Hey Olivia, It was great to listen to your talk about your work at What3Words, so it’s essentially ‘a simple way to talk about location’ you’ve divided the whole world into 3m x 3m squares and assigned each one an individual 3 word combination. Can you tell us a little bit more about what exactly it is that what3words is striving to do?
Right, so what we’re trying to do is get people to adopt this pretty wacky system of using three word addresses. Everyone loves the idea and understands the simplicity of it, but getting people to adopt it and start using it takes a bit of open mindedness to change something you’ve been doing your whole life in terms of addressing.
Broadly speaking we’re a social enterprise so whilst we strive to improve efficiency for businesses we are also working hard to help save lives! We also like to improve consumer experience, whether people are travelling and can’t read say, mandarin road signs you can use our app to travel in your own language by setting the location you want to go to.
How did you end up working for what3words?
I’d ironically spent the the last phase of my career at Ogilvy looking into big digital disruptors like the Ubers and the Airbnbs and I tried to understand what role marketing played in getting them the success they’d seen. I became really intrigued by them and I was really keen to join one myself.
It just so happens that Giles, our CMO used to work with me at Ogilvy and he managed to persuade me to come and join what3words. He said “Come and play with me and I’m sure we can have some fun here." It was a great move, sometimes you just can’t plan for these little serendipitous things that happen. So I came to help him grow the team here from just him as a one man band to our current team of nine and continue this support as the company matures and we continue on our mission to address the world…
What are a few of your favourite examples of the impact you guys have had on people’s lives?
It’s absolutely crazy how much amazing stuff people are able to do as a result of what we’re doing. It can vary from something like healthcare to the Domino’s franchise owner in St Martin reaching out to us and using our app instead of the hand drawn maps he was using before. When we show someone the efficiency of what3words it really does open the floodgates of possibilities of what can be achieved around the world.
On the humanitarian side, we have a great partner in South Africa called Gateway Health, there’s a guy who has been providing medical care for people in the townships in South Africa for many years. He’s told us all these stories of things he’s tried to sort out with location data, he’s tried cell phone triangulation and all sorts but he hasn’t managed to get it right. Now, he can use what3words to locate patients and he’s also able to launch a lot of programs he hasn’t managed to launch before. One is focused on maternal health, 50% of births are at home in that area, and because it is such a time critical moment, an ambulance needs to be able to find the home and they never had any way of describing their homes but now they can.
What3words have grown quite significantly since your first talk at glug Reading last year, how have you as a marketing helped to accelerate this growth?
Marketing plays a huge role in helping to drive that change. We do it a lot through our partnerships, we do a bit of marketing so key businesses are aware of us and why we are relevant to their businesses.
For example, once a logistics company realises the efficiency adopting three word addresses it incentivises them to ensure all their customers are also using it. What we do then is partner with them further to help them in that communication and toolkit these elements, whether that’s training, marketing toolkits like stickers, leaflets or posters. Now we’re starting to explore some bigger and more exciting ideas now like organising scavenger hunts round cities with a travel company to find the best spots to take a picture of a sunset or Tower Bridge or whatever it is.
You seem to have a very diverse customer base, how do you manage to address each one of these?
It’s been tricky to balance our relevance to the range of industries we support but also to be pragmatic and use our time wisely so we’re not recreating everything every time we talk to a new partner. That’s where I’ve brought in our strategic view, we’re really trying to think about how we scale on verticals but also across the world.
We’ve been working collaboratively with video production companies to create high impact videos to use as marketing material in each of our verticals, using the same structure but with different content for our business development team can use. As we get more case studies and results then we can create more interview-focused videos.
We’ve also been trialling some marketplace sites where you can upload a brief and you can commission work out to people globally. We currently have a people in Barcelona, Germany, Thailand and Greece shooting material for us! We then use this footage and edit it all together into high impact videos!
What do you think the future holds for this industry?
Everything is moving to delivery on demand, exactly where you want it at that moment. Which is even more reason to assign an address to everywhere.
We’re having some really interesting discussions around this point at the moment. We’re speaking to a courier company in California that actually does on demand delivery services but also cover medical care - sometimes they’re transporting organs (which is hugely time sensitive) to a huge hospital it can be difficult to know which entrance to go to. What3words offers a specific address to different entry points of a huge hospital, making the delivery much more time efficient.
On the other end of the spectrum it’s pizza hut in Australia delivering a pizza to the middle of a field on the university campus and now you can.