Using Google Streetview in Marketing

19th Aug, 2010

Although the Google Streetview cars were seen in Ireland earlier this year and in 2009, there’s still no confirmed date for the launch of the service in Ireland. The service is incredibly useful for checking out and exploring real world locations. For example, last year I used it to scope out an area in Barcelona that I was about to book an apartment in. After all the online letting agents generally only show the interior and maybe one exterior shot. They rarely show the neighbourhood. With Google Streetview I was able to check out the local environment by taking a virtual stroll around. Streetview has also been used in more unusual places to bring them to life on screen, such as the ski slopes of Vancouver in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The fight for local information has been hotting up of late. There’s the much discussed launch of Facebook places, the social network upstart Foursquare and its competitors that include Gowalla. Even Bing have their version of Streetview. While much of the focus has been put on Foursquare and Facebook, Streetview illustrates location much better and Google’s version has a head start on Bing’s

Google Streetview in the News

Streetview has been in the news a lot recently. The service captures a 360 degree snapshot of streets as the Google Streetview cars pass through cities. It can capture images that people may not wish to share such as their faces or homes. In the UK a girl was seen lying face down and lifeless on Streetview, assumed dead. An investigation later revealed she was alive and well and only playing a prank on friends just as the Google Streetview car passed capturing the image. Closer to home the Google Streetview car’s were accused of collecting data from unsecured private WiFi networks. The Irish data Protection Commissioner has asked for this data to be destroyed. In South Korea authorities took a much tougher stance and raided Googles Seoul office seeking any data obtained illegally.

Google Streetview & Tourism

Google Streetview is an incredibly powerful tool – city streets mapped out in virtual tours. Once launched here it should become an essential tool for the tourism industry to showcase locations and tourist attractions. Add to this Googles collection of online reviews for locations and it becomes even more valuable. Above that of location services such as Foursquare or Facebook Places as they lack explorable images.

Buying, Selling or Letting Property

Much like I checked out the neighbourhood in Barcelona, the exact same could be done when checking out property to buy or rent. Being able to check from your desktop over lunch could save a lot of wasted time in phone calls and viewings. That time could then be applied to hunting down a place more suited to your needs.

The Editors

The above two examples are practical examples of using Streetview for business. These next examples use the technology for more entertaining purposes. Streetview has been used in music videos by a number of artists including The Editors, where listeners can visit locations in London that inspired songs off their most recent album.

Shelter’s ‘Housebling’

Chances are if you live in one of the many International city streets already mapped out in Streetview, they have an image of your house. UK housing charity Shelter produced a website that used the Streetview technology to locate your house and then decorate the exterior of it with an assortment of Christmas decorations. The finished product could then be shared through Facebook and Twitter. The campaign was to highlight the plight of the homeless during the holiday period and to increase awareness of the work of the charity at a key period of the year.

Alfa Giulietta

Using a similar idea, Alfa Romeo, used Streetview to promote its Alfa Giulietta car. By going to this website visitors can enter their address and see what the car looks like outside their home.

Virgin’s Don’t Go Zombie

Last week Virgin Trains in the UK released a Google Streetview Zombie game called as part of their ‘Don’t Go Zombie’ campaign. It’s quiet straight forward you use Google Streetview to walk actual city streets, once you reach a certain point the screen freezes and zombies then attack you. Armed with a ticket gun you have to quickly humanise the Zombies by ‘shooting’ them with the ticket gun, this also provides them with a Virgin train ticket to make their escape on. The game has also been integrated with Facebook, allowing for your profile picture to appear in the game. Monthly high scorers win prizes and even Richard Branson, amongst other celebrities, will appear as a zombie in the future. It’s fun, but you can’t help feel the brand and concept being shoehorned together in order to take advantage of the technology. This is explained by their head of Marketing, Annerie Hughes, as “The new ‘Don’t Go Zombie’ campaign encapsulates our vision of liberating travellers from the drudgery of mind numbing car journeys”.

The most interesting aspect is the level of interaction provided by the game, using actual streets as a backdrop is a new and novel approach. It certainly opens up a lot of opportunities for other brands and businesses to do something similar in the future. As with all technology the early examples are often just gimmicks, as with the Alfa Giulietta example. It may not be as instantly accessible, as say Foursquare, for small businesses to begin using Streetview, but that can’t be too far away. Surely Google won’t just image map the worlds streets and leave the information sit there?

You can play Don’t Go Zombie here.