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Posts Tagged ‘Foursquare’

Serving up a good online experience

As with every summer, the tennis season kicks into high gear with the French Open (aka Roland Garros) in Paris in May, and the Championships at the All England Club (aka Wimbledon) just two weeks later. Brand Republic today published their list of the 10 Best Tennis ads. The sport’s popularity pales in comparison to other pursuits in the UK, and questions always abound at this time of the year as to the country’s woeful showing at the majors. It’s an especially sore point when one looks at recent successes in golf.

Demand for tickets however at the four annual Grand Slams has never been higher. Getting a seat at such events then is a tough ask. Recently, the French Open began making tickets available online for direct purchase. This included being able to select specific days, courts and seats. Of course, having such an easy route meant that there were one or two people who had the same idea as Zeitgeist. Even accessing the website on the stroke of the hour the tickets became available put him behind 3,560 other eager tennis fans (see picture at end of article). Prima facie then this democratisation of ticket availability – rather than having a lottery and corporate hoardings – is a good thing. From a practical perspective however, does it make sense to do it this way? Can or should there be priorities given, based not just on how much people are willing to pay for tickets? Why not give those who actually play the sport more of a priority, or using Foursquare, see how many other tennis tournaments people have attended and judge their passion for tennis based on that. Can they have ticket giveaways to those who “like” Nadal, Federer, etc. on Facebook? It’s a thorny issue; perhaps the route the French Open has taken is the least worst option.

All the slams provide diverting iPhone apps too. However, if you’re going to the effort of providing a service, better make sure it works. Zeitgeist was presented with the below image on their phone while sitting on Court 1 at Wimbledon on Monday, June 20th.

tennis french open wimbledon online

Social Media Success & Failure

January 14, 2011 1 comment

Learning from brand victories and losses on Facebook, Twitter et al.

Last week, Zeitgeist tried to book a holiday at one of the lovely resorts looked after by the luxury group “One & Only”. This company – which advertises mainly in Vanity Fair and Harrod’s magazine – ostensibly caters to discerning travellers who expect a certain level of service from the place they go to and the people that serve them. On trying to call one of the hotels, no one would pick up the phone, and the call rang off. The same thing happened when Zeitgeist tried again. Zeitgeist fired off a tweet, “mentioning” the company’s twitter feed, alerting them to the fact that a room was in need of booking but that no one was picking up the phone. This was mid-afternoon. At 10pm the next day, Zeitgeist received a private message from the One & Only account:

The only trouble was that the “OOResorts” account was not following Zeitgeist, so he found himself unable to reply. Thus the communication from the account was useless; they either were not social media-savvy enough to know I would not be able to reply to the message without them first following me, or they did not care enough to bother. Either possibility casts the brand in a poor light. It’s far from mandatory to have a Twitter account, but if you are going to set one up, you need firstly to respond to pleas for assistance in a timely manner (within 24 hours), and secondly to know how the platform works. The more equity your brand has (in the case of One & Only, it’s a fair amount), the more it has to lose by making simple errors such as this. In the meantime, Zeitgeist ended up booking a holiday at a different destination with a different company.

Starbucks, by comparison, although seen as a pin-up boy for the creep of homogeny in a globalised world, for the most part has done an excellent job when it comes to courting fans and maintaining a good PR stance on multiple subjects. This was the case again on Monday when it offered free coffee all day to UK customers. Zeitgeist found out about the offer through Twitter, but there was also an event on Facebook. A voucher could be downloaded and easily printed out or merely shown on your phone to your local barista. Now, the key here was, unlike the unpleasant (but free) glass of wine that Zeitgeist was entitled to upon checking into a restaurant on Foursquare at the end of last year, this coffee blend was delicious, it was not the sludge one would expect from an item that is free. That is because Starbucks realise the point is to use the free coffee to encourage future use; for newbies to think “Oh, their coffee is actually pretty good” – it’s not a throwaway gimmick. (It’s also so that people, when in the store collecting said coffee, will indulge in a muffin or some other accompaniment.) Good thinking, guys.

Rewarding Advocacy and Retaining Customers

December 6, 2010 2 comments

How “24”, Louis Vuitton and a London restaurant attempt to make their brands worth engaging with.

Eye-catching advertising – like the one mentioned by Zeitgeist in the previous article posting – that succeeds in converting a person to being a new customer of a brand is one thing, but keeping them dedicated is quite another. As The New Yorker cartoon above demonstrates so humorously and effectively, engagement is what’s important. It’s about incentivising and rewarding your customer for their association (and, hopefully, evangelism) of the brand.

Zeitgeist has touched on location-based services several times in the past, and as the service continues its maturation process, we are able to judge better as to what kind of benefits it brings to marketers of brands. One is still left with the impression that network effects have yet to fully take hold for the myriad platforms – Foursquare, Gowalla, and more recently Facebook’s equivalent – that provide these services. Logically, greater and more plentiful benefits for those that sign up to these services would encourage those users to advocate others to sign up to them.

So what is the current state of affairs for rewarding users of such services? Well, first you can count out anyone who lives outside a major metropolitan city; the service has nothing to offer them other than who gets to be arbitrary mayor of which location. Sometimes, locations can be inaccurate enough that it looks like people are having a drink in a subaqua bar, as is the case above.

In the past week, living in London, Zeitgeist has experienced two offers through Foursquare that have had real-world consequences. Tuesday before last, as one of the first people to unlock the “Louis Vuitton Insider” badge, Zeitgeist’s presence was requested at the Bond Street Maison for a drinks reception, attended by several Vuitton employees from the marketing and digital disciplines, from both London and Paris. The chance to get to talk to such people, while browsing the store’s significant art book collection while munching on macaroons and sipping various beverages, leaving with a small gift, all were clearly tangible benefits for those guests who attended the evening. What of the business though? What benefits does it reap from organising such an event at reasonable expense? Ideally it gets to know its customer base better, though in this case, some of those who unlocked the badge were not habitual customers of Vuitton. Still, for those that are, the event would no doubt have encouraged a greater affinity toward the brand.

Yesterday at lunch near Covent Garden, Zeitgeist was early meeting his friend and decided to check-in on Foursquare. The reward for having done so was a free glass of wine. The benefits of free alcohol need not be extolled or delved into greatly in this article. However, the execution was sorely lacking. The waitress, when presented with the notification of this offer, was totally caught by surprise, and was not aware of any such offer. When the glass was ultimately brought – Zeitgeist was presented with a choice of “red or white?” – it was of course some substandard plonk that wouldn’t have been fit for a university ball. On the face of it, of course, this was not surprising; but it led to the question of what is the point of rewarding the consumer / shopper / person with something that is pretty poor and leads to a less enjoyable experience?

Zeitgeist can think of few experiences less enjoyable than competing against others to stay awake. Yet this is exactly the idea that 20th Century Fox have had, on the eve of the release of an enormous, diss-it-and-you’ll-be-waterboarded, boxset of the entire series of the hit show 24. Starting last night in Los Angeles, several “lucky” winners of a competition run entirely on Facebook will be subjected to every single episode of the series, while they compete with other viewers in a glass cube to stay awake. The campaign is also supported by a Twitter feed and, as Fox would have hoped, has been picked up by “24” fan blogs as well as the mainstream media, appearing in the LA Times. The campaign will have relatively little long-term impact, as the series has now come to end – though rumours persist of a film being made – but the idea for the competition, one of endurance, is very on-brand for the series, and has clearly sparked much chatter online. It should be noted that endurance contests are not always on-brand, or safe. UPDATE: The winners.

Local news goes Anti-Social

October 26, 2010 1 comment

In a pretty inspired turn, a local news channel in the US, Fox 4, takes some time to parody the mind-numbingly large number of social media platforms that exist to us “citizen journalists” today. Then there is of course the irony of you watching this on YouTube. “Sweet”, one reporter neatly summarises. Brought to Zeitgeist’s belated attention by Mashable.

How to master social media, the Conan O’Brien way

October 22, 2010 2 comments

Conan the Television Host, a Harvard alum who back in the day wrote many an episode of The Simpsons, found himself at the centre of controversy last year, a victim of NBC and its admiration of Jay Leno. When the latter’s contract on his 11.35pm nightly show expired, Conan, who had been waiting in the wings for so long in the 12.30am talkshow slot, finally had his dream come true when he took over the coveted Tonight Show spot, which in the US holds a nostalgic place in many people’s hearts, as well as being a significant place for advertisers to plug their wares for a young demographic with money and time.

As Oscar Wilde once said, however, “When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers”. After much dithering, NBC decided to bump Conan off the Tonight Show and return Leno just six months later. Conan was not impressed. A significant part of his fanbase felt motivated enough to rally in protest about the move, both online and on studio lots. After having his fun running up costs on the show and being paid $30m to leave, Conan transitioned to Twitter, which he used intially to promote a tour. He currently has 1.8m followers. After months of pithy and hilarious tweets, and rumours of courting by Fox, O’Brien eventually revealed he was transitioning the lesser-known network TBS.

After a saucy, Paris Hilton-esque ad debuted promoting the new show last week, Conan O’Brien and his production office bombarded YouTube for 24 hours straight yesterday, live from their humble abode in Southern California. This included an aerobics class at 4am PST given by bears, a puppet show (see below) and many, many other bizarre things. This all in aid of his new show, which launches early next month. The stream incorporated tweets and Facebook mentions, and periodically staff (mostly interns), would put questions asked over the platform to various members of the production office.

In his continuing dedication to exploiting all that social media has to offer, Mashable reported recently that the first guests to be on Conan’s new show may be decided by a popular vote on Twitter. Throughout October, a giant blimp has also been plaguing the East Coast of the US, emblazoned with the word “Conan”, that, of course, you can check into on Foursquare to earn a badge. Unnecessary, but inspired and fun. Three words which might well be used to describe the institution that is Conan O’Brien.

Out (of pocket) for a byte to eat

August 23, 2010 3 comments

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well”, wrote Virginia Woolf. A friend of Zeitgeist’s is coming to town on Friday for what will surely be a sybaritic weekend. For the first time, Zeitgeist found themselves on Toptable booking dinner at a very nice restaurant nestled in London’s Mayfair district. The reservation came with an offer of 50% off the usual a la carte menu price. What had Zeitgeist done to deserve this? Nothing. So what is in it for the restaurant? See previous answer, perhaps. As any Toptable devotee knows, offers like this are plentiful, and reflect the state of the restaurant industry as a whole, particularly in the premium sector.

Zeitgeist was walking in Notting Hill about eighteen months ago with, as it happens, this same friend. We happened to pass Nicole Farhi’s restaurant, which sits next to a Daylesford Organic. Both were teeming with people literally overflowing into the streets enjoying their expensive brunches. “Credit crunch, what credit crunch?” my observant friend quipped at the time. It was hard to disagree. The numerous plates of food and cups of coffee being consumed by these Chloé- and Zegna-wearing denizens were totally out of sync with the times. Perhaps what these people had been doing though is downtrading. Instead of going out somewhere special for a dinner, they had instead chosen to go somewhere more informal for brunch. Or perhaps instead of going away on holiday for a weekend break, they had decided to stay at home and enjoy the fruits of London. This is an anecdotal example but the argument is supported by the reams of analysis conducted by those boffins at places like Forrester and Datamonitor; JWT’s AnxietyIndex wrote in May “Ostentation is out, practicality is in.” Witness brands like Starbucks and Louis Vuitton.

It’s this lack of ostentation and sense of frugality (which, for the most part, still pervades) that perhaps explains why, writes The Economist, “Visits to posh restaurants in America declined by 15% between May 2008 and May this year… Fast-food restaurants, on the other hand, saw traffic decline only 2%.”. It would be nice to know how a “posh” restaurant is defined, but otherwise it makes for an interesting statement. The decline at both ends of the dining spectrum lends credence to the notion that there is a “cocooning” going on where people are quite happy to order in or to cook their own meals, surrounded by their HDTVs and microwaves. Clearly though it is the high end that is fairing particularly poorly.

The article notes that Restaurant Week – held during the dog days of summer in Manhattan, when the city fills with tourists and any sensible residents have escaped northward – lasts for six weeks this year, and notes that the 21 Club “usually sees its business increase by around 25-40%” during the Week. So, similar to Taste of London, the event must attract those who would not usually consider dining at such a place (for such a price). Are these the customers the restaurant wants though? No mention is made in the article as to retention rates. As pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, (which contains details of several interesting promotions),

“‘Having dollar menus and value menus has become unsustainable, from an operating profit standpoint, so restaurants need to be able to establish consumer continuity with loyalty programs. Instead of getting customers in three or four times per year for special events, they need to get them in two to three times per month,’ says Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group, a consumer consulting firm.”

The industry has had to adapt though as the Internet plays an increasingly dominant role in people’s lives, not only exposing the consumer and restaurant to every bad review detailing every morsel of undercooked food and every supercilious waiter, but also forcing the establishments to adapt to people’s psychology when shopping online, which mostly falls under the category of ‘bargain hunter’. A similar thing has happened with high-end fashion. Members-only sites offering significant discounts on luxury brands have sprung up everywhere. The Economist reports that two of these, Gilt and Rue La La, have begun offering restaurant discounts as well:

“Gilt, for example, recently sold a four-course meal at the Tribeca Grill, a restaurant owned by Robert De Niro, an actor, for $160 (36% off). Shopping sites like these attract image-conscious restaurants, because only the site’s members can see that the restaurant has started to offer leaner prices.”

The other lure for the restaurant in this case is knowing that those whom the offer will be seen by are likely to be a suitable target audience for your establishment; at the very least a more specific one than might be found on somewhere like Toptable. These restaurants are innovating (mostly because they have to). The prospect of drawing crowds is an attractive one. Sites like Groupon offer significant discounts on meals, but which only become active once enough people have signed up to the offer. Foursquare similarly relies on encouraging a group of people doing virtual battle in order to obtain a mayorship that grants them free coffee at Starbucks or free champagne and a great seat at Galvin’s Windows. In the long term, having offers that keep the customer loyal (and accustomed to a consistently-priced menu) will hopefully, for the sake of the restaurants, trump the savage discounting some have become imbroiled in. For Zeitgeist, value-add to the proposition is far more attractive than saving on a regular meal. Let’s hope others think the same.

The Consumption Conundrum

A quick thought while Zeitgeist takes a well-deserved break in the hinterlands of the Côte d’Azur, and that centres on continued desire for content and immediate access, versus a dilapidated infrastructure for providing that content. A recent front page article from film industry trade paper Variety expressed concerns over who will be able to fill the shoes as the new head of the Motion Picture Association of America, headed by the much-loved Jack Valenti, and latterly the effective Dan Glickman. The post requires juggling many balls and keeping disparate parties happy, from the cultural binaries of Washington and Los Angeles, to the contrasting desires of consumer and corporation, (the issue of Net Neutrality being a particularly important example).

One principal concern for whomever takes hold of the reins will be that of the continuing threat of piracy, and the fear of ending up like the moribund music industry. One significant move that Glickman was able to implement was ensuring the creation of a post for “copyright czar” at the White House. Worries continue though as, according to the article, “technology advances make Internet speeds ever faster”. While this is true in a normative sense, in practice things are not as simple. For while improvements in technology may make computers ever more capable of handling more data at faster speeds, the delivery systems that support the transfer of this data are not being kept up to date, specifically in the US and UK. Telco networks AT&T and O2 have both recently pulled their unlimited data plans for mobile use. What is the impact for services like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare? Unfortunately it can only have a negative one, as users may begin to worry about updating their status if it will push them over their data limit for that month.

All these moves – including other industry machinations such as the decision by Hulu, a free, legal website, to begin charging – will serve only to further consumer confusion and distance the brand from their audience.

Louis Vuitton’s Brand Balancing Act

LV may have been around since 1854, but, as the saying goes, you’re only as good as your last picture. Just as many an actor has been condemned to Hollywood purgatory through making one poor choice, so it is with a brand. A brand’s equity is made or broken by its perception, i.e. what it’s done lately. Ogilvy’s own Louis Vuitton has been in the press a lot recently, for reasons both good and bad. Zeitgeist takes a look at Vuitton’s goings on, and what impact the machinations will have on it’s brand.

The last Friday of May heralded the reopening of London’s New Bond St. Louis Vuitton boutique, with the new moniker of ‘Maison’, presumably denoting it as a flagship store. Never one to miss a way to include Facebook, Vuitton recorded the event in a live stream over the social network, beaming around the world images of the oh-so tiring Alexa Chung as she hosted the broadcast. The brand has done this previously to great success for it’s Ready-to-wear collections from various shows, which inspire great community interaction. Concurrent with this was the launch of a brand presence on Foursquare, one of the first of any brand to have an account on the location-based social network. (Indeed, this democratisation of fashion could be an article in of itself; Ermenegildo Zegna are taking a leaf from Vuitton’s book with unprecedented access to what goes on in the runup to a runway show). Photos of designer Marc Jacobs, Gwyneth Paltrow et al. graced the front pages of several of the city’s dailies the next morning. Diagnosis: Very good

At the opening, in a separate story that appeared with very little fanfare on the Vogue website, a brief interview was conducted with Vuitton’s creative director Marc Jacobs, who said that when he began working on the brand, his initial thoughts might have taken it in a completely different direction, “When I arrived at Louis Vuitton 12 years ago, and I was figuring out how to create a new tier of Vuitton for a different customer, I thought it would be clever to hide that monogram, which was very stupid of me. That logo is part of what makes Vuitton so desirable. It allows people to become members of an aspirational club.” Zeitgeist has never heard Jacobs utter such an admission prior to this; it is surely an incredibly controversial thought. The problem is that the designer may have been quite right to have thought of removing the logo. Without it, they are almost certainly missing out on what he refers to as a “new tier”; the customer that loves the quality and craftmanship of Vuitton but does not need the validation of having “LV” emblazoned on every product, so instead chooses to shop at Bottega Veneta or somewhere similar. For how long can a brand remain aspirational when it begins to be seen everywhere, including in all the wrong types of places? Zeitgeist recently spotted two pieces of genuine Vuitton luggage sitting in the window of a McDonald’s. Diagnosis: Not good

Elsewhere in Vuitton’s world, the Advertising Standards Authority recently upheld three complaints on a series of advertisements that Ogilvy Paris had concocted, which had received positive press from the FT at its inception, and to which Zeitgeist has referred to previously. The ads, though beautifully photographed in an homage to that brilliant artist Vermeer, were withdrawn after complaints that the print ads gave the impression that the products were completely handmade from start to finish, and that at no point was machinery involved in the manufacturing process. In reality, this is not the case. Craftmanship by hand is indeed a significant part of the process, but the ASA deemed this insufficient. It is also unlikely that such young, beautiful people as depicted in the advertisements work in such immaculate clothing with only chiaroscuro lighting to work by, but there did not seem to be any complaints regarding these artistic licenses. Perhaps this is because such things should be taken with a pinch of salt, instead of at face value. Diagnosis: Not good

Louis Vuitton continues to contest in court in efforts to cut down on the re-selling of goods or the distribution of counterfeit products. The last victory came recently against eBay when the company was fined €200k in damages and €30k in legal costs made payable to Louis Vuitton. TelecomPaper reported “The court described as ‘parasitic’ eBay’s purchase of keywords such as ‘Wuittton’, ‘Viton’ and ‘Vitton’ so that online shoppers searching under these misspellings would be directed to links promoting eBay.” More recently, however, holding company LVMH lost it’s battle with Google over charges “that Google’s practice of selling keywords in advertising searches to the highest bidder damaged trademark law”, according to the BBC. Diagnosis: A tie

Lastly, having already made clear it’s association with a new part of the Journeys campaign – previously featuring such luminaries as Sean Connery, Keith Richards and Catherine Deneuve – that had Pelé, Zidane and Maradonna huddled around a table football game together, this week the company cemented the connection. Vogue recently reported that the World Cup would have an official home in a piece of luggage designed specifically for it by Vuitton. The luggage was revealed in Paris to great fanfare, by that [super]model of restraint, Naomi Campbell. Diagnosis: Very good

It’s been a period of mixed blessings for Louis Vuitton, some of which were completely out of their hands. It’s had some big wins with the new London store opening, as well as the excellent association it has created with the impending World Cup. Long-term, it will be fascinating to see if this is the beginning of a brand embracing to an increasing extent the entertainments and pastimes of the masses (prior to the World Cup, the only sport Vuitton had been involved in was the America’s Cup sailing race, crewed and supported by nought but multi-multi-millionaires), and how they will maintain an aspirational slant if they do so (presumably by continuing to charge £300+ for a shirt). Exciting times are ahead, no doubt…

Location, location, location

Foursquare is to the zeitgeist what Chatroulette was all those days ago. Location-based targeting has been gathering steam for some time, and the potential blossomed with the release of the iPhone 3GS last year. For the user, it allows them to ‘check in’ to a certain place, alerting those who follow them. If said user checks in to a certain place often enough, they become ‘mayor’ of that location. Moreover, with time a map builds up showing definitively where the user tends to go. It is this last point that is of particular interest to advertisers, who are always desperate for more facts and figures to make it appear that the industry they work in is one of cold, hard, calculable facts, with no irrational outliers in order to better know the consumer they are targeting.

An exhibition detailing the evolution of maps is currently on show at London’s British Library; today we seem to rely on maps ever more as they become – with GPS functionality – an important feature on most mobile devices. It was reported earlier today that the Foursquare service has now exceeded forty million check-ins. Not one to miss out on anything that involves the decay of personal privacy, Facebook shortly intends to release its own version where users can check-in through their site, with McDonald’s already on board.

eConsultancy has a list of ten select marketing examples using geo-location, however Zeitgeist are going to focus on two specifically. The first is that of the Financial Times and its walled garden. Borrowing a page from other brands of getting a user while they’re young, the FT may soon begin providing free access to those who check-in in certain areas. Those areas being “select coffee shops located by major financial centers and near business schools including Columbia, Harvard, the London School of Economics, London Business School and London’s Cass Business School”, in other words, superior centres of academia, that Zeitgeist may or may not call an alma mater. According to FT.com, “Only the ‘mayors’ will be granted a free pass, and only for a limited time”. It’s a nice incentive and it will be interesting to see how competitive the race for free content becomes among ostensibly cash-strapped students.

The other example Zeitgeist likes is that of the luxury shoemaker Jimmy Choo, who have decided to organise a shoe hunt. As one blog describes it, “The idea is pretty simple, a pair of Jimmy Choo’s new trainers will check into some of the most exclusive and fashionable places in London, if you can track them down and catch them while still checked in at a venue, then they are yours.” Sounds like a very fun idea and a fantastic excuse to run around town going to lots of great places. Let the games begin.

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