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Activity trackers have recently been making news with their data collection and aggregation capabilities—most notably, the heatmaps that fitness-tracking app Strava generated and published based on user data from around the world. While the conversation has largely been focused on tracking of military personnel and national security implications, the story has three key components that are broadly applicable—even to marketing:

  1. Where you spend your time says a lot about who you are.
  2. Filtering data through the lens of expertise and experience makes it more meaningful.
  3. How data is presented is just as meaningful as the data itself.

You are where you are


Strava’s heatmap included activity in parts of the world where fitness-tracking devices are uncommon. Repetition of activity in an area otherwise absent of these devices indicated presence, regimen, and a likelihood that users were from Europe or the West, where wearable technology is more common.

As a brand, where you show up—and, as much, where you don’t—can speak volumes. From your brand’s social platforms to your presence at trade shows, a brand’s existence and activity within various channels and media help to define it.

For a B2B food ingredient business or B2C pet brand, for instance, presence and footprint at key industry trade shows is often perceived to align with business stability and reliability. In some instances, a single year absence from exhibiting at a major industry trade show can both cause you to lose prime placement and signal to customers and competitors that business isn’t going well. While trade shows can serve as necessary opportunities to see and be seen, they also provide prime opportunities to have additional facetime with customers, keep in contact with industry media, check in on the competition, and attract and foster leads.

As important as where your brand spends its time—online, in stores, at trade shows, etc.—is what it communicates once there.

Gleaning greater meaning

While Strava first published the heatmap in 2017, the conversation around it didn’t heat up until January 27, 2018, when international security student Nathan Ruser pointed out the possible implications. Ruser’s perspective, informed by his studies and self-proclaimed interest in the Syrian conflict, allowed him to draw news-breaking conclusions from widely accessible activity data.

Strava released their global heatmap. 13 trillion GPS points from their users (turning off data sharing is an option). See heatmap … It looks very pretty, but not amazing for Op-Sec. US Bases are clearly identifiable and mappable (see picture).

— Nathan Ruser (@Nrg8000)

Among food, beverage, pet, and supplement brands, trend identification is often critical to innovation. The ability to suss out emerging trends can differentiate the early adopter from the reactive follower. Take clean labeling, for instance; this macro trend started years ago and has demonstrated its long-lasting implications in the food industry, where it started, and has since trickled into the pet space.

In industries where product development cycles tend to range from six to eighteen months, the earlier one can identify trends, the more readily those trends can be applied in the formulation. At MarketPlace, our dedicated research capabilities and focus on the industries we serve—and the connections between them—give us the perspective needed to both conduct research and efficiently make connections that influence business strategies, expansion plans, brand development, product launches, and more.

While drawing accurate and meaningful conclusions from data is vital, how those conclusions are communicated can be just as important.

Making data digestible

Increased activity at trade show with infographic booth design

In the case of Strava, publishing location and activity data in the form of a heat map made it exponentially more user-friendly. If Ruser had come across the same data in a less curated format, not only would it have taken more time, but he may not have been able to make the inferences he did, which were responsible for spurring a major conversation about security in the U.S. armed forces and around the world.

Much of our trade show strategy work is centered on communicating a message in a manner that breaks through a space saturated with information: other brands, other booths, and other messages that permeate the trade show floor. Whether creating a strategy that garners greater recognition for a 10′ x 10′ booth among a sea of thousands or presenting data in a two-story tall format that speaks to the food scientist, presenting information in a consumable and compelling format is crucial.

In trade shows, capabilities presentations, websites, social engagement, and beyond, marketing with knowledge of your industry, audience, and brand can be the difference between disconnected information and meaningful communication.

An expert lens, informed activity

At MarketPlace, our lens is informed by our depth of knowledge in the categories we serve: food, beverage, pet, and supplements. With a full circle perspective regarding the product development cycle in each—from concept to commercialization and promotion—and in-house research capability, we’re uniquely tuned to make meaningful connections and implement them through strategic marketing efforts.

If you’d like to rethink where your brand shows up, what its strategy is, and how your strategy comes to life, get in touch to talk or meet up with us at an upcoming trade show. We welcome the opportunity to help your business grow.

Nicole Hill drives visionary change for businesses and brands, from global enterprises to entrepreneurial startups.