LBS News of the Week: December 2

The biggest news of the week this week are the reports from CNN Money that Gowalla has been purchased by Facebook. This makes sense on a lot of different levels, especially if the Gowalla talent will help the Facebook team build out their recently announced timeline. If this is in fact true, a BIG congrats to the good people over at Gowalla — in particular, Josh Williams, Andy Elwood and Pia Burone.

Next up, apparently foursquare checkins on Black Friday were more impressive than originally thought.  Earlier in the week, a report from Chris Copeland of GroupM all but pronounced foursquare (and location-based services) dead. Recent data from AdAge shows data to the contrary to Chris’s claim and in fact validates that mainstream retailers like Wal-mart, in fact enjoyed quite a bit of “check-in” love on Black Friday.

Last but not least, the re-launch of location-based service, Path, has arrived to much fanfare for those that care about such services (like Mike and me). For one, it has a slick (and much more intuitive) UI. Finding friends feels easier this go around as well. With Gowalla (potentially) out of the picture, one has to ask if Path may be its heir apparent?

LBM4DTV Episode 4: Josh Williams on Data Driven Stories

Josh Williams of Gowalla talks about content.

LBM4DTV Episode 3: Josh Williams of Storytelling and APIs

Gowalla Co-founder and CEO Josh Williams talks about location-based marketing 1.0, gamification, checking in, the items experiment, the economy of virtual items, the consumer value and more.

The Glee Project, GetGlue and Shazam, Oh My!

Jennifer Kavanagh, SVP Digital, Oxygen Media

One of the features Mike and I will be providing on this blog are interviews with actual LBS business practitioners. Our first interview features Oxygen Media’s SVP of Digital, Jennifer Kavanagh. At Oxygen, Jennifer is charged with leading digital initiatives on all existing and emerging platforms. This specific interview talks about some of Oxygen Network’s latest “experiments” in the digital/location-based space using cutting edge services like GetGlue and Shazam.

Jen, tell us a little about your role at NBC/Oxygen?
I oversee Oxygen’s digital platforms and initiatives. The team is responsible for developing strategies, content, functionality and partnerships that deepen our audience’s relationship with Oxygen’s shows and talent.

These experiences span the wired web as well as mobile web, apps, iTV & more. One of our better-known initiatives is our award winning co-viewing experience, which allows fans to watch their favorite Oxygen show’s each week live with talent and other fans.

We program primarily to women 18-34 who are obsessed with television and addicted to social media so the possibilities become endless.

How long have you been doing digital marketing?
I’ve been working in digital for over 16 years. I started as a designer, then developed for a while and eventually discovered a passion for helping brands transform their businesses through the use of existing and emerging technologies. I’ve been on both the agency side and the client side throughout my career. I’ve worked with many different industry verticals and have been involved in hyper-driven efficiency planning through affiliate marketing management to awareness driven branding initiatives. I’m glad to be in TV now, it’s where it’s at.

Recently, you Oxygen (and Spike TV) announced a deal with music sampling/recognition app, Shazam. The idea is to capture embedded “shazamable” moments within the broadcasts of shows like “The Glee Project.” Can you talk about the project?
There was a really special moment in each episode in which the winner of the homework assignment (the challenge at the top of the show) won one-on-one time with a celebrity mentor from the Glee cast. This gave them an edge before the main competition later in the show that would ultimately decide who went home. The scenes were amazing, funny and heartfelt and we KNEW the audience would want to see more than the few minutes we were able to fit into each episode.

As we explored ways to deliver this content, Shazam surfaced. They’d gone beyond just music tagging and could now tag shows and unlock an experience like the one we wanted to create. We wanted the experience to feel seamless and special…as well as timely.

We also knew that our audience was likely to have used Shazam before for music so we wouldn’t have to do much explaining around how to participate.


We prompted viewers to “get ready to Shazam” before the scene to ensure they had time to get their smartphone ready (as if it weren’t surgically implanted to their palm already). Then, as the scene was playing, viewers got the call to action on screen to “Shazam now”. In doing so, they were able to get access to the extended version of the scene they were watching right at that moment.

After they were able to successfully unlock the scene, they also had the opportunity to browse more content around The Glee Project via direct links to the mobile site.

What was the strategy behind the content you connected viewers to once they “Shazamed” the “hot spots” in the show?
Shazam actually proved to be a solution to an existing problem. We already knew that we wanted to deliver more of this special scene each week but that it had to attempt to follow the linear flow of the show. Shazam gave us the means to deliver it that was new and fit the criteria of timeliness and being in context.

What has the reaction been so far?
It was important to us to make a promise and then keep it all season long. The opportunity existed in every episode and was executed the exact same way. Anytime we’re introducing a new experience to the audience, we like everything else (the implementation, the language, the rhythm) to be as simple as possible. The tagging activity by episode followed other episodic metrics closely. For instance, a big episode, with a cast favorite, will likely drive more digital activity around that week…

Shazam was no exception.

Let’s talk a little bit about GetGlue… how much of a role do you see this unique location-based service playing in your future?
Well, we’re on our third show where fans can earn exclusive stickers weekly for checking In to our shows. The Glee Project was the #8 most checked into show of the summer and Bad Girls Club season 7 just passed the 100k check-in mark so, so far so good!

We’ve always known that media is something our audience is passionate about. I just wasn’t sure how important it would be to her to “check into it” in this way – given the results we’ve seen so far, we now know it’s something she likes to do. I love it as a platform to reward our viewers. We create and offer custom episodic stickers that they can earn for checking in this week. It’s a gaming mechanism (action/reward) that also has a social amplification layer to it e.g. “@jenkavs just checked into @TheGleeProject!

It’s also an innovative opportunity for our advertisers. They have the chance to be part of this fun, frequent and highly engaged activity as well. Verizon sponsored all of the GetGlue check-ins for The Glee Project. Their brand appeared on all of the on air spots reminding viewers to “check in now to earn this week’s exclusive sticker”….they also had their brand travel into our viewers social graphs so the earned media potential was high.
e.g. @jenkavs just checked into The Glee Project and earned the “Super Fan” Sticker – brought to you by Verizon

Are there any unique campaigns/badges/offers coming down the pike (for you and GetGlue)?
Yes, we’re planning our next execution against a new show called Bachelorette Party: Las Vegas. That should be a fun one…I can just imagine the stickers now. We’re also a beta partner for their analytics platform. We’re metric obsessed so we’re thrilled to be able to get visibility into how our audience is engaging quickly and easily.

What other LBS opportunities are you seeing for LBS and broadcast television?
When you say “seeing,” I’m going to answer with what I think are fun opportunities that may not have happened yet…

This may sound crazy but given my obsession with co-viewing at Oxygen I could see LBS platforms being key in “eventizing” tv shows again. I think you and I agreed that there is an element of serendipity that should be preserved in order for any of these social experiences to be special. Could LBS drive the next craze in spontaneous offline viewing parties?

I also love the movie Nick & Norah’s infinite playlist, where they run around following clues to where their favorite band will be playing that night. That could be a fun show. What if the clues were delivered when you arrived at different locations as prompted by the LBS? It’s kinda like the Amazing Race but probably in a more urban setting and with easier terrain ;-). Think of the sponsored integration opps! Imagine if it were live!

5 Reasons Location-Based Services Benefit Customers

Originally posted on on 9/3.
Two days ago, I wrote a post about “location” being the last third of the “holy trinity of data” for marketers. In the post, I explained why Facebook’s move away from check-ins wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. In writing the post, however, I neglected to mention why location-based services (and perhaps Facebook with its new functionality in particular) make sense for end users like you and me. Thank goodness for friends like Jim Storer who reminded me that without customers like us buying into location-based services — and more importantly, finding value in these services — marketers won’t have anything to gain access to.

Rather than try and explain how customers derive value from location-based services in the comments of my original post, I promised Jim that I would write a follow up post here. To that end, here are five (of many) reasons location-based services provide value to customers:

  1. Deals – to date, many companies haven’t stepped up their “offers” to the degree that they’ve made it worth it for customers to check-in and give them data. However, as more companies embrace this, more people will engage. Facebook is slowly winding their way out of this game but foursquare isn’t. To date, a few deals in particular that got my attention are Starwoods offer to connect their loyalty program to your foursquare account. Once you do and check into a location that you are physically “checked into” (meaning you have a paid reservation), you get 150 Starwood points. American Express is also making it compelling to attach your foursquare account to your Amex card. If you do, you get cash back for checking into certain vendors locations. And then there is TastiDlite. They also connected their loyalty program to foursquare, Facebook and Twitter. Swipe your card when you make a purchase and not only auto-check-in but also earn valuable program points.
  2. Tips/photos – I travel a lot. When I do, I am constantly looking for Starbucks (or good coffee shops), restaurants, bars, etc. By consulting with tips and photos that others have left, I can get recommendations from friends in 140 character bites.
  3. Discovery/sharing – this may arguably be one of the biggest selling points for Facebook and their new location functionality. How many times has someone posted that they are at a Farmers Market, new restaurant, new dry cleaner and you think to yourself, “hey, I’ve been looking for a new _____.” Because you trust that person (or hopefully you do if you are connected to them on Facebook, them sharing that location with you helps you discover new places. And while it’s not essential to have the meta data attached to the check-in, it certainly helps when you can click on a link in your friends status update to see more information about a venue (including which of your other friends have checked in).
  4. Passport – Gowalla has already started to head in this direction i.e. focusing on collecting your check-ins and stitching them together to show trips versus just individual check-ins. Over time, these can benefit others like you that are thinking about a trip from Boston to Austin or Chicago to San Francisco. Collecting this type of data can also dramatically help LBS and marketers provide better services, offers and ultimately recommendations to their customers. The ability to tag photos is also powerful as over time, we may forget where we were when we took a serious of restaurant pics, or photos of the ocean. Or beautiful flowers.
  5. Fun – let’s not forget how much fun gamification can be. Earning badges, awards, points and street cred arent’ for everybody but there many people (myself included) that will go out of their way to do things to play the game (case in point, checking into Gold’s Gym every other day gets me that much closer to my Gym Rat badge). I’ve also picked a restaurant or coffee shopbased on the fact that I want to try win (or win back) a mayorship.
Do you use a location-based service? If so, why? If you don’t, what would it take you to do so?

Location: The Last Third of the Holy Trinity of Data

Originally posted on Aaron’s work blog at on 9/2.

Location on Facebook is Dead. Long Live Location on Facebook!

Facebook’s recent announcement that it is “killing off” Places — the location-based service that was supposed to put LBS darling, foursquare, out of business — has many agencies and marketers asking, “what does this mean for the future of location-based servies?” For me, the biggest takeaway is that Facebook (like Twitter) realized that for most of its members, location is more of a feature than a service. And by encouraging more people to geo-tag updates, pictures and videos, they will actually start to accelerate the collection of data around the 3rd pillar of the “Holy Trinity” of data for marketers i.e. location.

As someone that spent the last 9 plus months writing a book on location-based marketing, I see this as a smart move by Facebook. Unlike LBS players foursquare, Gowalla and SCVNGR, Facebook made zero attempt to make Places fun. Facebook also mailed in its “Deals” service by doing a poor job mimicking group couponing sites like Groupon and Living Social. So rather than continuing to support a service that less than 3% of their member base used in spite of its prominent placement on the mobile site and application, they decided to “transmogrify” location into a feature.

As my co-author, Mike Schneider, noted in a recent post, ” Places, the Facebook feature may be dead, but LOCATION IS VERY MUCH ALIVE AT FACEBOOK.” This refocus should get the 750 million members of Facebook to more actively add location to their updates — with their photos in particular. Adding this additional layer of data explicitly (Facebook already collects a lot of geo-data implicitly based on IP addresses and GPS info but keeps this private) now allows Facebook to offer this richer stream to marketers as they target their marketing and Facebook ads to potential customers.

Where Does Location Fit in the Holy Trinity of Data?

For a long time now, marketers have had access to a plethora of demographic data (age, sex, race) about their current and prospective customers. Over the last 50 years, day-part data (knowing what day/time someone is viewing something) has made targeting even more efficient. This has been particularly effective in the online world because it allows marketers to swap in messages when they know their customers are most likely to act on them (e.g. ads for new movies on Friday afternoons). Now comes location data that now allows marketers to know who, when and where with an ability to act on all three via mobile devices.

This last third of the “Holy Trinity of Data” is important for a few different reasons:

  1. It helps businesses target only those customers that they want with the right offer at the right time in the right place.
  2. Companies can steal business away from competitors “in the moment” as they are deciding where to go for coffee, dinner, a new pair of shoes, etc.
  3. By mining data, marketers can look at “valleys” in traffic and create campaigns and offers that help drive the right foot traffic during less busy times of the day.

For Facebook, this is critical because unlike the 11 million foursquare users that are dedicated and hyper active, Facebook has hundreds of millions of members, many of which are starting to look like the general non-early-adopter population, will have larger bases of customers from which to collect data. While quantity isn’t always better than quality, in this case, it gives Facebook a definitive advantage because most marketers are interested in scale.

How Will This Impact Dedicated Location-Based Services?

While I don’t think that Facebook’s decision to refocus its location activities will have a dramatic impact on services like foursquare and Gowalla, it will start to simplify which services customers choose for certain activities. Those that are interested in the gamification and richer experiences that foursquare and Gowalla offer will now have one less competing service to check into. And like Facebook’s creation of the de facto social graph for the Web, foursquare has done a great job at developing a robust geo-database that it offers (free) via its open API.

However, because Facebook will now be collecting more location data than ever before, they will continue to undermine foursquare’s leadership position as a geo-data provider. It’s also worth keeping an eye on Google now that they are gaining some traction with Google +. This new direction will make foursquare’s tips, pictures and now “lists” a major differentiator. Foursquare also has a leg up in the fact that they are solely focused on location versus Facebook which has its hands in a few different pies at the moment.

In the end, its the user that wins here because having the ability to geo-tag photos or indicate geo-intent with status updates is a much more natural activity than having to take out one’s phone, open yet another application, find a venue and ultimately check into that location. That doesn’t mean the active check-in isn’t valuable or worthwhile, but rather that companies will need to think longer and harder about what offers, tips or recognition they provide to customers for actively acknowledging their presence in a store (or intent to go to a store).

What do you think? Will you use Facebook’s location feature more now that it’s no longer a service?

LBM4DTV Episode 2: Josh Williams of Gowalla Talks About Disney

Gowalla Co-founder and CEO Josh Williams talks about Gowalla’s sweet spot and their programs with Disney.

LBM4DTV Episode 1: Josh Williams of Gowalla Talks Gamification

Gowalla Co-founder and CEO Josh Williams talks about location-based marketing 1.0, gamification, checking in, the items experiment, the economy of virtual items, the consumer value and more.

An Industry Leader Asked: Why A Dummies Book?

In Episiode 39 of LBMA’s This Week in Location Based Marketing – +Rob Woodbridge asks: “Why did you write a Dummies book instead of writing one that builds your own brand?”

Rob, this is an excellent question. I have a lot of reasons for writing a Dummies book.

Let’s be very clear. I co-wrote this book because I want to work with brands on their marketing strategies. The book is a primer and by no means the be-all and end all. It gives highly actionable ways to get started, but can be enhanced greatly by having a working relationship with allen & gerritsen and yours-truly. This includes my clients (some of whom have yet to get into the space) and new prospects.

I think the world needs a primer on how to think about location with social and mobile and it needed to be something that was not going to intimidate them. When I chose to work on this project, it was because I thought that I could do that and I wanted to force myself to strike the right balance of what’s now and what’s next. The Dummies brand is just plain KNOWN for that sort of thing. +Shiv Singh did an amazing job in Social Media Maketing For Dummies, Twitter and Twitter Marketing for Dummies were both great. I have used them myself in the past to get involved in something and found them to be awesome first looks. For example: I learned UNIX with UNIX For Dummies and became super proficient.

Before this project, I was not a published author and I had little idea what it meant to get published. Wiley reached out to my co-author +Aaron Strout and asked him to do the project. He came to me to see if I would be interested. I had been kicking around the idea of writing a book with a Boston-based advertising legend at the time so I thought perhaps this was serendipitous and a sign that I should get some experience before tacklings the other idea. I was THRILLED at the idea of working with Aaron who has been a friend for quite some time and a person who constantly pushes the envelope on new media marketing, particularly location.
This was a good idea. Our editors handled us like first-time bloggers-turned-authors and helped us come up with the best possible product. It was excellent to be part of a qualified and extremely helpful team.

I also gave a lot of thought to distribution. Wiley is good at PR and distribution and unearthing ideas to promote the book. While promoting the book, I am actually doing what you suggest – promoting both mine and the allen & gerritsen brands because at the end of the day, I want to do the paragraph under first and foremost (above).

We actually wrote it
Some people ask if we wrote the book and are surprised to learn that Aaron and I actually did. Some books by experts are ghost written. This was not the case with LBM4D. While there were other contributors, I think it’s fair to say that Aaron and I contributed equally to the effort. Were there other contributors? Yes. Absolutely, but 96% of the book is actually written and edited by Aaron or myself. We could not see doing it any other way.

How did you do it
Technically, we started using a version control system for coding called subversion, but quickly abandoned it (to my chagrin) because it wasn’t fitting our flow. We used a combination of Dropbox and Google docs to collaborate.

We divided up the work. We would take responsibility for chapters, we would write them and the other would read them. We would then submit them to our editors for questions, comments and ridicule (we take them all) and then we would either edit our own or one another’s chapters depending on workload and deadlines. We Skyped a LOT. We made sure we were on the same page about everything we put down. It should feel like one voice although it would be a a fun game to try and pick out my chapters versus Aaron’s. There are tells in each chapter.

So there you have it. A little more than 2 cents and Im sorry it took so long to answer your question, but it required some actual thought to get you a good answer.

American Express and Foursquare Join Forces

Originally posted on Aaron’s WCG work blog on June 24.


Some things just go together like chocolate and peanut butter. I’d categorize the latest announcement by American Express and location-based services leader, foursquare as one of those combinations. If you follow the location-based services space at all, you might remember that Amex and foursquare partnered up for a trial run during South by Southwest (SXSW) back in March. The three day trial was an overwhelming success and obviously set the stage for the two companies’ latest announcement.

So what does this mean? Personally, I see this as a win/win/win for the location-based services space, both companies and in particular, their customers. Here’s how I see each stakeholder benefiting:

  • Location-based services – the fact that 161 year old American Express (also number 91 on Fortune’s most recent “500” list) is partnering with foursquare is a major validation to the whole location-based industry. In particular, it says that a company as big, old and well-known as Amex sees value in LBS.
  • Amex/foursquare – this makes Amex look younger and hipper and creates a loyalty 2.0-style program that is a key differentiator between them and the other credit card/FiServ companies. For foursquare, this further solidifies their positioning as the de facto leader in LBS.
  • The customer – where’s the downside of getting money back and additional rewards as a result of checking in? None that I can see. And I’ve talked to David Wolf at Amex, the man responsible for making this program happen, and he has assured me that there is next to zero security risk based on the way they’ve set up the program.

Being a realist, we still have a ways to go with the lead location-based provider boasting a mere 10 million members. But this is a start. Most importantly, it shows other companies that they can benefit from location-based services as well. What other companies need to jump into the LBS game before you’re a believer?