Foursquare + Mobile Payments = New Cause Marketing Platform

The latest cause marketing program from Foursquare is looking a lot like last year's. Maybe the folks at Foursquare should watch the movie Groundhog Day.

Don't get me wrong, it's all for a great cause, but location-based services like can be used for much more than action-triggered donations.

What if Foursquare could combine a special offer with a mobile payment so that shoppers could check-in an give.

Take the example above of Sports Authority and Boarding for Breast Cancer. If a consumer checks in at a Sport Authority they would get a message that says:

Sports Authority is supporting Boarding for Breast Cancer. Donate a dollar through Foursquare and we'll match your donation up to a total donation of $10,000.

Here comes the cool part. The consumer can donate to the cause directly through Foursquare with the touch of a button. No more asking at the register for shoppers to support a cause. No more paper pinups filling landfills after programs are over.

The store can promote the program, of course, and employees can act as facilitators for it, but there would be no ask at the register and no pinups. It would be passive cause marketing, but better because donating is quick and easy.

I'm also assuming that some stores will be good places for this as some brands will put shoppers in the giving vein. Donate a dollar when you check-in to Whole Foods to support organic farms. Support fair-trade coffee bean farmers when you check-in to Starbucks. Save puppies from the pound when you check-in to your local pet store.

The missing piece is the payment system that would allow shoppers to make an immediate donation. I asked this question at Quora and got some interesting responses on some services like Gifi and FaceCash that might work. The challenge is that none of these are widely adopted enough that retailers or consumers would use them for a cause marketing program.

Another option is text giving. But it means users leaving the Foursquare app, and to my knowledge you can't donate just a buck via text and the fees would eat up a good portion of the donation.

The idea of checking in on Foursquare and making a donation could work in a lot of other settings beside stores.

Check in to Yellowstone National Park on Foursquare and you're asked to donate a buck to the park. Or maybe it's just when you check-in to certain sites within the park like Old Faithful. You could do the same thing with museums, historical sites and colleges.

And there's no reason why companies cannot be involved in these asks with co-branding, incentives and offers of their own.

I like what's been done for causes thus far on Foursquare. But things are starting to get old. It's time to check-in to another venue.

Starbucks Mobile Payments May Give Cause Marketing a Jolt

I love the new mobile payment app from Starbucks. It's great having one less card to carry around (I'm down to a driver's license and a credit card). There's also a total coolness factor, especially when Chris Noble introduced me to the new app several weeks before most people, including most of the staff at Starbucks, knew it was working in stores.

Explaining the technology to the cashier, assuring them it would work if they carefully followed my instructions. Answering the questions of the people in line behind me. I never felt so "in the know" in all my life. God I hope it happens again.

But enough about me.

As Starbucks goes so goes American business. Target has been using this very technology since last February, but I didn't hear about it until the news spread late last year that you could use your smartphone to buy your Starbucks at Target.

This isn't the first time that Starbucks has led adoption.

Starbucks partnership with Product Red put cause marketing on display like no other brand ever did, including the Gap and Apple, and drove the popularity of cause marketing to new heights.

Again last year when Starbucks began offering specials through Foursquare it modeled a new idea for all businesses. Whether you were in a Starbucks or near one the "Specials" banner was not just an offer, but a pitch for all businesses to try Foursquare.

The next frontier is mobility payments. There's certainly a good chance that many businesses will follow suit, especially larger ones like McDonald's that might already have or can quickly put the infrastructure in place.

Some have pointed out that at face value, mobile payments aren't really that much easier than whipping out your Starbucks Gold Card. True, unless your like me and your iPhone is glued to your hand.

But here's something a plastic Starbucks card can't do: it can't marry sales with location.

Catharine Taylor at Social Media Insider last week wrote about the potential connection between mobile payments and Foursquare.

As Starbucks and Foursquare are already partners in commerce, imagine a default that automatically generates a Foursquare check-in when you transact a mobile payment. No work required. No having to append your location when you tweet, or anything like that. That's exactly what I've been looking for! Being able to check in without doing a damn thing!

Maybe that sounds lazy, but we all know that the less work required by the user, the more palatable something becomes. Not only does the potential of marrying mobile payments to check-ins make this a more popular behavior (or non-behavior, since you're not doing anything), it also makes the road just a little smoother to my inevitable claiming of the mayorship of my local Starbucks, with all of the perks that come with it. Seriously though, making check-ins automatic with mobile payments, for those who opt-in, will obviously drive loyalty programs, including ones targeted to those who frequently publicize they are at a local store, becoming an ad vehicle, if you will. There are more ramifications, to be sure, but that's the primary one that jumps to my mind.

Catharine believes that such a marriage would drive adoption of location-based services like Foursquare [Check out what people said when I asked the question at Quora: "How will mobile payments, like those found at Starbucks, and location based services like Foursquare work together?"]

This would be great for cause marketing in several ways.

  1. As I've posted on before, location-based services are a key part of the future of cause marketing. They can inform, remind, educate and direct consumers. While they will never replace the human touch, they engage and reinforce.
  2. While it may seem lazy to let users check-in to Foursquare when they're making a mobile payment, that doesn't mean we can't push notifications back to them. We can share what causes their check-in supported and what else they can do to help. They can also earn the usual array of badges, incentives and karma points for their efforts.
  3. Mike Schneider and Anne Mai Bertelsen wrote a great post in October talking about location-based data mining from multiple stores.

Take this example: if every day a consumer purchases a latte from Starbucks and then walks across the street to Dunkin' Donuts to pick up a turkey sausage flatbread, both companies could benefit from that information. If many customers display similar habits, Starbucks could add a similar breakfast sandwich to their menu or even discontinue their current breakfast fare at that location. That level of data provides a more holistic view of consumer behavior, and could ultimately help brands become more relevant and timely.

Mike and Anne are really on to something here, and linking mobile payments with location would really boost data collection. Causes would also benefit from the intelligence.

If a consumer supports Conservation International at Starbucks and then shops at a fair trade store and picks up a free-range chicken lunch at Whole Foods, maybe that impacts the types of causes they're asked to support when arrive at the register at Target. Or perhaps a standalone business can use customer check-ins and donations in their area to help it pick an appropriate cause partner for a new program.

Mobile payments and location can also work together in other ways. Purchases on your smartphone, for instance, could guide the shopping and restaurant recommendations you get on your Mapquest directions. Or identify causes on your way to the mall that need something you could buy and drop off on your way home.

Mobile payments and location belong together. And cause marketing belongs with both of them.

Foursquare Cause Marketing Starts with Loyalty Programs

Last month during a visit to a Finagle-A-Bagel store in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts to pick up a check for $25,000 from the Finagle team and their owner, Laura Trust, we got talking about social media, specifically, location-based services. Finagle was intrigued with Foursquare and how they could use the service to connect with and reward customers at their nine area stores.

The challenge was Finagle's traditional loyalty program, the Frequent Finagler, which was expensive and it wasn't social. They were eager to replace it with something better.

With just a bit of guidance from me, Finagle developed a new program that they are testing in a couple stores. Social media, and especially Foursquare, is suddenly central to their loyalty strategy. And while it required extra work to get the program up and running, expenses beyond printing the signage for the stores has been minimal.

You may be asking, "Well, that's great, Joe. You sold them on Foursquare and helped them get a program up and running. But there's no mention of cause marketing or even your cause. How do you benefit?"

  1. My efforts help me build a stronger tie with a key partner by demonstrating my commitment to our mutual success.
  2. Finagle's new social media platform gives me a potential lab to experiment with location-based cause marketing. A lot of causes want to try social cause marketing, but adoption of some of these services, especially LBS, is very low with many small businesses. Causes need to be more proactive about educating businesses on these new tools and thus creating more initiatives for themselves.
  3. Working with Finagle gives me a case study on the opportunity of mobile loyalty programs that I can shop to other businesses. Right now I can use Finagle as an example of a business that saw the value of Foursquare when it came to savings thousands of dollars on a traditional loyalty program. Shortly, I hope to add that the change was successful and that customers are using Foursquare to reap their loyalty rewards.

Have you come up short pitching small businesses on cause marketing? Take a step back and start a dialogue about location-based services and how they could save thousands of dollars on a traditional loyalty program and make it social.

Forget hope of gain or profit. Focus on being useful. Give of yourself freely. Your loss just might be your much greater gain.

Happy New Year, Cause Marketing! Love, SCVNGR

Starting yesterday in Times Square Massachusetts-based SCVNGR teamed up with teen clothing retailer American Eagle on a New Year’s program aiming to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

This location-based cause marketing program asks consumers to complete challenges on SCVNGR to raise cash for BBBS. Such challenges include “2010 was…” and players are asked to describe their year, “Spot the Eagle,” which asks them to snap a picture with the eagle on the Times Square billboard and “What’s your resolution,” which asks for 2011 resolutions.

After you complete a challenge, American Eagle donates five bucks to BBBS, which SCVNGR will match.

This is a great test for SCVNGR at the epicenter of location-land, New York City. Times Square has been a test tube for other LBS experiments, and American Eagle is a natural as it woos teens and young adults.

Outside of major cities and social media conferences, LBS seems to be progressing slowly, especially for cause marketing.

I'd love to hear of more examples location-based cause marketing if you have them! I'm dedicating a whole chapter in Cause Marketing for Dummies to LBCM and I'm determined to make it a useful resource to you!

On a separate note, Mike Schneider and Aaron Strout are writing Location-Based Marketing for Dummies and looking for great examples of businesses using Foursquare, Gowalla, SCVNGR and other services.

Keep your eyes peeled and Mike, Aaron and me in mind!

Red Cross Launches First Badge for a Cause on Foursquare

This is exciting and a bit surprising that the American Red Cross is the very first charity to launch a badge on Foursquare. I had the same question as is this really the first Foursquare badge for a cause? If you know of any others let me know.

Getting the badge is a little tricky. But I like that because it makes Foursquare users work for it!

This is what the ARC blog says on getting the badge:

Well, you’re going to have to be at a blood donor site to find out. If you have a smartphone and are not yet a foursquare user, you can sign up using the directions. Next time you’re donating blood, be on the lookout for the instructions to get your badge!

I'm curious how challenging it was working with Foursquare to get the badge. Wendy Harman, director of social media at American Red Cross, commented on Philanthropy that she requested the badge from Foursquare several months ago.

Three to seven months for a badge for one of the largest and most visible nonprofits in the country. How long will it take to get a badge for a regional or local cause?

For now, you might want to stick with some of the strategies I outline here.

Luxury Brands Show Nonprofits How to Strut Their Stuff on Foursquare

Luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo and Oscar de la Renta understand the power of location-based services like Foursquare and can show nonprofits how to maximize geo-location and add some bling to their marketing. Location, location, location. If your nonprofit is a hospital, a museum, an historical site, or a soup kitchen you need to own your location on Foursquare like a luxury brand owns its stores for grand openings and special events. That means encouraging employees, guests and visitors to check-in at your location. Louis Vuitton has over 38,000 friends on Foursquare and takes stores check-ins seriously, like the Foursquare promotion around its London store.

Be a leader. I admire that luxury brands understand they're just not leaders in luxury, they're leaders in culture, taste and society as well. Louis Vuitton promoted its store launch in London by incorporating branded tips on what to do. Here's the tip for London's Borough's Market.

Do visit this bustling food market where top London chefs come to buy their ingredients. If you don’t find it here, where will you? Open from Thursday to Saturday, but come early to avoid the crowds!

Why can't causes be leaders in their respective areas. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston could leave Foursquare tips on art attractions around the city. Mass General Hospital could leave tips on healthy places to eat, exercise or even walk at lunch. Community Servings, which delivers hot meals to the needy, could offer tips on great bakeries.

Target the masses. The benefit of all these tips outside of your physical location is you get exposure with people the might not have been to the  MFA, seen a doctor at MGH or bought a pie from Community Servings. That's just what these luxury brands have in mind when they use Foursquare, and they've created entry-level products to woo new customers.

Use check-ins to support donor loyalty. Just as luxury brands are active in rewarding customers with special perks when they check-in--like the tickets Marc Jacobs gave away above--nonprofits can use check-ins to thank donors. For example, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston could encourage donors via their newsletter to sign-up for Foursquare. The next time they check-in at the ICA they could get free admission to a special exhibit.

Location-based services have become a necessity for luxury brands that want to promote their locations, be a leader, solicit new business and reward the faithful. The opposite is true for nonprofits. They still believe that services like Foursquare are a luxury they can live without.

But this is one instance that causes should splurge.