Getting closer to consumers than ever before with ‘atmospheric marketing’

Knowing someone so well you can finish their sentences used to be a rare sign of compatibility, but it will soon become the benchmark for the depth of consumer knowledge all brands must aspire to.

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As adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) accelerates, marketers will have access to unprecedented volumes of granular data about how consumers behave and what they think.

To stay competitive, brands must aggregate, normalise, and use this data to get closer to consumers, anticipating and then meeting their every need.

Atmospheric marketing is being hailed as the solution for brands looking to proactively fulfil consumer needs, so what exactly is it and how is it being used?

Coined in the 1960s, the term ‘atmospheric marketing’ described the practice of adapting the display around a product in-store to positively influence customers. Fast forward a few decades and the phrase now means using data to predict consumers’ needs and push relevant, personalised messaging to the right audience segment, at the right time, to influence the moment of truth.

Brands have used atmospheric marketing in its modern form for some time. As far back as 2012, US retailer Target had the capability to identify pregnant customers with alarming accuracy – sending them offers for baby products. These early forays into atmospheric marketing occasionally backfired but Target has since adapted its approach to be less obvious and intrusive.

Guatemalan shoe retailer Meat Pack subsequently embraced atmospheric marketing with its award winning ‘hijack’ promotion, designed to steal the moment of truth from its competitors. Using GPS technology, Meat Pack targeted customers as they entered competitor stores, delivering a 99% discount via a smartphone app. This incentivised customers to abandon the competitor and race to their nearest Meat Pack store, with the discount decreasing 1% each second until they arrived.

New brands, such as online-only bank Atom, are placing atmospheric marketing at the heart of their brand positioning. The bank’s founder wants Atom to be so close to customers that it can provide solutions to issues before they are even identified. This might involve using data to proactively forecast next month’s statement rather than sending out the previous month’s transactions after the event.

Ride-sharing service Uber also uses atmospheric marketing to great effect. Instead of treating each booking as an individual event, Uber builds customer profiles – including travel times and locations – and uses these to personalise and optimise the experience. Uber takes personalisation a step further by partnering with Spotify to enable customers to listen to playlists via the in-vehicle entertainment system.

Reactive, real-time marketing is no longer enough to stand out from the crowd. Brands must get close enough to the consumer to predict what they will need and deliver it at the most opportune moment. With the Internet of Things on the verge of eruption, and a deluge of data heading their way, now is the time for brands to get to grips with atmospheric marketing.

Lindsay McEwan is General Manager EMEA at Tealium.