Foursquare FTW

I am a pretty big fan of Foursquare. I have personally tried to be an advocate of the platform in my city for a long time now. A lot of people have been skeptical, some simply haven't heard about it and some are not sure how to fully utilize it.

Foursquare just gave everyone two more reasons to fall in love with the service ...

Visa and MasterCard.

 They are kicking things off with a U.S-wide BK partnership.

They are kicking things off with a U.S-wide BK partnership.

According to Foursquare's latest blog post:

To make saving money even easier, we’re working with First Data and CardSpring to expand our seamless credit card specials to Visa, Mastercard, and debit cards.

Here are three reasons why this is HUGE for Foursquare and its existing - and future - userbase: 

  1. Even more valuable specials - Some venues may already be offering some form of monetary discount as a special; however, now they have the opportunity to team up with credit card companies to offer even more. This also means they can be creative and potentially use other types of specials for non-monetary rewards. They could use the specials to build-in some fun for the brand e.g. A fast-food restaurant could use a loyalty special to giveaway a free t-shirt! 
  2. Spending metrics - Venues will now have the ability to see how specials tie into purchases. This can give them some serious insight into which products are popular among certain users - simply by combining the Foursquare venue demographics with purchases to tell a story. This kind of understanding could help in future product development and marketing e.g. If venue managers realize that males aged 18-24 are most likely to purchase X product, then that product could be further improved for that specific demographic. The company may also choose to begin a marketing campaign around that product targeted specifically to that demographic. 
  3. Removing friction - The really interesting feature of credit card based specials are that they can be redeemed without the additional required interaction with an employee at the venue. On previous occasions, this interaction may have caused friction due to an employee not knowing about the special. Although this does remove a barrier for the consumer, I strongly believe that venue owners should make all of their staff aware of these specials even though they do not have to be involved in the redemption process. I believe this is important because it gives employees a tid-bit of knowledge that they can then share with consumers to allow consumers to have an even more valuable experience. 

I simply cannot wait to see more credit card based Foursquare specials come up. I am very, very excited for the future of this platform. Foursquare ... for the win.

The New Impulse Purchase

 Yes, they talk to each other. Easily.

Yes, they talk to each other. Easily.

You know that moment when you've spent a whole bunch of time in the supermarket, then you come up to the checkout and those chocolate bars look soooo tempting? They are on sale too! Sale = must buy.

You give in.

Why did you give in?

It was easy. It was right there! What's another 88 cents on to your $65 or higher grocery bill? You also gave it because it was science my friend. The science of decision fatigue.

Now let me paint you a slightly different, yet very similar picture.

You come home after a long day at work, a really long day. Perhaps you have dinner, perhaps you're too tired to even do that right now and you just want to crash on the couch for a few minutes, maybe even take a quick nap.

You turn on the TV ... you mindlessly watch. Then you come across a commercial that looks like a slightly modified version of this (same call to action though):

amex-tv-commercial-of-the-future

You've wanted an e-reader for a while, this deal looks great. You pick up your phone and you tweet: #BuyKindleFireHD

You give in.

Why did you give in?

It was easy! Your phone was right there!

Have American Express and Twitter just created a way for consumers to make new impulse purchases? I will certainly be keeping an eye on the future of this program to find out. If you're interested, Danny Sullivan from MarketingLand.com wrote a terrific post about his whole experience with this new service.

Happy shopping.

The TV of The Future

Earlier today, a co-worker of mine shows me this ... 

 Yes, it's this small. 

Yes, it's this small. 

 Micro-USB charging port and USB port.

Micro-USB charging port and USB port.

 HDMI-out port.

HDMI-out port.

 "Remote" and THE device. 

"Remote" and THE device. 

If you're into this kind of thing ... you may already know what this is and for you this post may simply be the musings of a kid in a candy store who's just discovered how good pretzel M&M's are. 

However ...

If you're NOT into this kind of thing ... let me explain what it is that I was holding in my hands earlier today. It can actually be summarized in the following simple two words:

"The ... Future."

More specifically this is an Android 4.1 Dual-Core Cortex A9 1GB DDR3 4GB ROM Mini PC with Wi-Fi and HDMI. 

You read that correctly my friend ... this is a computer.

Rather than me explain to you how it works, let's just say ... we found a screen that had an HDMI input, plugged it in ... made sure the device was powered (see image 2) and this is what ensued:

Now, you might be wondering how much does such a device (excluding the remote) cost? Well ... here: Device and remote. You do the math. Yes this site imports the goods from China but you will notice shipping to Canada is free so ... again ... you do the math. 

I did the math. It's a little over $70. In words that's: s-e-v-e-n-t-y d-o-l-l-a-r-s.

If you re-arrange the words seventy dollars it spells: DISRUPTION.

Well. You get the idea.

Ok, enough of these one sentence game-changing lines, let me actually tell you three ways in which this single device could bring about a new future for consumers:

  1. Your media everywhere - Android is Google and Google is pervasive. This device is so small that it can be carried anywhere and plugged into anything with an HDMI input. You literally have a movie player, gaming console and general entertainment center with you in your pocket. Yes, I realize I could have just describe a smartphone; however, this device is not meant to replace a smartphone, it is meant to complement it. 
  2. An app ecosystem - My co-worker also showed me how he could be working from his laptop, hop over to the Google play store, download an app and have the app load on to his "TV" (mini-computer) and then next time he plugs in his mini-computer ... it's there!
  3. A single entertainment source - Think about the generation that is growing up today, the pre-teens who derive a whole lot of their entertainment from YouTube. To them the cloud is intuitive. To them this device may make immediate sense, because really this device can be everywhere and can contain everything they need from an entertainment standpoint. Just imagine what will happen once YouTube original content hits the tipping point. 

i haven't even talked about the marketing/advertising implications around this but I am more interested in how Google will market this product. This is not a mainstream product yet, in fact I would argue is it at the fringes of the adoption-innovation curve. If Google decides to keep this price point low, this device fits almost perfectly into Clay Christensen's theory of disruptive innovation.

It will be so interesting to see how a device like this brings about new ways to actually view the content on this device. Will we see micro-projectors become mainstream? Will we see, big display TV's become much simpler with lower price points and simply just contain HDMI inputs as their functionality? 

I am so excited for what this future holds. Go #disruption. 

The Microsoft Channel

Microsoft may have just put another piece in place to create the ultimate platform.

Transient

Microsoft is getting into original programming.

It's going to start with content aimed at the core Xbox audience; however, it will most likely evolve from there to other audiences and users of the Xbox.

Much like YouTube original programming, this announcement by Microsoft is a game-changer for the future of television. It also places Microsoft in an extremely powerful position as it will own a significant part of the content supply chain (the hardware, the software and the content creation itself). 

Here are some reasons why this move allows Microsoft to come closer to becoming the ultimate platform:

  1. Content created with the device in mind - The Xbox is interactive. A show could potentially become interactive ... how? Who knows. It is yet to be invented. The point is, the technology exists so it's just a matter of time until it actually happens.
  2. Advertising relevance will be made easy - Microsoft can offer advertisers something very, very enticing ... they know the kind of audience consuming a program ... and they have control over the interface through which that audience is consuming this program. This means ... if a show is talking about an app ... a download button could hypothetically appear on the screen, you could wave your hand, point to it and then it could start downloading directly to your Windows Phone. Not only will this change the way consumers interact with ads but it will also change the very notion of how ads are created. Value in advertising will become far more prevalent.
  3. The Xbox becomes an all-in-one device - No more cable, no more blu-ray player, no more multiple remotes. A TV ... and an Xbox. If Microsoft gets into TVs then they suddenly start selling living rooms. All the content you need: games, programs, the web ... all can be easily accessed through one device ... and due to the nature of the cloud, this device could theoretically move with you through your Windows Phone or even your Surface tablet.
The Microsoft Channel ... coming soon to a TV near you.

The New Platform

I am constantly impressed by Rovio's ability to innovate. A long time ago, I wrote a post about what your brand can learn from Angry Birds. Today, Rovio continues to give us reasons to admire them. Most recently the Company announced the launch of a new cartoon series. However, unlike most cartoons, this one won't debut the traditional way ... it will instead debut on the app itself... and wherever that app can be found.

 grr.

grr.

Fast Company has some good coverage of this news, you should give it a quick glance. In the article, there is a quote from the CMO of Rovio that really struck me ..

"If we want to distribute cartoons on Saturday mornings globally, we can do that. We don’t have to talk to 100 broadcasters--we can stick it on our own channels, and it’s there."

Take a second to re-read that.

This quote illustrates the future of both content distribution and content consumption. It may even go so far as to hint at the future of content creation. 

Content needs to add value to a consumer's life. Even if that value just comes in the form of mindless entertainment, it still has to be entertaining enough to be considered valuable by the consumer. Rovio's consumers are already receiving value. By downloading Angry Birds, they have given permission to Rovio to deliver valuable experiences to them. Rovio is now planning on adding even more value to that relationship. The genius of it all is that Rovio is using its own platform to deliver this new value.

How can you create a platform for your brand? What value will you offer on that platform?

Angry Birds is no longer just a game.

It's a platform.

The blank billboard

Imagine seeing this ...

 The billboard of the future

The billboard of the future

Last week, I read an article about the impact that Google Glass might potentially have on advertising and it got me thinking about the picture above.

Google right now does not have plans for advertising on this device; however, this does not mean that the device cannot serve as a potential 'lens' to see ads through.

Here's a future I can imagine:

You're walking down a street and you see a billboard that looks like what's shown above. You may have on some Google Glass eyewear or else you simply take out your smartphone and whip out an app that can help you decode this billboard. The billboard can then be programmed to display a number of things:

1. An ad that is specifically targeted to you - Based on your search history or browsing history or +1s, Google may eventually understand you so well that it can serve you up a highly-targeted location-aware ad. The billboards will know what's around them. When and ad gets served, it can count as an impression so that marketers can keep track of conversion metrics too.

2. Something pre-configured by you - What if Google announced they were going to put these billboards out in the world and gave you the ability to pre-configure the content on them. You could log in to your Google+ account and set up some things that you would ideally like to see on those billboards and that way when you see them out in the wild, they may actually serve up some value to you. E.g. What if you selected a movie genre and said, I would like to see the latest movie trailer for this genre.

The possibilities are only limited by the geniuses that work at Google; therefore, they are practically endless.

A logical consumer will always choose to receive a message of value. This future will essentially make it easy and almost essential for marketers to deliver that value to consumers, exactly when they ask for it.

The day I see a blank billboard ... I'll be excited.

The poetic dance

Startups, tech behemoths and Consumer Packaged Goods (CPGs) giants are well entrenched in a poetic dance.

Transient

Here are a couple of examples that add some credibility to my lofty thought:

1. The Mobile Futures program started by Mondelez - Nine mobile-focused startups have been chosen to augment the marketing strategy for brands such at Trident, Chips Ahoy!, Stride, Oero, Halls and Sour Patch Kids.

2. Samsung's next generation smart fridge -This fridge basically takes care of itself ... and you in the process. It comes with an assortment of useful apps to help you manage your groceries and among other things, Samsung has partnered with Unilever to occasionally promote coupons for Unilever products through the fridge's interface.

What does this poetic dance mean for marketers?

A new kind of marketing innovation.

Technology has reached the point now where it can tell what is about to expire in your fridge. In other words, technology knows when you are at your most vulnerable ... from a marketing standpoint. It has even reached the stage where it can potentially deliver you a coupon at the precise moment at which you need it.

I have a feeling that technology may make consumers more passive about consuming marketing messages. This is simply because consumers will just allow technology to do the work for them. The days of looking through a coupon book will be long gone, coupons will appear in relevant places (such as your mobile phone), when you need them and not a moment sooner.

Marketer's have a chance to innovate here.

If consumer behaviour is evolving to the point where a piece of technology becomes almost like an extra appendage, marketers must then add value to consumers' lives through that appendage. Maybe innovation looks like delivering a relevant coupon when a consumer needs it most, or maybe its teaching children how to be entrepreneurs via a 'run your own Oreo cookie stand' app. Who knows. 

As both a consumer and a marketer, I am very excited to see what new revolutions this poetic dance brings.

Fotobars - The new frontier in utility marketing

Transient

I am not sure where I first came across the term 'utility marketing,' but the meaning of it is fairly straightforward. A lot of apps follow this model, when brands produce them to simply enhance or augment a customer's experience rather than actually provide a good or service. For example: An app that provides a catalog or a map of a location has great utility to those who seek that type of information.

This past week, I came across a story about Polaroid and their plans to open up a series of retail locations called 'Fotobars.' These bars let people come in and print photos that have been stored on their phones.

From a utility marketing perspective, here's why this strategy is interesting:

  1. People love taking pictures (as evidenced by Instagram's meteoric rise), so Fotobars are simply providing an outlet for people to take their enjoyment to the next level.
  2. Polaroid doesn't make phones, nor does it necessarily own the photo-taking apps. Fotobars are simply providing a platform on which people can use their existing products. In a way, Polaroid is essentially product agnostic, much like the Amazon Kindle app.

The next time you are considering a marketing plan or perhaps you are even thinking about how to revitalize a current product using a new marketing strategy ... consider utility.