What Are Brands Doing on Waze?

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Remember the days before Apple Maps, when Google Maps worked just fine on your iPhone? Those were the days. Then the Apple vs Google feud led to Apple ditching Google Maps altogether and replace it with their own map app, which was a total flop, at least in terms of social media criticism. That bad first impression of Apple Maps created a giant hole in the app market for a better map app, and Waze was ready to capture that audience.

Waze is a maps app with turn-by-turn navigation and an emphasis on social interaction. It has features that users are familiar with from other social platforms like Foursquare but built on an accurate mapping layer that makes it functional and more interactive than the maps from Google or Apple. Are you stuck in traffic? Tell other Wazers. Know a better route? Tell other Wazers. Are you going to the same Facebook event as other Wazers? Waze will show you where your friends are along the route.

Sounds great, but how does it work in practice? Well, how about Waze updating its maps to help folks in Oklahoma drive around bridges and roads damaged by the recent tornadoes? That’s pretty darn practical for a social app.

Facebook tried to buy Waze for $1 billion back at the beginning of the year when Waze had only 36 million users, but the deal fell through because Waze didn’t want to move its headquarters from Israel to California. Now, Google is offering $1.3 billion while allowing Waze HQ to stay in Israel, where Google has a footprint of its own. Since the original Facebook offer, Waze’s user base has grown from 36 million to 50 million Wazers.

So it’s great for users and investors, but what about brands? How can brands capitalize on all these new social app devotees? Of course, any brand that is location-based (brick-and-mortar retailers, restaurants, night spots, franchises of all sorts) should see instantly how to Waze-power their brands. Already, Waze has integrated gas station brands in order for Wazers to find the cheapest gas in their area or along their route. So, if you’re a brand that located near a gas station or found inside a gas station’s retail area? There’s your in.

Waze has even created a self-serve ad-buying page where businesses can buy branded map pins for as low as $1 per 1,000 impressions.

So who are the brands already wading into Waze? Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the biggest ones:

Taco Bell: There’s something about this particular branch of Yum Brands that really tackles social media well, as the taco chain was quick to adopt other social platforms like Snapchat and understands how to use Twitter particularly well. Taco Bell’s presence on Waze includes branded map pins and full-screen take-overs when Wazers are in the Taco Bell neighborhood.

Walgreens: The pharmacy chain offers Waze-based coupons for Wazers, like this one for a free bar of soap, you dirty hippy.

Whole Foods: A retailer like a grocery store can use Waze metrics to determine when you might be most likely to be getting groceries -- after work, for example. So that’s when it will target you with an ad to remind you to choose Whole Foods over Trader Joe’s.

Starbucks: One would think if your mapping app had a branding partnership with a chain like Starbucks that also happens to be a major wi-fi provider that there would be at least a post on your blog, or something more than just this.

AT&T: This is an interesting brand that is mostly a wireless carrier but that also has a brick-and-mortar presence. Reminding Wazers where you are locally could help gain customers with its primary business of phone contracts.

Dunkin Donuts: While it appears to be true that Dunkin Donuts is a paying advertiser on Waze, no one thought to issue a press release on the matter and it's hard to tell just what they're doing.

Wyndham Hotels: Like Dunkin Donuts, the Wyndham Hotel brands -- Ramada, Days Inn, etc -- have been showing up as branded pins on Waze since November 2012, but not much has been written about it.

Circle K: “Something’s afoot at the Circle K,” quoth Bill and/or Ted in an early prequel to the Matrix. These days, you can see Rufus and his time machine coming from several miles away now that Circle K has branded map pins on Waze.

Shell: Since Waze is already helps users find the cheapest gas in the area, it’s a natural fit for a gasoline brand. Shell is offering Wazers a coupon good for $0.10 off per gallon, which is a pretty sweet deal.

What brands have you seen do interesting things on Waze?