Why Marketers Should Care About a Crowdsourced Driving App

By: Brigette Houghton  Erique L’Heureux

People have always wanted to know the best way to get from point A to point B. As maps are phased out and our cars and driving habits seem more and more dependent on technology, people are looking for the best driving app on the market. But how do you evaluate that? Is it the app that consistently gets you there the fastest or maybe just the one with a funny computer generated voice to keep you company on those long road trips. The answer, in my opinion, is the one with the most up to date data. How many times has your GPS told you to turn down a city street that was closed for repairs leaving you in that terrible state of driving purgatory while the GPS reroutes. With the driving app Waze bad data is a thing of the past.

What is Waze:

“Waze is the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app. Join other drivers in your area who share real-time traffic and road info, saving everyone time and gas money on their daily commute. Waze. Outsmarting Traffic, Together.”

Waze versus Other map apps:

They reason why more people are choosing Waze over other navigation apps is because Waze is interactive with a community.  While these other map apps may get you to your location, they may not tell you how much traffic you will get stuck in along the way. They also might not inform you of police speed traps.  Waze is the app that can do it all and then some.  Waze can give you multiple route options, inform you on how heavy the traffic is in certain locations, can tell you about road work ahead, and can warn you of a police officer ahead! Waze’s maps are constantly being edited by its users as roads are being closed and built in different directions. It can do all of this, and you can also connect to your Facebook friends to see if they are in your area, and where they are as long as they are connected as well.

About Waze:

Waze is a community based navigation app that was created in 2006 in the country of Israel by Ehud Shabtai.  The company was originally called “FreeMap Israel”.  The name did not last long, and two years later they changed the name to Waze.  In 2013, Facebook tried to buy Waze for $1 billion when they only had 36 million users, but Waze decided not to take the deal because they did not want to have to move their headquarters to California; they wanted to stay in Israel. Later in the year, Google offered Waze $1.3 billion, and offered them to keep their headquarters in Israel, but to have some offices in California.  From the time Facebook placed an offer to the time Google placed their offer, the amount of Waze users increased from 36 million to 50 million users.


The fun thing about Waze is that by connecting with your friends on Facebook, you can challenge them with the number of miles you drive, and boost your rank within the app.  The higher your rank, the harder it is to remain there though! This aspect of gamification provides a social incentive in addition to the functional one. When users can complete milestones and see how they stack up against others they want to open the app on more of their drives to increase their score.


As mentioned before, Waze allows you to stay connected to your friends, and your community.  If there is a better way to get somewhere, you can edit the map to come up with the better route, and you can share it with the community.  If you are stuck in traffic, let the other users in your area know so they do not have to get stuck in it as well.  And, if you are attending a Facebook event that your friends are also attending, you can connect to Waze and see what their estimated time of arrival is, or you can pick them up along the way.

Waze also has a self-serving ad buying page where businesses can buy “location pins” to advertise their businesses whether they be local or chain businesses.  Waze sells these location pins for $1 per 1000 pins.  Big chain companies like Shell, Starbucks, Wyndham Hotels, Yum Brand, Dunkin Donuts, and AT&T are just a few of the chains that have location pins on Waze.  This may be a risk for Waze because of the fact that these large companies can take advantage of the fact that the location pins are such a small price compared to the rest of the companies expenses. However for companies buying the pins a service that literally directs people right to their front door is indispensable. It solves the marketing problem of location. A small business without the capital to open a store on a main road can buy a pin and have every waze user in the area still know where they are located. A person can travel down the same street every day their entire life and not realize that there’s an amazing business on the next street over. Now with Waze they can! Waze has also introduced another channel of advertising that they call “Ad Takeovers.” This is a pop up that is intended to be unobtrusive to the user while they are driving. Accordingly they only appear before the user starts driving and after they have been stationary for more than five seconds. These pop ups use the location data provided via the user’s phone to target consumers geographically. Brick and mortar businesses can buy ad takeovers so that consumers in their area are exposed to their brand. It wouldn’t make much sense for McDonald’s to advertise to drivers when the closest store is fifty miles away. Waze’s location data eliminates this problem and ensures that business will experience a greater return on investment for their marketing dollars. Waze has also found a way to incorporate other types of data to enhance its marketing capabilities. Dunkin Donuts, who was one of the first companies to adopt Waze’s marketing, uses both weather and time data to tailor its advertisements. In the morning when it is cold they can push ads for hot coffee and in the warmer afternoons they can offer coupons for a sweet frozen drink. This targeted approach further increases the return on investment that marketers will find appealing. The future of Waze’s growth in the marketing will depend on the level of data that they can provide. Users can already sign into Waze via Facebook and the prospect that Waze could add Facebook data into its arsenal could present some interesting possibilities. Marketers could possibly find out the interests of people who are close to their businesses and make it even easier to get people in through the front door.


A risk that could hurt Waze is that the app may promote texting and driving; although the app can recognize if you are in a moving car. And if you are, there is a window that can pop up that basically tells you to pull over in order to use the app.  This pop up window gives the user the option to say if he or she is a passenger in the car. The driver does have the ability to bypass this window by falsely indicating that they are the passenger and are capable of safely using the app. It’s a widely known fact that humans really are awful at multitasking and the use of mobile devices while driving has been linked with numerous, needless deaths and even more non-fatal accidents. If there is ever any indication that a driver was hurt or injured while using Waze they no doubt will take a serious PR hit. Any brand that looks to utilize Waze’s marketing aspects need to seriously consider if their brand image is in line with a driving app that could be the center of some controversy.

Alternatively, another aspect of Waze that is steeped in controversy, is the app’s function to identify the location of traffic officers. The same way that users can identify hazards and traffic on the roadway gives them the ability to identify where there are police cruisers parked. The function’s purpose is to help Wazers avoid speed traps which could ultimately lead to a hefty fine. A good idea for those of us who like to get from place to place a little faster than the law allows. But it also disarms and even endangers police officers and their ability to effectively do their job. Police officers aren’t just on duty to ruin our day with a speeding ticket, they’re there to enforce the law and protect society. Suppose that a drunk driver opens up Waze and sees that there is a police checkpoint so he decides to take another route. He endangers himself and everyone around him and Waze has granted him the opportunity to avoid getting caught. Police officers all over the country have already expressed that they want an end to this function. Afterall, people who would otherwise break the law as a rule tend not to do it when they know there are police officers around. Waze has steadfastly neglected to make any statement in response to the controversy surrounding their police function. One can’t be sure if this is because the company recognizes the negative implications and simply won’t address them. The function is very unique to anything on the market and the draw that it provides to consumers is understandable. Download a free app and possibly avoid a two-hundred dollar speeding ticket? Sounds like a good investment to me. But likewise as with the risk of distracted driving brands need to consider the possibility that a PR disaster or even federal regulation could cost Waze its customer base and leave people invested in their marketing out to dry.

Bottom Line:

Marketers are always trying to reach consumers on a more personal level. Big data is the future of finding out exactly who your customer base is and how best to reach them. The location based data that Waze provides opens horizons for brands to completely change the way they bring people into their stores. We could see Waze bringing about the end to those giant inflatable tube men or people who spin signs outside of businesses as the app does all the work for you in bringing customers right to your door.

16 thoughts on “Why Marketers Should Care About a Crowdsourced Driving App

  1. cimminoc May 4, 2016 / 2:58 am

    Waze is a great way to get customers to come to you if you are a business. However, I see the current risks involving the police as a serious problem. Crowdsourcing allows users to avoid the police. This information is out their for anyone to exploit. The app is useful for marketing such as the Dunkin Donuts case, but I think the main reason people use the app is to see where police are. So many other apps such as mapquest have similar marketing features that would make it difficult to seperate itself without the value of crowdsourcing.


  2. Andie-Jane Phinney May 4, 2016 / 7:40 pm

    I know personally, when using a GPS app, I am more focused on where I am going, than what types of restaurants and stores are on the screen or what I will pass. I know while I am driving, it can be distracting to have things pop up or show up. I know that while driving I can glance and see what is approaching or what stores I have passed, but I don’t believe I would pay attention to any adds that show up on the screen, as it can be very distracting as mentioned. I am not sure if would be successful for marketers, because it is dangerous. It is a very neat app though!


  3. Olivia Sullivan May 4, 2016 / 11:09 pm

    A lot of people download the Waze app because it identifies speed traps, tells you where the traffic is and easier routes, and you can connect to friends who have the app through Facebook. I did not know all the other features that Waze had to offer. Waze is definitely a good app for marketers because they can buy location pins. Buying a location pin enables your business to be one of the first to show up when on the Waze app. This will make the company get more attention. The only issue is that it recognizes speed traps. Although that seems like a good idea I did not realize how that can endanger people, like the blog said, drunk and reckless drivers.


  4. Marisa Harrington May 5, 2016 / 4:16 pm

    Waze has definitely stepped up their game with the marketing aspect. I originally downloaded Waze for a GPS and for the speed traps. I got it before it had advertisements. Now, I do not use Waze anymore because sometimes ill be driving and an ad will come up and cover the GPS. A good idea for Waze is to only display the advertisements when the app is opened, and then it would give the option to close the ad. Then, the ads will be displayed and you can use your GPS without any distraction.


  5. Joseph Sanfilippo May 5, 2016 / 6:53 pm

    I have had Waze for about 5 years now and I love the app. Waze being free is a great feature that drew me to it initially. Another great feature that has always made me like it is when your phone is plugged in with an AUX cord and you are playing music, Waze will lower the music to tell you about directions that are approaching. I am usually a visual person that likes to see where I’m going, but Waze does a good job describing exactly what you need to do. I agree with Marisa that the ads get annoying, and think that ads shouldn’t pop up when you are moving. When you come to a stop, they should display a 30 second ad, but should not appear when you are moving so you can focus on where you are going.


  6. Hechuan Lou May 6, 2016 / 2:13 am

    Waze is very useful app to help people find out their traffic situation, it helps people save time and avoid traffic jam. But one thing that I feel Waze needs to improve. Everytime when you click the app, it always ask you if you are a driver or passenger as it remind the driver can’t use it while driving. The problem is only driver need to use this to check the traffic situation, I think it would be better just remind the driver to be careful while operate the app when they are driving.


  7. Justin Flory May 6, 2016 / 7:14 pm

    I don’t really see Waze as being an effective tool for marketers. I think the user base is too small and the functionality is too limited. I personally don’t have Waze. It is definitely an interesting app, but I think marketers are better off using the bigger social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to market their products and services. They will reach more people on those sites.


    • latikakarnani May 11, 2016 / 7:24 pm

      Effectiveness of this app in marketing is limited to certain things. Like you cannot market clothes but you can definitely market yourself if you are a food chain or convenience store.


  8. cbernard7778 May 6, 2016 / 8:33 pm

    I originally downloaded Waze when I spent a weekend driving to and from Upstate New York. I had heard from a friend that Waze helped alert you of any changing routes and speed traps, and I wanted to be given the heads up since I was driving in an unfamiliar area. There definitely were so ads that popped up during the GPS that were frustrating because it was blocking the route. Taking the time to exit it out of the ad also was a risk while driving. From a marketing aspect, I think that Waze does an effective job extended their ads to companies that pay for them, but I do think that showing ads at a more appropriate time would be beneficial to both the companies and the users.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Derek Lawton May 6, 2016 / 11:48 pm

    Waze seems to be a great App that is gaining customers rapidly. I do not really see Waze being an effective tool for marketers. Most people I know just use maps on their phone. I think this is a reliable and up to date source as Waze. I think it could be an effective app but in the long run will not do so well.


  10. Kevin Poulter May 7, 2016 / 12:18 am

    Waze concept is good but I feel the app runs the risk of distracting drivers with all the ads. Most drivers are too focused on there destination. I feel like the app has a good idea but it needs to be fine tuned and promote how it wont distract drivers.


  11. Meg May 7, 2016 / 1:20 am

    Waze is a smart way to connect users as location based apps are generally individual with no interaction between the users. Waze gives up-to-date information as told by other users, and I think that is a great way to get people more invested in the app. The interactive community separates Waze from other location services. It is risky that drivers can use the app while driving, but the pins will attract people to businesses.


  12. Ashley Alves May 10, 2016 / 2:49 am

    I personally have never used this application but I have many friends that swear by it. For me, I have never used this because it is a community based content application. How do I know that the information on this app is accurate? Is this not the same concept as Wikipedia? Wikipedia is not a valid source of information because anyone can go in and edit/update the information on the page. I would be very interested to see how the content on this application is monitored. I also do not support how the app informs users of police officers ahead. However, we are talking about marketing here, right? I think the pop up ads that take up the screen are a poor marketing tool. Sure, popping up and disrupting the screen with a coupon to Dunkin’ Donuts may sound like a good idea but I don’t think this is a risk that a company should take. Using your phone while driving is hazardous enough but some of us are not lucky enough to have a vehicle that has navigation so using an app is the only option. Having an ad pop up and disturb the driver and cause them to be even more distracted is not good. If a company had a pop up on the Waze app and the pop up ad distracted the driver enough to cause an accident, it is not worth it. There are many other ways to advertise, this app should not be something companies should be supporting.


  13. Maria May 11, 2016 / 12:11 am

    I have used Waze before and I did not like it as much as I like Google Maps; you are right though, when there is a detour and Maps does not ‘know,’ it leaves me in limbo as I try to find my way, but, i still use Maps! I think it is because I feel confident that Maps is more reliable in terms of routes and won’t lag on me, like Waze did – But, reading your post actually made me re-download it to give it a second chance!

    Having that ‘community’ feel and working together with other Waze users in letting each other know what is happening in the road that might affect us was something I liked about it. But, on the other hand, I didnt like how I had to rely on others to tell me if a road was clear to drive through or if there was a detour. There are so many ‘trolls’ in the internet that I had a hard time trusting the app, what if the information is not reliable? I suppose that is the other side of crowdsourcing, of having the public to depend on the success of your business, you know?


  14. Kathy Makiver May 12, 2016 / 1:29 pm

    I am familiar with Waze but I will stick with Google Maps or my GPS. It is a great app though and it identified accidents and police ahead as we drove. I just found it to be a bit distracting while driving with a friend who used it.


  15. gabriellepecher May 12, 2016 / 8:34 pm

    I definitely think there is a demand and need for an app like Waze. I use Maps all the time and strongly believe it always takes me the longest route possible! I am even convinced that they have some deals with gas companies! It’s almost as if Maps goes out of its way to take me the longest route possible, which I check all the time when I know there are backroads and quicker routes. An app like this would be super helpful to notify drivers of detours and traffic and offer alternate, shorter routes. I do agree with others though that the restaurant markers and business adds could be a distraction and unnecessary, especially for people who use the app regularly.


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