What Portishead can teach us about Foursquare

Back in 1995, cult English ‘trip hop’ act Portishead released the single ‘Glory Box’, a song in which lead singer Beth Gibbons continually begged the question:

“Give me a reason, to love you.”

This is a beautiful song on a seminal album, especially to someone of my generation.  But what does this melody have to do with social media, and more pertinently, check-in apps such as Foursquare?

Well, just like Beth Gibbons, social media users also need ‘a reason’ to check-in; yet so few businesses and brands are giving anyone that elusive reason.

Since I’ve been using Foursquare, I’ve amassed a whopping 929 check-ins, held down plenty of mayorships (currently 10) and earned 15 ‘badges’:

Yet despite all of this fervent checking-in, I’ve received no tangible ‘value’ whatsoever.


I read with interest today that Foursquare has just signed a deal with American Express that will offer users discounts when they check into places and use their Amex card – BINGO!!!  Here we have actual motivation to check-in!!

Since the accounts will be synched with the users’ Amex accounts, marketers will also be able to see how many people are checking-in and where, what they are purchasing and how much they are spending, providing some tangible ROI and insightful analytics.

Hopefully this is just the start.  Mobile is THE future, yet remains very much entrenched in the present, when there is so much that could be achieved:

  • Greater in-store interaction through the use of QR codes to further research products?
  • Check-in to receive exclusive vouchers?
  • Review a product / store on Foursquare to receive an exclusive product?
  • Affiliate deals for local communities, e.g. ‘since you’ve checked in at Bob’s Boutique, you can get a £1 coffee at Sheila’s Slurps next door’?

I’m truly excited about the mobile space, especially the potential it has to make shopping a more social experience.  But just as Portishead sang all those years ago, for mobile check-ins to be a marketing success, applications have to offer consumers ‘a reason’ – and good ones at that.

Here’s Portishead’s classic ‘Glory Box’ – enjoy!



Why were my days at HMV like social media?

When I graduated back in 2004, I took a job in the local HMV so that I could continue living in London.  Back then, HMV still held a considerable amount of subcultural capital: it was a great music shop that stocked great swathes of albums rather than simply selling piles of £3 DVDs as it does today.

For my interview, I had to sit down and discuss my musical, film and gaming passions, before taking a mini exam that asked questions on everything from The Beatles to Alfred Hitchcock.  As you can clearly see, HMV invested in its people: it wanted its workforce to be knowledgeable, passionate advocates who could talk authoritatively to customers about the entertainment world.

When working on the shop floor or behind the till, I would enjoy chatting to customers about their purchases and suggesting similar albums or films that I thought they would like.  One of the best things in that job (apart from great colleagues and a heft discount!) was when a customer would come in and thank you personally for the recommendation you had made for them, because they enjoyed it so much.

These customers would often become familiar with me – we’d chat about their plans for the weekend, what they were up to and always take the conversation back to shared musical and cinematic passions.

So how does this come back to social media?

Well, a great many people are continuing to peddle tired marketing messages out through dynamic new social media channels.  A great many people believe that talking about your brands is the only thing you should be talking about on your social media channels.  And in my humble opinion, this is wrong.

Take the following quote from an excellent AdAge article this week:

“As it turns out, many people in social networks don’t want to talk about your product, they just want to talk.”

Social media is fundamentally about building relationships with customers – plain and simple.  Just like old-school HMV staff, marketers should be tapping into customers’ passions, talking to them about their lives and making themselves relevant.

The entire ethos of social media is in its name – ‘social’.  If people wanted to listen to you go on and on incessantly about your products, they’d probably subscribe to your mailing list…

Of course, marketers are on social channels to increase brand exposure, increase sales and provide a customer service function.  But just like my chats with customers in store all those years ago, remember that you’re dealing with real people and we need to take an interest in their passions AND the fact that they are real people.

Social Media: the playing field leveller.

I read this on Eric Qualman’s (Socialnomics) blog this morning:

“In the past, big brands held the advantage with traditional media: bigger budgets, esteemed ad agencies, impressive websites, and large sweepstakes.  Now in the social era, even the smallest of businesses can find success and achieve incredible gains without a single ad spend.”

And you know what?  He’s absolutely right.

We think of social media as a ‘game changer’, when in fact, the game is exactly the same.  It’s the playing field that’s changed, or, to be more precise, has been levelled.

Game on.

Sony Rips off Honda to Promote New Tablet?

I’ve long been a fan of Sony’s advertising, especially when the Playstation 2 was launched, ushering in a fantastic series of eerie and creative adverts.

In creating some buzz around the forthcoming Sony tablets, the electronics giant has produced a teaser that is typically nebulous, ethereal and creative.

It’s clearly a fantastic short video, and I’ve no doubt that the tablet will sell hundreds of thousands of units.  But am I the only one who thinks that the brand has completely ripped off Honda’s award-winning creative?

Simplicity that Packs a Punch

I’m a copywriter by trade, which means ads with clever copy, simple slogans and pertinent puns are normally the kind of ads that pique my interest.

However, this fantastic ad for Everlast Boxing equipment, produced by Euro RSCG in Germany to promote boxing / the brand’s health benefits, shows just how powerful a simple idea can be.  It certainly packs a punch.

NEW Socialnomics Video: Social Media Revolution 2011!

The ‘socialnomics’ videos from Erik Qualman have now become something of social media lore.

Erik has produced an updated yet totally new video for 2011 – as always, wow.


Advertising is Dead: Long Live Engagement.

OK, so advertising is not actually ‘dead’; however it’s syntactical position as the exclamation mark or full-stop in a campaign has been usurped by the genuine need to engage and interact with consumers.

It’s interesting to see how different brands, different businesses and different sectors are employing this need to engage with their customers.  This weekend, I visited Tesco as usual to carry out the weekly food shop, when the following piece of in-store signage caught my eye:

This signage struck me for a number of reasons:

i) It blurs the boundaries between the offline shopping experience and online engagement.  Supermarkets have traditionally bombarded us with in-store signage in order to tempt us with special offers and multi-buys.  However, this piece of advertising clearly goes beyond that and considers the shopper long after they have left the store.

ii) The QR code is a nice touch – it allows smartphone users to access more information (and thus, engage more deeply) with the brand right there and then.  My only criticism is that the social media handles are not signposted clearly for those who do not use QR codes – an ‘@Tesco’ for example would allow customers to search specifically when they got home.

iii) There is an opportunity for genuine two-way interaction and engagement – customers are asked to submit their own recipe and get involved with Tesco’s new venture, the Real Food TV show.

iv) The platform on Facebook itself is innovative, dynamic and adds value, offering a place to compile and view recipes.  Not only is this a nice tool in itself, but it offers clear potential for several repeat visits.

v) It ties in with Tesco’s key business – the app details food that is ‘in season’ etc., providing a clear call-to-action for consumers to return back to the store and spend money.

In a previous post, we saw how Facebook’s marketers are talking about the new cycle of social engagement, and this piece of social marketing activity adheres to each step in that cycle:

AWARENESS: In-store signage
INTEREST: Competition mechanic and recipe feature
DECISION: QR codes and social channels visited
ACTION: Interaction with the application online
RECOMMENDATION: The ability to share / tweet tool with friends

Engagement is not solely the preserve of social media channels, as we saw in my recent ‘Social Media is a Budweiser Bottle’ blog post.  Social media undoubtedly acts as the platform in which brands can engage consumers more deeply than ever before, but successful brand engagement is an integrated phenomenon.

And this first-class example from Tesco highlights how the offline and online channels are becoming ever more intertwined.