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Beacon technology doesn't only have to be for retailers

Julian Smith, head of strategy and innovations at Fetch, looks at the latest developments in mobile.

Since the end of 2013 there has been much talk in the industry – and many column inches in the press – about the emergence of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Its potential, via beacons, to deliver hyper-targeted, geo-fenced, in-app push notifications has many excited about a new era of personalised and contextually relevant mobile communications.

This is especially the case in the high street retail sector, where there are now a growing number of experiments taking place to vet and validate the BLE opportunity to stimulate sales. The US leads the way, with the likes of Oscar Mayer incorporating beacons into their shopper marketing programme, Duane Reade pharmacies using them to enhance their mobile CRM and American Eagle working with Shopkick to install them into over 100 nationwide stores. The UK is also starting to test the technology. Kudos has to go to The Swan Centre in Eastleigh and its retail partners for their early adoption of beacon technology.

But in these early days of BLE it turns out that bricks-and-mortar businesses are not the only ones experimenting with the technology for marketing communication purposes. There are a number of innovative FMCG marketers out there incorporating mobile and BLE just for a bit of brand building fun.

GranataPet pet food: beacon-enabled SnackBall fitness ecosystem for dogs

The German pet food company GranataPet incorporated beacons into tennis balls as part of its Snackball machine ‘fitness ecosystem for dogs’. By mobile check-in with #snackball, a dog owner could activate a launcher to propel a ball in a park. BLE then enabled the machine to track the speed a dog retrieved the ball. If the dog was fast enough in their fetching abilities then a snack would be automatically released from a dispenser! While not likely to shift the needle much in terms of sales or brand, I like how this small mobile-activated promotion certainly brought to life the company’s positioning as innovative and healthy.

Nivea sun cream: beacon-enabled kids armband print ad

To convey the message of ‘protection for your kids whilst on the beach’, Nivea in Brazil created a print ad with tear off beacon armband for parents to put on their children. The magazine ad prompted readers to download a mobile app (iOS or Android) and connect it to the bracelet to help them monitor the whereabouts of their kids on the beach. While the practicality and functionality of this SticknFind beacon application might have be fairly limited it was an inventive way to get the brand’s point across.

Schwartz spices: Bluetooth-enabled sonic poster

The Sound of Taste - Feel Flavour from Grey London on Vimeo.

The spices brand Schwartz went to a lot of trouble to incorporate mobile and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as touch sensitive inks, to create its highly innovative ‘sonic’ poster. By pairing the poster with smartphone or tablet the device became a mobile speaker. Again a great example of technical creativity to convey a brand’s proposition.I look forward to seeing a lot more experimentation, like above, throughout 2014 as marketers continue to investigate the BLE opportunity. But I still think it’s going to take a lot more test & learn activity until the business promise turns to business reality.