness of advertising and such opportunities are only going to increase.?