Chances are your favorite brands and bars know more about you than you think.  

Marketers know when you’re out drinking because they can track you. The use of geo-location by marketers to target advertising at unwitting consumers is not new. Since the birth of the Internet, marketers have targeted consumers using the IP address of their computers. However, the use of geolocation in marketing takes this to a whole new level, with real implications for your privacy. Facebook has significantly invested in mobile data collecting and targeting, substantially increasing their profits and extending its “reach even more deeply into the lives of young people, who can now be followed and targeted continuously” (Montgomery, 2015, p.776).

Facebook geo-location

Trained to think like snipers

The location services on your smartphone enable marketers to pinpoint your exact location and send you targeted advertisments.

The most accurate and popular means for marketers to target consumers is the Global Positioning System (GPS) built into mobile devices which shows where the device, and its user, are located. This location data is accessed through apps, and users grant their apps permission to use it.  In short, if you own a smartphone, chances are there are “passively active” apps on your device allowing marketers to use GPS to zero in on your location and target you with location-relevant advertising.

Wi-Fi triangulation, using Wi-Fi hot-spots to target people in dense urban areas, and Bluetooth, are other means though which marketers can zero in on your location. Read more about how “marketers have been trained to think like snipers” and use geo-loaction in its various forms to  “hit the bull’s eye” (that’s you and your dollar).

Specialist alcohol marketing agencies mine data from your Facebook page and use geo-location software in order to send you drink offers in bars you are visiting based on where you are and what is popular with you, your friends, and your demographic. For more information and an example of how geo-location is used by alcohol marketers to “target specific groups of consumers” and “drive foot traffic” (zero in on consumers within a given location and persuade them to visit a certain store or venue) read this article from Mobile Marketer magazine.


Johnson, L. (2013). Coors Light propels foot traffic via location-based mobile ads. Mobile Marketer.

Montgomery, K. C. (2015). Youth and surveillance in the Facebook era: Policy interventions and social implications. Telecommunications Policy, 39(9), 771-786.

Pun, R. (2014). What Marketers Need To Know About Geolocation Targeting. Adobe CMO Magazine.