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Why the Digital Generation Loves Geocaching

During the Christmas holiday, I finally took up the opportunity to go geocaching. While I had heard of this activity before, my understanding of it was vague and ill-defined. Now that I have tried it I can only highly recommend this incredibly fun outdoor leisure activity, suitable for young and old.

But what exactly is geocaching? In simple words, it is a technology-enabled outdoor treasure hunt. Players seek for hidden containers using a GPS or GPS-enabled smartphone and then share their experiences with the geocaching community online. According to, over 1.7 million geocaches are hidden worldwide and it seems you can find them in most countries around the world.

What I find really exciting about geocaching is that it is a treasure hunt for the digital generation. Generally, many tech-lovers spend much of their time indoors immersed in virtual reality; according to the GfK Roper Reports Worldwide study, consumers in the Developed world spend almost a full day per week online! Geocaching by contrast allows these tech-lovers to have an adventure in the real world where they can spend time outdoors discovering new places.

Just as geocachers find their ‘treasures’ by following clues, marketers can learn and benefit from the popularity of geocaching by understanding how it taps into the digital consumer mindset:

Offer health benefits
Consumers are increasingly health-conscious in terms of the benefits of the food they eat and the impact it has on their body. They also increasingly seek to balance their lives by taking breaks and getting ‘me time’. Geocaching is a great activity for health-conscious consumers. Walking, cycling and even climbing when searching for caches is a fantastic way to stay fit without having to commit to a structured training regime.

Leverage fun
One of the main elements of geocaching is the fun factor. Cache hunting is an adventure, a thrill and excitement that is easily accessible wherever you are. And it is this fun factor that is particular important to many consumers at the moment. Our research shows that consumers around the world increasingly identify with values such as Having Fun and Curiosity. It is important for consumers to discover new things and to enjoy new experiences even when the economy fares badly.

Provide cheap entertainment
Geocaching may incur some incidental expenses, depending on how involved people get with pursuing and contributing to caches, but the activity itself is basically free. Consumers have become accustomed to receiving many entertainment services for free. They have also become savvy shoppers, always researching the Internet for the best deals and always keeping informed about the latest updates in their areas of interest.

Build on community spirit
People can treasure hunt on their own, but at its heart, geocaching is a social activity. Caches are hidden by players themselves who often find very creative ways to hide and package the caches. Players also leave feedbacks and tokens that can be exchanged by the next player. Community spirit and D.I.O (Do IT Ourselves) are crucial aspects of geocaching and are also growing consumer trends; crowdsourcing projects such as Kickstarter are already incredibly successful.

Show honesty and integrity at all times
Last but not least, the whole concept of geocaching is based on trust and honesty – players leave the caches as they find them and they trade their tokens fairly. At GfK Consumer Trends, we have observed that personal values such as Honesty and Authenticity are gaining leverage worldwide. Consumers are fed up with reckless behaviours, poor work ethics and opaque messages, and they increasingly seek integrity from friends, institutions and companies alike.

There are currently just over 5 million geocachers worldwide, which is a relatively small number, compared with 1 billion Facebook users, for instance. It is however very likely that, enabled through smartphone technology, and the increasing number of fun-seeking communities around the world, geocaching activities will expand dramatically going forward. If you are a marketer, you might be able to make use of some of the concepts that are driving this activity. And if you are looking for something new in your own life in 2013, why don’t you give geocaching a go?

By Edith Hornick, GfK Consumer Trends

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