It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane! No, Wait, It’s A Marketing Drone!

By | Tuesday September 16th, 2014

DroneDrones are fast becoming the darlings of the marketing and technology communities. I’m seeing stories and case studies about them popping up everywhere like, well… like drones!

Simply put, a drone is an airborne robot or vehicle that doesn’t have a pilot or passengers aboard. It’s what the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) calls an “unmanned aircraft system” because a remote operator (who’s on the ground, on a boat, in another airborne vehicle, etc.) controls where it goes and what it does. Drones now come in a variety of sizes, and they have been tasked with a variety of functions, but even so, they all have one thing in common:

Drones give us a unique perspective on the world and unique access to places that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to go.

No wonder so many folks –from farmers to realtors to newlyweds to e-commerce giants –are excited about the seemingly endless range of potential applications for drones.

And naturally, marketers may be the most excited of all, given the industry’s penchant for seeking out the latest shiny object. (Not to diminish from their efforts, at all. In some cases, the results are absolutely stunning.)

Could a drone enhance your ability to engage or serve your market in a fresh, valuable way? Is this technology you want to explore as part of your marketing planning? If so, here are a few key points to keep in mind before you take to the skies:

  • The rules and regulations around drones are a work in progress. The FAA has the daunting task of figuring out how to keep tabs on new uses of drone technology, and that could mean certain user groups may face obstacles in getting their drone programs up and running (literally). But hasn’t this always been true in the marketing world? If you hang your hat on any one particular technology or strategy, a change in the rules could turn your big idea into a waste of time and money.
  • You need to focus on providing value for your customers first and foremost—not just playing with the latest “cool toy” you can get your hands on. Will a drone improve or enhance your product or service offerings? Will the “fresh factor” of a drone-driven marketing strategy generate buzz you can convert into sales? Will a drone enable you to offer marketing campaigns with a compelling new perspective on your product? And don’t forget the bottom line: Will your ROI eventually catch up with your investment? If you’re not asking the questions, you may be unpleasantly surprised by the answers down the road.
  • Not everyone is rushing to sign up for the Drone Fan Club. As with any technology, drones have their own group of naysayers. Not everyone is totally comfortable with unmanned craft swooping through the skies to take photos or drop granola bars into playgrounds (or whatever your dream application might be). It’s important to know where your core audience lands on the idea of drones –or, really, any technology you want to add to your toolbox.

I’m not sure where drones are headed in the years to come, either literally or figuratively. It will certainly be interesting to see all the different applications companies and brands develop for drones as the technology evolves, and how people respond to their increased use.

Can you see drones having a place in your data driven marketing strategy? Why and how… or conversely, why not?