By now, perhaps you’ve taken a ride on the digital marketing railway.

Last week, Gartner for Marketing Leaders rolled out its Digital Marketing Transit Map, which aspires to help guide marketing leaders through the digital marketing transformation. If you’ve had a chance to ride these rails, you’ve probably noticed the landscape it traverses, which is organized around “neighborhoods.”

In the vernacular of the transit map, neighborhoods “represent functional regions that can be thought of as practice areas within an organization.” Among these neighborhoods is mobility, which my colleague and chief transit map architect Andrew Frank is quick to point out, is sometimes a department and sometimes a mindset, like mobile-first design thinking.

Let’s take a ride on the mobile track. Here, you’ll find the following stations:

 DM Map Mobile

You’ll notice that the mobile track spans multiple neighborhoods—because, of course, mobile marketing spans many disciplines from design to social to web, data and ad operations.

Neighborhoods are the right metaphor for digital domains on a transit map. But I think they’re also the right metaphor for thinking about mobile marketing in general.

Why? Because mobile marketing is inherently local.

Think of mobile as the connective tissue between online and offline experiences, where offline experiences are proximate to a specific point in space and place in time. Offline, you’re somewhere—in your living room, in your car, at the mall, at the ball game. What’s notable about this somewhere is that it represents an important piece of context for understanding what a consumer may want or need—not someday, but now.

For marketers, that’s nothing short of genius.

But, as I’ve said before, proximity doesn’t mean permission. Location is just one attribute—a powerful one, but it alone isn’t enough to trigger an offer. Why? Because mobile devices are personal and errant offers are intrusive, an affront to the trust you may or may not have established with your customer. There’s more to mobile marketing than simply knowing your target has wandered into the neighborhood. It’s about asking for permission. It’s about a rich contextual understanding. It’s about allowing customers to set preferences. Understanding how to hew this line is what my colleague Mike McGuire will tackle later this week. Stay tuned!

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