“I think the original working title for Landmrk was Lady Gaga’s Brain because we wanted to see if we could build an application that just took all the content on the web from Lady Gaga and applied some context to it”.

Around the time when Napster and music piracy were decimating the music industry, Seth Jackson, founder of Landmrk, saw an opportunity to help people understand how, instead of watching in fear, they could harness technology as a brave new world took hold. “I spent quite a lot of my time translating between people who could invent technology and be creative, and marketeers who desperately had to understand this new world”, he explains.

I’m interested in what creates wonder and joy in people

Seth had been working in and running marketing tech startups since 1999, from a mobile music distribution business and a text message marketing platform for club nights, through to various versions of music and entertainment marketing agencies. “I’ve always been more interested in the creative uses of technology”, he says, “I’m interested in what creates wonder and joy in people”.

Along with working with some of the world’s biggest brands to do interesting things with technology, Seth continued to push the boundaries with the music industry. “In one of our very first startups we built something for Beggar’s Banquet (XL Records) to see how fast a piece of mobile music could travel around the globe” says Seth. Limited by the technology available at the time it was built on WAP but it worked, explains Seth. “We watched it just explode over night, a map of the world exploding as this piece of music travelled to Australia to Japan, to New Zealand and Italy.”

Landmrk founder Seth Jackson

From there Seth started working more with geo-location marketing campaigns and early augmented reality, asking how technology could produce ‘wow factors’, and how it could be tied into experiential marketing. As Seth puts it: “Experiential marketing, which costs quite a lot of money, is great. You pop up at the festival, on the street or give away something at Paddington Station, but it’s got no scale. If you could use a platform to create digital scale, however, that could be really quite exciting.”

It was these early innovations that were the seeds of Landmrk and after founding a creative agency called Strange Thoughts, yet another music client, Infectious Music, came to them with a problem.

The label wanted Strange Thoughts to build a bluetooth-connected bench that would allow people to listen to the new Alt-J album in various beautiful locations. Seth and his team, though, had a much more innovative and affordable idea, “We said we could do it with geofencing. So we built an app and we used it to release the album” explains Seth. Users could download an app to experience the album, which was delivered to them, at precise locations. Seth goes on to explain, “We had 77,000 downloads of the app in a week with hundreds of thousands of streams and activated 2,000 parks around the world”.

What the Alt-J campaign proved was that the platform could create experiences at scale and Seth believed that the concept could be applied to other big brands, not just music. He explains, “They’re trying to run global campaigns, and they’re trying to scale this idea of experiential. So that’s the platform we built, which is Landmrk.”

Kinetic currency

The Landmrk platform is built on the concept of ‘kinetic currency’, the idea that people will exchange their time and energy in return for some kind of reward. Although the term hadn’t been coined before it’s not a new concept, as Seth explains, “Anyone who has ever owned a shop or a restaurant deals in kinetic currency.” In 2016 one campaign swept the globe that really cemented the idea of kinetic currency, where each day up to 45 million crazed fans used augmented reality to hunt illusive Pokemon, in Pokemon Go.

You can make digital content scarce. Pokemon Go proved the idea of incentivised movement

What Pokemon Go also proved was the concept of digital scarcity, as Seth explains, “The fact that the digital content [in Pokemon Go] wasn’t ubiquitous, it wasn’t available anywhere and everywhere, which is what the whole last 10-15 years has been about. But actually you can limit it, you can make a piece of digital content scarce. It proved the idea of incentivised movement and it took the risk of saying, we’re going to place these locations all over the globe and we’re going to do that at real scale and drive people on a global basis.”

Fans of Shakira unlock ‘goldspots’ to get exclusive content

And that’s exactly what Landmrk did next, with a campaign for the release of a new album by international artist Shakira that saw fans travelling up to four and a half hours to unlock ‘goldspots’ and money-can’t-buy experiences. That’s not just a win for the superfans but for brands as well, “They are an ambassador for you, they have engaged in that [unique] way and therefore will socially amplify you much more and talk about the brand positively” explains Seth.

Content owners wanted to push the platform and that pushed Seth and the team creatively too. So when it came to a campaign for Latin boy band CNCO, Seth tells us, “We split their music video into 4,100 frames and scattered them around the world and then fans found the frames to get their own signed digital version of the frame of the video. The frames then all came together and CNCO got ten million views on the video on day one.”

Using geolocation to allow users to be rewarded for their movement scales experiential campaigns. The most talked about experience events are nearly always limited by location and usually confined to the biggest cities. By decentralising experiences and making them available in multiple locations, not only does that potential audience become huge, but the experience also becomes more unique and more personal. The Landmrk platform takes that idea one step further, Seth explains, “We just built a feature called, ‘Request a Hot Spot’ and used it for CNCO, which allowed people to say, I’m in the middle of nowhere in the countryside and there’s nothing near me, so we would activate them in within a mile of where their location was”. For brands, that level of personalisation is priceless.

Device agnostic

It’s one thing to liberate experiences by delivering them straight to the user, but understanding how that user can engage is another. For Seth it’s all about being agnostic to the device that’s being delivered to, whether that’s a handset, a driverless car or a pair of Bose AR audio glasses, “I really think the idea, particularly in campaigns, that you would download an application just to do one thing, one experience, seems like nonsense to me. I don’t think that apps will be the future, I think it will be mobile web” explains Seth. One key factor that will transform how this is done is going to be the advancement of 5G.

Seth’s hometown of Bristol is one of the cities chosen to be a testbed for 5G technology. As we all become increasingly connected, the need for enhanced connectivity is obvious, “Each person is going to be connected 20 or 30 or 40 times and that’s a massive amount of data that’s going to be moving around with tracked cars, smart cities, all of that, it requires a completely different way of looking at things.” explains Seth, “It’ll be about understanding how you can interact with your city and your environment in an intelligent way and in a way that benefits, not a dystopian future of adverts being fired in your face as you walk down the street but actually a way of enhancing joy and fun.”

That notion of wonder, joy and fun is one that Seth comes back to, using creative technology to make people’s lives not only more efficient but better, through increasingly enriched experiences. The key to doing this, and to keep pushing the boundaries, is through building in true context and Seth believes that’s all about using data, “Look at the weather, look at traffic data…how do we use that to build up a much more exciting engagement for the consumer and more exciting engagement for the brand? We’re in discussions with everyone from the European Space Agency to Smart Cities to Dark Skies”.

Sensing the future

So where does technology like Landmrk take us? In 2018, two huge movie franchises are set to release AR games, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite and Ghostbusters World, both of which Seth believes are more mainstream than Pokemon Go, “I feel augmented reality has finally hit an interesting point, mixed reality has hit an interesting point and VR has even hit an interesting point and I think we will see a lot of movement in this next 18 months.”

And why stop with our visual senses? With companies like Bose setting up a $50 million fund to invest in developments for their AR audio glasses, Seth thinks there’s a lot of untapped ideas, “I think there’s some exciting stuff to be done with our other senses, with audio, with haptic response, with all sorts of areas around that. I’m also quite interested in this idea of the kind of periphery vision work, which is making much more lightweight engagement around mixed reality, allowing you to glance at stuff as opposed to forcing it over your central field of vision.”

At Simpleweb we’ve been working closely with Seth and the team to develop the Landmrk platform so that they can continue to create campaigns and ideas that push those boundaries. They may only have been on their journey for 15 months at this stage but, having already moved over a million people and worked with some of the biggest brands in the world, there’s a lot more wonder and joy yet to come.

[Photo by h heyerlein on Unsplash]

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