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Spatial Science

To loosely paraphrase Ian Brown, it’s not just where you are, but also where you’re at.


Location & Place vs. Pattern & Interaction

Location and Place are important, but are arbitrary constructs without human interaction to create movement and bring purpose.

Historically your location, and the prevailing environmental conditions that came to bear upon it, would define your lifestyle. Indeed, this was the central tenet of Darwin’s seminal ‘On The Origin of The Species’ and held true throughout the Holocene.

However, since early humans began to cluster into ‘civilisations’, they have sought to shape the world around them – as opposed to the world shaping them.

Location therefore has become symbolic of lifestyle: a description of someone’s key locations – where they live, work or socialise – and the inferences these locations carry, can inform your understanding of them.

Dynamic Mapping

Maps, historically, owed as much to art and philosophy as they did to science. But now, with people moving quicker, further, and in greater numbers than ever, mapping techniques have evolved to demonstrate (and quantify) movement – and represent lifestyle – as much as they do place.

The continuing rise of the smartphone – in terms of uptake, and sophistication – allows us to place people amongst the co-ordinates, contours and concrete.

We can now also add Content to that list of knowns.

So, from a Marketer’s perspective the smartphone has given us a behavioural measurement tool that – uniquely – operates at an individual level… after all, maps have always placed the creator’s location at their epicentre.

Spatial Science in advertising

The use of ‘spatial science’, layered with an individual-level understanding of content preferences and consumption patterns (see Netflix and Spotify examples), now becomes an incredibly potent mix for Marketers.

It means we no longer have to rely on combining the twin best guesses of national, city-level or even postcode audiences with mass broadcast channels to deliver our ‘most efficient targeting’.

It means we no longer have to rely on the assumption that your postcode defines you any more than your age or gender do.

It means we no longer have to rely on stereotype and supposition.

Defining key terms

Location. This is most accurately defined – and most simply described – as latitude and longitude. At Blis we go to great lengths to ensure that the location data we accept meets strict quality controls.

Place. “The human and natural phenomena that give a location its unique character” (Gershmel, 2009). From our point of view, this could mean a retail environment, or whether we can link a device to residential or business wifi.

Spatial Pattern. This is more specifically the type and distribution of POI locations. For example, it’s common to see upmarket retailers cluster together, or fast food outlets operate in close proximity to cinemas or bowling alleys.

Spatial Interactions. Once we know which items exist in proximity to one another, we can start to understand how they impact one another. For geographers this might be how wind direction and mountain orientation affect rainfall, whilst for marketers it can help us understand how volume of competition in a ‘place’ – and the presence or absence of branded ads – impact purchase decisions.

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