21 Unique Location-Based Marketing Examples from Foursquare, Gowalla, Whrrl, and MyTown


Last Updated on 6/3/2010, Originally published in 2009

Location based social networks are  the current darling of social media. Foursquare is leading the way with what seems like a new Fourtune 500 endorsement each week. It is unclear where all these tools will lead us. Foursquare, Gowalla, Whrrl, and even MyTown are getting a lot of attention and a lot of businesses, big and small, are experimenting. So let’s take a moment and capture what all has been done with these tools to date. How are big brands testing the space? What are brick and mortars playing with? Nothing earth shattering here, but the more businesses experiment in the space, the more we all learn.


1. Starbucks Offers Nationwide Mayor Special – Starbucks extends local store mayor specials to all it’s stores with a single $1 frappuchino coupon for any Starbucks mayor at any Starbucks. Why It Is Unique: First national mayor special 2. BART San Francisco Transportition – BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit offered “a BART-themed badge that can be unlocked by regular riders of BART, which provides train service in the San Francisco Bay Area. BART awarded $25 promotional tickets each month for the next 3 months to riders chosen at random from all the riders who have logged Foursquare check-ins at BART stations, starting in November, 2009.” The goal of the promotion was to embrace Foursquare use on BART already and to further encourage use of public transit. Why It Is Unique: First transit agency to actively use Foursquare 3. Bravo TV Markets Shows and Personalities – Bravo offered Foursquare user “badges and special prizes when viewers visit more than 500 Bravo locations. The locations will be picked by Bravo to correspond with select Bravo shows including The Real Housewives, The Millionaire Matchmaker, Top Chef, Kell on Earth, Top Chef Masters and Shear Genius.” Why It Is Unique: Extending the relationship with a TV show and characters 4. Metro News Canada – Metro, Canada’s number one free daily, added “their location-specific editorial content to the Foursquare service. People who choose to follow Metro on Foursquare will then receive alerts when they’re close to one of those locations. For example, someone close to a restaurant that Metro has reviewed would receive a “tip” about that restaurant and the have ability to link through to the full Metro review on metronews.ca.” Why It Is Unique: First editorial content integration by media outlet 5. The History Channel Sprinkles Historical Facts All Over – The History Channel created tips on Foursquare that share historically significant facts with users when they check into a location of note, for instance the first building that bought an Otis elevator. Why It Is Unique: Providing brand and location relevant content to promote the launch of a new television series 6. Eat Free at Golden Coral – The Foursquare mayor can eat free once per day. Check ins on other location services give you a chance to eat free as well as a chance to win an iPad as part of a larger contest than the daily eat free special. Why It Is Unique: Facebook support of effort, multiple platforms are available, larger contest and prize 7. Hubspot’s Virtual Check In at SXSW – At SXSW 2010, Hubspot did not have an exhibitor booth, but they did set up a check in spot at the SXSW convention center and added tips for folks to check out their Foursquare Grader and Speaker Grader tools. Why It Is Unique: Virtual presence at a conference 8. College Basketball T-shirt Giveaway – UNC Charlotte, the first college/university to implement location based social network special on campus, offered free t-shirts to students that checked in at certain basketball games and other events. Why It Is Unique: Retail giveaway to encourage fans 9. Harvard Fully Embraces Location – Harvard encouraged students to rate campus venues, share tips, and work to earn the Harvard Yard badge by checking in to a certain numbers of locations. They also left tips at locations on and off campus for students and visitors alike to explore. Why It Is Unique: First University to offer a badge, encourage ratings, and leave tips 10. The Pit BBQ’s Community Growing – This Raleigh, NC (corrected from Cary, NC) local restaurant used Foursquare early on to grow a community with it’s patrons and invest in word of mouth. They reached out via Twitter and Foursquare to their most social users and used these opportunities to reward these users. Why It Is Unique: Small, less of a specials focus and more of relationship tool 11. Coach Men’s Store Cologne Giveaway – For opening weekend of their Men’s Store in NYC, Coach gave away free cologne ($85 value) to the first 200 customers who checked into the store on Foursquare. 10% of the traffic to the store that weekend came with Foursquare check ins. Causation or correlation is tough to say, but it looks like the promotion helped drive awareness and buzz for Coach’s first Men’s store launch. Why It Is Unique: Valuable promotion to help drive awareness and buzz to Coach’s first Men’s store opening 12. The Today Show – “Foursquare users who head to 30 Rock this summer for the Toyota Concert Series on Today will be able to check in, earn badges and compete for mayorships… The Today Show also has three custom badges that visitors can earn: the Newbie badge for first check ins, a “Roker” badge for three check ins and a “10 to 10″ badge for those that check in at the Plaza concert series 10 times or more. Follow the link to see the live TV announcement with Al Roker explaining the promotion. Why It Is Unique: First national TV endorsement of Foursquare 13. AJ Bombers “I’m on a Boat” Badge Party – Local restaurant taps into area Foursquare users passionate about their badge earning and creates events based around earning some of the more difficult ones, the Swarm Badge (50+ people) and the I’m on a Boat badge. He saw some great increased sales numbers and got some great free exposure. Why It Is Unique: Creating unique events around the activity of check ins


Gowalla 14. Airport Rides with Chevy and Gowalla – Chevy and Gowalla partnered up at SXSW 2010 in Austin, TX to give users that checked in when they arrived at the airport, free Chevy car service downtown to their hotels. Why It Is Unique: Created an immediate and surprise real world service opportunity 15. The Nets Leave Free Tickets at Sports Locations – The New York Nets hid free pairs of virtual game tickets throughout New York City sports related check in spots, like sports bars, parks and gyms. The virtual tickets could be exchanged for real tickets to a specific game, which 15% of people did. Attendees won t-shirts and the chance for other prizes. Why It Is Unique: Tie in with sporting event and sports related venue, also used the found items feature of Gowalla in a unique way 16. Kentucky Derby Louisville City Tour and Bar Crawl – Gowalla and the Courier Journal, Kentucky’s largest newspaper, partnered to create a city tour and city bar crawl. Users could follow suggested Gowalla check ins get special badges by visiting eight sites on a “Louisville Tour” that included Louisville Slugger Field and the Kentucky Derby Museum. They could also get a badge for the “completion of the ‘Louisville Bar Crawl’, composed of different restaurant, bar and club venues that should prove useful to both visitors and residents (not to mention the owners of those businesses).” Why It Is Unique: Using Gowalla trips in conjunction with larger events 17. National Geographic and Washington Post Expand Trips Feature – Gowalla expanded it’s trips feature and launched the new beefed up feature with some big partners. “The National Geographic branded Gowalla Trips include 15 walking tours to explore destinations like the Seine in Paris, the Avenue of the Arts in Philadelphia and San Diego’s Balboa Park. The Washington Post has curated its own adventures. Its trips are designed to help travelers discover attractions and explore Washington, D.C.” Why It Is Unique: Bigger and better long term interaction with brand


18. Rock and Roll History Across the Country – Whrrl partnered “with Paul Allen’s Seattle-based Experience Music Project to bring the history of rock and roll to Whrrl check ins in 6 cities across the country. If you visit the Experience Music Project (EMP) in Seattle, you’ll see napkins from hotels where Jimi Hendrix wrote the lyrics to some of his most famous songs. Now on Whrrl you can learn what inspired Hendrix when he wrote those lyrics. Why It Is Unique: National content distribution by a non-profit/museum 19. Graduation Ceremony Mass Check In – To celebrate their 125th anniversary, St. Edward’s University had over 180students, parents and faculty check in and share photos and comments from their graduation ceremony on May 8th. Instead of having students share their day, separately, through Facebook and Twitter from their phones, St. Edward’s decided to use Whrrl so their students could all connect their cameras and share their perspectives. Why It Is Unique: Large event documented by a large percentage of audience


20. Travel Channel Promotes Food Wars – “The Travel Channel campaign gives MyTown players chances to win Food Wars branded in-game items. These items can be used for points and “town” upgrades, or gifted to other players. Part of the marketing campaign will include the streaming to players’ iPhones of Food Wars video clips.” Why It Is Unique: Use of location to prompt viewing of a TV program has been done a couple times now. The fact that the Travel Channel looked to MyTown is interesting 21. H&M Virtual Goods – H&M provides virtual versions of their products to players of MyTown in an effort to incentivize players who are near H&M by giving them special “Blue” clothing items as they approach the store. Why It Is Unique: Virtual versions of real goods, leading consumers to their store —-]]>


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