How One Business Could Use iBeacon for Cause Marketing


I've written before about how interested I am in iBeacon. The technology involves short range sensors that share information with a customer's mobile device. It can be something as simple as a welcome message when you enter a store.  


But businesses will use iBeacon in all sorts of ways.

One business planning to give iBeacon a try is Rhode Island-based jeweler Alex and Ani. They just inked a deal with Swirl, a company based right here in Boston. Swirl will help the retailer deploy and use iBeacon in its 40 retail locations.

I'm not privy to how Alex and Ani will use Swirl's iBeacon services in its stores, but they could use them for their cause-related efforts. The jeweler has a well-known and successful Charity by Design program that features bangle bracelets for charity.

For example, 20 percent from each sale of the Hero Charm Bangle supports Rhode Island's Hasbro Children's Hospital.


Here are a few ways that Alex and Ani could use iBeacon for cause marketing.

  • When customers enter a store, iBeacon could send them a message about the Charity by Design program.
  • As they browse the store, iBeacon could notify shoppers when they're in front of the Charity by Design case (Yep, iBeacon is that sensitive!).
  • When stoppers linger near the Charity by Design case, iBeacon could give them the option to watch a short video on one of the charities the bracelets support.
  • iBeacon could inform shoppers of a new design of their favorite bracelet.
  • iBeacon could inform the sales team that a Charity by Design customer has entered the store.
  • iBeacon could promote a separate fundraising event for one of their charity partners.
  • iBeacon could make suggestions on which jewelry goes best with a bracelet.
  • iBeacon could notify shoppers of an additional donation if they buy that day.
  • With iBeacon, shoppers could buy a bracelet right on their mobile device. They could also make an additional donation to the charity, and Alex and Ani could reward them with a coupon for their next visit.

Alex and Ani decided to launch an iBeacon program after a very successful trial run of iBeacon and Swirl's services. They're bullish on iBeacon. I am too. But I'm even more excited about the potential for cause marketing and iBeacon. Stay tune! 

Radio Shack Shows Nonprofits How to Succeed on Foursquare

Radio Shack reminds me of a lot of the local, scrappy nonprofits I work with. The Shack is big - nearly 4,500 company-operated stores - but it has a local feel to it. Maybe it's because you'll find them in local malls, strip malls and downtown business districts.

With competitors such as Best Buy, Walmart and, Radio Shack is certainly an underdog. It's like saying your competitors this holiday season are St. Jude Children's Research, The Salvation Army and Toys for Tots. Radio Shack knows what it's like to be constantly competing against the big guys to eke out a profit.

One area in which Radio Shack is winning big is on Foursquare. It started the summer of 2010 when Radio Shack joined the location-based service. It accelerated over the holidays that year with its Holiday Heroes campaign on Foursquare.

In just 60 days Radio Shack went from zero followers to 20,000.

Last spring, the chain announced that Foursquare customers spent three times more than regular customers.

Today, The Shack's Foursquare following has grown to 63,000. If last December's success is a yardstick, they'll recruit even more followers with their So Right holiday promotion this month. For each badge earned, RadioShack will donate $1 to LIVESTRONG, the cancer charity founded by Radio Shack spokesman Lance Armstrong.

But how can this be? Such success from a company who's CEO once admitted that he had no idea how the electronics store chain stayed in business. Now Radio Shack really sounds like a lot of the nonprofits I work with!

The good news is that nonprofits share more with Radio Shack than just my sympathies. Like The Shack's eclectic product mix that has somehow kept the chain in business, its Foursquare success is all about having the right mix of audience, location, marketing and good old fashioned DIY know-how.

Does your nonprofit have what it takes to be the next "Shack" on Foursquare?

Are your supporters inclined to use Foursquare? Don't be fooled into thinking that all those grandmothers you thought shopped at Radio Shack suddenly jumped onto Foursquare. It didn't happen. The Shack tapped into a natural, existing audience for the service: smartphone-toting Generation Yers that know more about apps than algebra. Radio Shack isn't quite the DIY electronics store it was when I was a kid. It sells a lot of phones now and attracts a younger crowd.

Does your nonprofit speak or cater to a younger crowd? Is your nonprofit more like than the Arthritis Foundation? You might be a natural for Foursquare. Think young and/or geeky.

Are you a Foursquare expert? Radio Shack prides itself on its knowledgeable salesforce. Not only can they match the right phone to your needs and budget, but they can show you how to download the Foursquare app and how to use it when you shop with them.

Are you active on Foursquare and know how to use it? Or are you as clueless about Foursquare as most people are? You need to be the expert so you can spread the news to your supporters.

Are you active on social media in general? Radio Shack just didn't sign up for Foursquare, they use everything, which supports their Foursquare efforts. The Shack has combined Foursquare with Twitter's Promoted Trends and positioned Facebook as its social epicenter. Foursquare is tagged on their blog, YouTube videos, e-mails and some of its Web campaigns.

Is your nonprofit already blogging, tweeting and Facebooking? Your nonprofit's social media strategy shouldn't begin and end with Foursquare. You need to have the whole package.

Are you focusing your Foursquare promotion on deals, specials and discounts? Radio Shack is, which explains why they're doing so well on Foursquare. They're not sharing "important dates in Shack history" on the service. They're offering "Check-in Specials" and "Newbie Specials" and special offers for mayors. It's all about saving dough (or, in the case of the So Right badge, helping a great cause).

You probably see the sense of offering a special on Foursquare if your nonprofit is a museum or historical site. But any nonprofit can have a special offer when it's tied to a cause marketing promotion. If you're working on a campaign with a chain of department stores in your area, offer shoppers a check-in special on Foursquare that includes a donation to your cause. You'll learn what The Shack learned: people love deals and will even embrace new technology to get them.

Are you spreading your net wide? Radio Shack isn't waiting for shoppers to come into their stores to check-in to Foursquare. Users of the service don't have to follow Radio Shack to be alerted of its special offers. If one of its stores is the closest available merchant deal on the platform, users will see a "Special Nearby" icon in the upper right-hand corner of their screen. When they click, offer details and the store's location take over the screen.

Are you tapping the foot traffic around your nonprofit? That's why they call Foursquare location-based marketing. The marketing happens where your supporters are.

Are you sure you can't afford Foursquare? Radio Shack loves Foursquare because it's FREE! Using the platform, creating specials and rewarding mayors costs nothing. Badges aren't free but you don't have to start with them.

What are you waiting for?

Is your nonprofit "The Shack" of the nonprofit world? I'd love to hear how you plan to use Foursquare in the coming new year!

Foursquare, Cause Marketing Find Home with Housing Charity

I love this cause marketing promotion from a UK housing charity that brings together eight Edinburgh thrift shops with the leading location-based service, Foursquare.

It capitalizes on a physical location. Shelter Scotland helps people with all sorts of housing problems from homelessness to poor living conditions. 16 percent of Shelter's annual donations come from its two dozen thrift shops throughout Scotland. Not all nonprofits are destinations for shoppers or visitors. But the ones that are should follow Shelter's lead and tap Foursquare, which just isn't for nonprofits that are cultural institutions and museums. What about thrift-store giant Goodwill or a busy historical attraction like the Freedom Trail in Boston? Foursquare should be part of their [cause] marketing too.

Shelter jumped in with both feet. They launched the program in eight stores to start and created a great video to educate supporters about the campaign and how to use Foursquare. Shelter isn't assuming anything. They're building a Foursquare promotion one user at a time and are not giving people a reason to say no (e.g. "I've never heard of Foursquare." "I don't know how to use it.")

Shelter also developed real benefits for users that regularly checked-in to their stores. They’re offering a buy two, get one free special for both newbies and for loyal customers on every sixth check-in.

I also like how Foursquare users can earn cool badges from a noted designer. Shelter even created a unique badge for each store. Those who collect all eight will be entered into a contest to win prints of the designs.

The folks at Shelter really gave this promotion some forethought and didn't skimp on the details.

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The promotion has room to grow. Shelter is off to a great start and can develop the promotion in  a couple ways. The charity has a number of corporate partnerships they could add to the promotion. In exchange for a co-marketing opportunity on Shelter's Foursquare page a company could make a donation for each check-in. The real opportunity, however, is for Shelter to create Foursquare promotions for businesses--preferably ones with lots of locations--and include a cause marketing component that will benefit the charity. Companies would profit from Shelter's expertise and the housing chartiy would profit from sharing it.

Shelter was smart to focus on smartphone users. Now's not the the time to question the merits of mobile. Trust me, its future is as bright as the printing press! However, Shelter shouldn't stop with Foursquare. What about SMS? Those who read me regularly know that SMS is my new cause marketing darling so bear with me. Adoption rates for location-based services such as Foursquare are low and growing slowly. Adding a text component to Shelter's mobile promotion might make sense.

Use SMS for reach--because it's the ring that everyone answers--and then a QR code, landing page, application such as Foursquare for a richer media experience. SMS is the messenger that will tell mobile users that supporting Shelter Scotland and earning rewards for themselves is just a check-in away.

The Future of Location-Based Cause Marketing Unfolds with CheckPoints

CheckPoints, a new iPhone application, allows you to check-in to retail locations and view advertised products. You can then scan product barcodes for points and redeem them for rewards like gift cards and gadgets.

Just think of the potential for cause marketing. You check-in to a store and part of the advertised products featured are cause products. Maybe for a week in October "pink" products are featured by Checkpoints. When you scan the product's barcode, you get information on the product and breast cancer awareness. If you make a purchase, the manufacturer and/or retailer donates to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

CheckPoints already allows shoppers to donate their points to nine causes.

Check out the video at top and you'll see there are lots of ways to involve and reward causes.

CheckPoints' initial partners include Tyson Foods, Belkin, Energizer and Seventh Generation. But I'm curious how the service will evolve for local businesses.

We all may want to read this article as a reality check.

What we're all waiting for is adoption. The user base for LBS is still tiny. Although there are nearly a billion unique users of social media worldwide, the 400 pound gorilla in LBS, Foursquare, is at four million users and climbing. I think we can all agree that LBS for shopping will be huge moving forward, but it will take time for the space to evolve.

So, if LBS really is going to take off, what's that mean for you? What should you do next? Find ways to use location-based cause marketing so you don't fall behind. I have a couple suggestions here, and I've devoted a whole category of my blog to location-based cause marketing.

Cone Study to Local Nonprofits: Now is the Time for Cause Marketing

One of the conclusions that can be drawn from the 2010 Cause Evolution Study is that at no point in the history of cause marketing has there been a better time than now for local causes and companies to work together on point-of-sale and cause-related products. Here are the reasons why.

Americans want MORE cause marketing

83%. That's the number of Americans that wish more of the products, services and retailers they used would support causes.

Americans also think that company support for causes is acceptable (88%) and they reward those companies with a positive image (85%) .

Cause  Marketing Differentiates Brands and Drives Sales

The number of Americans that have said they bought a product because it was associated with a cause has doubled since 1993 (41%).

Cause adds value at every turn. 1 in 5 consumers will pay more for a cause-related product. A cause will prompt 61% to try a product they've never heard of. And a whopping 80% of consumers would switch to a brand that supports a cause when price and quality are equal.

Moms & Millennials Rule Cause Marketing, and Are Ruled By It

Moms are the household shoppers and Millennials are the hipster shoppers of the moment and the household consumers of tomorrow. Both are heavily drawn to cause marketing and are fans of the practice. They are the key consumers for many businesses and the donors of today and tomorrow.

Consumers Want Companies to Act Locally

46% of Americans believe that companies should focus on issues that impact local communities. While this is down from 55% in 1993, it still represents the largest area of interest for Americans. National is 37% and global is 17%. I suspect that the declining percentages in local may just reflect what consumers are seeing in the marketplace, which is lots of national (e.g. Komen) and global (e.g. Product RED) cause marketing.

But it's clear from the Cone Study that consumers prefer local cause marketing. 91% said that companies should support an issue in the communities where they do business.

Consumers Prefer Transactional Cause Marketing

Shoppers prefer point-of-sale (81%) and cause-related products (75%). This is great news for local nonprofits and businesses as they both have an easy point of entry for causes and businesses of all sizes.

Frontline Employees are the Key to Cause Marketing Success

70% of Americans said they are more likely to make a donation if an employee recommends it, which makes employees critical to the success of point-of-sale and cause-related products. Employee education and training in causes is key and causes with a local presence have the edge, if they will only take advantage of it.

Hyper-Local is the Future of Cause Marketing

As Cone reports, CauseWorld, Foursquare, Facebook Places and QR codes (ahem, thanks for reading guys) will change the in-store cause marketing experience for consumers. More importantly, the tools and opportunity they offer will be as much available to local nonprofits and businesses as they are to national causes and retailers.


Focus on building your brand. Nothing will be more critical in distinguishing your cause from other causes, both local and national, and building your connection with consumers.

Learn how to do transactional cause marketing. Shoppers prefer point-of-sale and cause-related products, which is great news because these are the two most lucrative tactics for raising money for your nonprofit through cause marketing.

Here's an example of our last transactional cause marketing program.

Here's how you can learn to do transactional cause marketing for a very reasonable price.

Frontline employees are key. Focus on educating and motivating your partner's employees. You might also want to consider using incentives

Check-in with location-based marketing. Not only will LBM be a huge part of cause marketing moving forward, but knowing it will give you an edge over other causes, again both local and national, who are stuck in an offline world.

Start by reading these posts. If I could recommend one location-based service it would be Foursquare. If you have time for a second, Facebook Places. I've written on both.


Choose a cause. One that you really care about and want to share with your customers. Some companies make the mistake of starting with a cause their customers care about. But if your management team and frontline employees don't connect with the cause they won't promote it to customers. Work inside out.

Choose a cause marketing program. Will it be point-of-sale or a cause-related product? Do some research and email me your questions.

Learn how to do transactional cause marketing. Shoppers prefer point-of-sale and cause-related products, which is great news because these are the two most lucrative tactics for raising money for causes.

Here's an example of my last transactional cause marketing program.

Here's how you can learn to do transactional cause marketing for a very reasonable price.

Frontline employees are key. Focus on educating and motivating your employees. Working with your cause partner, you might also want to consider using incentives

Join the location-based marketing bandwagon. It will be worth it. You'll find lots of ways to use LBM in addition to cause marketing. LBM will be a big part of small business marketing moving forward and knowing how to use it will give you an edge in business.

Start by reading these posts. If I could recommend one location-based service it would be Foursquare. If you have time for a second, Facebook Places. I've written on both.

A simple cause marketing promotion for Foursquare is to set up an offer so when customers check-in they get a notice that the sale of a product will benefit a cause.

Cone's newest study is exciting news. The Evolution Study will hopefully spawn a new generation of cause marketing partnerships between local causes and businesses. Their success will be a test of the survival of the fittest. Will you be one of the winners?

Better Cause Marketing with Facebook Places

If you're a cause marketer or fundraiser that's been waiting to check-in to location-based services, now may be the time as the biggest and most popular social networking site, Facebook, has just rolled out Places. All you need to get started with Places is a Facebook account, which like 500,000 million people out there you probably already have, and an iPhone.

I like Aaron Strout's point that Place was made for the masses, not the early-adopter geeks who jumped on to Foursquare, Gowally and Whrrl. So it's very easy to use.

However, there are some things you should know.

Watch this video from Facebook. "Why Check-in"

Safety-first. Do you want the whole world to know where you are? It's a good question because on Facebook there is no opt-in to Places. All your "friends" will know where you are, unless you tell Facebook otherwise.

Check out Beth Kanter's post on privacy concerns and, if you're in the Witness Protection Program, how to disable Places.

For a squeamish tale on the downside of Places read How to Almost Sabotage a Dinner Party with Facebook Places.

Places will be a good thing. For both businesses and nonprofits. Check out this post from Duct Tape Marketing on why Places is kind of big deal.

Claim your nonprofit. Whenever someone check-ins to a location or adds a new one to Facebook places, it creates a page for that business or nonprofit that can then be claimed. Not just anyone can claim a page. You have to submit the right paperwork to Facebook for approval. Here are some details.

Follow the guru. I've written a lot on location-based services, but the person to follow and learn from on Facebook Places is John Haydon. He's the expert on how nonprofits can best leverage Facebook for fun and profit. His site is sure to have the latest and greatest info on Places.

What questions do you have about Facebook Places? How do you plan to use it for fundraising?