CauseWorld: Location-Based Cause Marketing

Beth Kanter recently wrote on CauseWorld, which is essentially a "cause version" of Foursquare.

Like foursquare and gowalla, you open the application on your phone and see local businesses (instead of showing everything around you, CauseWorld only shows businesses that you can check into for karmas). Enter the store, check in, and get the karma points offered to you. Once you’ve collected enough karmas you can donate them to a variety of causes. And, of course, you get badges for various activities.

You should definitely read Beth's post and check out the TechCruch interview with the founder. I've been using the iPhone app for over a week and I like it a lot. The interface is very slick and you learn a lot about the charities CauseWorld supports. (Charities that are currently being funded by Citi and Kraft Foods.) But I have my doubts that this niche cause service can really compete against mainstream players like Foursquare.

  • Right now I'm checking in with both CauseWorld and Foursquare. That's not going to last. One of them will win out. If Foursquare adds the cause component to it, I'd rather do ten things on Foursquare than one thing on CauseWorld.
  • Niche cause services never seem to take off. I'm not spending a lot of time on GoodSearch, are you? Remember all those portals we could visit before going to sites like L.L. Bean and Amazon, and good causes would get a few pennies every time we bought something? Are you still using them?
  • Thus far consumers prefer to include their causes within a mainstream activity or vehicle. Take Facebook, which has a cause component. While supporting causes via Facebook is still in its infancy, it will grow. I'm not sure the same will be true for a standalone product like CauseWorld.

Think of it in terms of Product RED and its retail partners. Would it be better for RED to have standalone stores filled with cause products? Or is RED better off selling a few products in Starbucks and Apple and Nike? The answer is clear because the mainstream consumerism these retailers offer drives charity sales and RED is the big winner.

Alas, I'm not sure people want a cause world.

But I do think they want a world with causes. And if they can get that on Facebook, or on Foursquare, or in their next visit to Starbucks--things they do everyday for reasons outside of philanthropy--that might preclude a separate tool like CauseWorld.

What do you think?