The Idea of Brand Conquesting Becomes Real in the Mobile Era

Conquesting has been a loose concept to date; an experimental marketing strategy aimed to counter a competitor’s message. A brand might execute this by placing an billboard near a competitor’s location, dispensing a competitive coupon after a transaction, or introducing a new product feature that somehow negates a competitor’s niche status.

Today, mobile technology systems and insights allow for more exact and smarter conquesting tactics. Marketers can now physically breach their competitor’s territory and take over the attention of their consumers through geo-conquesting – learning from every execution and optimizing.

Is it a good idea? Does it work? The verdict is still out. But marketers should definitely consider it. Why? For one, because it’s the only way to answer if your brand message holds competitive sway for your target consumers. And secondly, your competitors are doing it.

What’s in the Arsenal?

Mobile conquesting capabilities include mechanical options and a few maneuvers related specifically to messaging. On the mechanical side, the initial (and most common) form is “geo-conquesting.”

For this, a brand establishes store or area-sized geo-fences around competitors’ locations and sends a message to consumers when they are detected in these locations. As far as messaging, a marketer might message a consumer after they have visited a competitor’s location-earlier that day, week, or month.

Further, establishing strategic timing to message a consumer based on the recency and frequency with which they visit a competitor-in an effort to deliver a competitive offer ‘right in time’ is shrewd competitive move. As you can see, some of this is about tech and system-and some of it is about creative thought and a willingness to iterate based on competitive reconnaissance.

What Results Can We Expect?

The effectiveness of mobile conquesting will vary by industry. For example, geo-conquesting on an automobile dealer lot should prove an effective and good use of mobile advertising dollars. The larger and more infrequent the purchase, the more conducive the situation for disruptive messaging. A consumer’s “in-market” time for an automobile is an extended timeframe typically characterized by competitive comparison and search for the best deal, and thus they are ripe for conquesting messages.

At the other end of the spectrum, geo-conquesting at the supermarket or discount store will not likely prove to be a good approach, at least for the retailer. Consider yourself as a case study. Are you likely to push a half full cart of groceries off to the side, jump in your car, and start over at the competitor’s store, because you received a mobile message touting better prices down the street? Probably not.

Let’s consider a modification to the above approach. If you grocery shop every Wednesday, you might respond well to a competitive message on Tuesday night, prompting you to try a new store the next day.

CPG and manufacturing companies themselves will most likely benefit from geo-conquesting tactics-even when the consumer’s basket is half full. For example, the cereal maker sends its message when the consumer enters the store, hoping to achieve the loudest voice as the consumer goes down the cereal aisle. The salad dressing company sends their message while the consumer enters the store (or is in the produce section) so their product is top of mind by the time the consumer gets to the salad dressing aisle.

Both are great examples of delivering competitive value at just the right time, actually enhancing (not disrupting) the consumer experience.

How Will This Method Mature?

In its current neophyte form, effectiveness of this approach will likely be short lived. It will work at first, in part, just because it is a novelty, and somewhat of a cool moment for the consumer on the receiving end.

However, the conquestor has to deliver value and benefit on top of cool factor. As long as what is delivered via mobile at any given moment remains a unique and meaningful experience for the consumer, it will work. As soon as the consumer gets tired of it, feels bombarded, duped (by lack of follow-through on the value or benefit), or decides it’s privacy invasive, the effectiveness will cease. So, the method still needs to mature.

If conquesting becomes even more consumer-driven, it will mature. The way marketers leverage mobile technologies for communication strategies that could be deemed “conquesting” today, will look very different from what they will employ tomorrow. Here’s how I see that maturation unfolding. It will be in driven in part by technology. But, thanks to mobile insights available today, marketers will be able to “learn” what works, and what their customers want, and thus in turn, be able to tailor their engagement strategies (including delivery of competitive offers) at a time, place, and channel the customer determines.

And, if I’m right about that, I’m going to guess that the customer’s wishes won’t include a request for unsolicited messages from a marketer they didn’t even know was “watching” their location. On the flipside, the consumer will want competitive offers – at the right time and place – that provide them a service/benefit on their terms; think apps, deal sites, opt-in messaging. And then the original idea or concept of conquesting is proved mature.

This column was originally published on November 10, 2013.

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