Mobile Social Promotion: H&M Using Location-Based Virtual Goods


Mobile phones are location-based because we are. And as far as marketing goes, brands have been pining for a day when they could better target customers based on their location. Thanks to smart phones and the many apps utilizing our GPS, that day has arrived. H&M is the latest to jump on the bandwagon with its new promotion for “The Blues” collection.

H&M is turning to the mobile social media world for its marketing campaign, looking to the game MyTown to help drive traffic to its store locations. The MyTown game is location-based, offering rewards to unlock as you visit various places according to your GPS. Players will get unlocked, virtual items from “Blues” collection as they visit different retail and shopping venues in the vicinity of an H&M store, such as spas and hair salons.

The purpose of H&M’s involvement in this type of virtual game world is to encourage people to visit their stores. While the game itself may live in the digital realm, the incentives towards converting that intangible audience into real customers. It’s a challenge all social media marketers face when they still have outposts in bricks and mortar locations, and brands are really hoping that new technology can bring the two worlds together.

Developing the virtual goods market in this way also validates its use for gaming and marketing purposes. That means a larger exchange market will be needed for the growing number of advertising companies, games and brands that are looking to leverage virtual goods as marketing representations within a gaming environment. We’ve already seen a push from Facebook on this end, as it tests out its own currency options for making purchases across multiple game apps in the confines its social network. We could very well see something similar from the likes of Apple, which also has a large and growing number of social and casual games on its mobile platform.

For now, though, it’s the mobile apps like MyTown that are acting as marketplaces for virtual goods, as this form of currency comes by way of integrated advertising. More brands are recognizing the potential behind this, and are finding improved ways in which to create branding efforts around these growing platforms. For end users, the game-like environment makes for a more interesting type of advertising, though I imagine we’ll reach a certain plateau for how such methods can become effective from a consumer standpoint.

The location-based advertising in game format and virtual goods exchange is great for now, but we need to be wary of its ongoing development. Social media already has a tendency to go overboard with sharing information. Involving advertising so closely with social media could have adverse effects, even for location-aware measures of convenience.

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