Putting Maps In The Hands Of The Brands
For San Francisco start up MapJam and its clients, directions don't even begin to cover what maps can do.
Local businesses have become fairly adept at managing and personalizing their Facebook pages in the last few years, but the same can’t be said when it comes to customizing their presence on location listings providers like Google Maps.
Enter MapJam, a San Francisco startup founded in 2012 that lets brands control and design their own maps. The company has completed its Facebook app that will allow its clients to share the maps they design across the social network.
In addition to having a map that best reflects a business’s distinct look and identity, the new sharing function gives MapJam users greater ability to showcase relevant points in proximity to a brand — which is part of the point of MapJam in general.
The company’s co-founders Jack Gonzalez and Scollay Petry assert that by using MapJam, brands can eliminate the clutter that comes with being on a map created by an outside entity and turn consumer attention to the points of focus they feel matter the most.
A business located in a busy, urban environment might want to direct users to the best parking nearby, and supply other crucial location-based details. The establishment can also choose to spotlight its best customer reviews, unlike Yelp, which displays comments at random. These tools are all just ways to more efficiently own and dictate your brand — and if you’re already spending “hundreds of thousands of dollars” on a web presence, why not take your level of ownership to the next level, Gonzalez and Petry contend.
“What we’re saying is that we can offer businesses, professionals, or organizations a platform to create custom maps that are branded and cutter-free, which is really key,” Petry says.
Deconstructing Google Maps
Both Petry and Gonzalez — who just happen to have first met in geography class in high school — underscore that they’re not out to dissuade businesses from using Google Maps to provide basic mapping aspects to its site visitors; in fact, they think the service is essential.
“Every business should be on Google Maps for discoverability,” says Petry. But discoverability is only one component of a multi-faceted system. While Google Maps will ensure your business’ location will show up on a search, it will also ensure your competitors’ businesses will, too.
“Google will show similar types of businesses [nearby] to yours,” Petry says, suggesting that with MapJam, and essentially “owning your map real estate,” this location-aspect of one’s business is unthreatened by competition.
Recently, Google reached out to MapJam, Gonzalez says, adding, “They actually recommend [MapJam] to clients.” Petry points out that Google has every reason to get chummy with MapJam, since what MapJam does is “antithetical to Google, which is making money on the discovery [aspect of mapping].”
MapJam’s platform is powered by mapping analytics provider Esri, which has been deepening its marketing partnerships lately with companies like mobile ad platform Millennial Media. As such, Esri has also been providing MapJam with major enterprise clients, Petry adds.
“[Esri] works with retailers and provides all the backend,” Gonzales says. “They’ll look at the demographics, the foot traffic, the public transport traffic, the businesses around the public transportation [hubs]. They’ll even use weather information systems.”
Esri’s software ensures the accuracy of the streets and environs that serve as a blank slate for Mapjam’s clients. That frees up Gonzalez and Petry to concentrate on the creative and strategic aspects of serving Mapjam’s clients.
“They’ve got the demographics of who comes to the stores and the top products that are being sold,” Petry adds. “It’s like the retail [customer relationship management] for real estate managers. You could create a dozen different maps just for that one store.”
For example, a cafe can add details about the kind of weather it is on a given day. If it’s a cold day, the cafe can advertise a warm chai latte. If it’s a hot day, it’s the iced tea.
“And you apply map-based marketing to Twitter and Facebook, which also have data about their users,” Petry says. “Obviously, they’re looking for new ways to exploit that and serve it all up. This is really our foray into it and we’ll see where it takes us.”
As the company looks beyond the start of the new year, Gonzalez says that MapJam is presently in the process of hiring as well as setting the team’s direction after recently closing a round of funding.
“We’re still in this mode of ‘Are we a consumer app or are we a small business app’ — what are we?’” says Petry. “We’re really in a time of exploring and giving our whole website a bit of a freshen-up.”