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Gowalla and Incase Team Up For Location-Based Sponsorship

Gowalla Incase

Gowalla, a location-based social network, and Incase, an Apple accessory manufacturer, have teamed up to create one of the first ad campaigns to live exclusively on a location-based social network. (They’re calling it a ‘collaboration’, but it’s still a proof of concept even if Gowalla isn’t getting paid for it.) The campaign features six Incase-branded virtual items which are modeled after actual Incase gear. When Gowalla users check in at any Apple Store around the world during the promotional period, they receive one of those six virtual items, and a few lucky users will even receive an actual Incase Slider case in addition to their virtual item.

Gowalla Prize

This ‘real prize’ functionality debuted during Gowalla’s 10 and a Half Days of Christmas promotion, but this is the first time it’s been sponsored by another company.

Gowalla Real Prize

Lastly, if a user collects all six virtual items, they receive a special ‘Incase Pin of Glory’ to mark their accomplishment. (Pins are one feature of Gowalla’s system.)

Since Gowalla, Foursquare, Loopt, Whrrl, Brightkite and the rest of the location-based social networks are all relatively new, they’re all still trying to figure out how to monetize their service, which should make this an interesting space to keep an eye on in 2010. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that location-based social networks will be the space to watch in the coming year, as they have the potential to revolutionize how companies advertise to consumers on a highly targeted and hyper-local level.

Incase Foursquare Sponsorship

Currently the two leaders in the space (at least in terms of buzz) are Foursquare and Gowalla, and each service is trying slightly different methods of advertising to their users, with each method having unique advantages and disadvantages. Gowalla gives users items related to the locations that they check in at, such as Incase items at Apple Stores, and a digital icon of Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crush It book at all stops on his book tour. Foursquare on the other hand shows users sponsored locations that are near their check in location, offers users coupons and specials based on check ins, and also counts the number of times that a user checks in at a location, turning Foursquare into a hosted loyalty rewards program. Regardless of which advertising method comes out on top though, expect to see each service adopt parts of what works well with the other services as each continue to refine their offering.

To test drive this campaign, I visited the Apple Flagship Store in San Francisco and checked in on Gowalla. The first time I checked in however, nothing out of the ordinary happened, so I returned later that day and checked in again, and received an Incase Slider Case item in return. There wasn’t much more to it though, which left me feeling like they could have done so much more with the idea. (Note: I did receive a tweet the next day, shown above, which said that I was the winner of an actual Incase Slider case. While I’m excited to have won, I think the points below are still valid.) A few potential ideas/changes that crossed my mind:

  1. Explain the campaign in the item messaging. Had I not been actively reading the Gowalla blog, I would not have known that the Incase item was any different from a normal item that you receive when checking in on Gowalla. At the very least, Gowalla should have included some information about the campaign and the fact that you can receive a special pin for collecting all six limited edition items, as this would go a long way towards increasing the repeat engagement of each user, and highlights the specialness of the item. Taking the sponsor integration a step further, if Gowalla included a web browser in their app, they could include a link to the Incase product page in the message, and if a user wanted to find out more about the featured product, they would be just a click away from detailed information and potentially even an online storefront.
  2. Turn each item into a coupon. If Incase wants to convert Apple Store shoppers into Incase customers, they should use the message attached to each item as an opportunity for them to give Gowalla users a special deal on Incase products. The timing is perfect, since they’re reaching a very targeted audience at or near the point of purchase, and they’re also able to specifically target early adopters and heavy social network users who are the most likely to be using Gowalla at this point, and are also the most likely to help spread the message to others. Even better (for Incase at least, though maybe not for users) would be to turn each item into a small coupon, and allow users to combine the six items together to create a larger coupon, creating an incentive to collect all six items that has more real-world value than a virtual Gowalla pin.
  3. Get users to share. Encouraging users to collect all six items is a great way to motivate repeat visits, but if Incase wants to spread the word from the initial group of influencers to a larger audience, they need to incentivize the sharing of items with others. Perhaps it’s a coupon that is only activated when one user gives an item to another user, or a contest where the person whose item is subsequently picked-up and dropped-off by the most users wins a prize from Incase, but a little motivation can go a long way toward the spread of information from user to user.

As the Gowalla/Incase campaign shows, advertising on location-based social networks can be integrated into the experience in a fun way that adds to a user’s enjoyment of the service, rather than detracting from it. And while Twitter continues to struggle to find the best way of monetizing their service without angering their users, Gowalla and Foursquare have both introduced advertising very early in their growth, which should help users accept ads and other promotions as a part of the user experience. As they continue to grow however, the key will be for location-based social networks to work closely with sponsors to help create campaigns like the Incase sponsorship that integrate ads in a non-invasive and additive way, so that users welcome and respond well to these ads, since they will ultimately provide value to both the sponsor and the user.

Ken Block And DC Shoes Make Gymkhana A Viral Video Guarantee

Ken Block Gymkhana

Viral videos aren’t usually made, they’re chosen, but the second Gymkhana video from Ken Block and DC Shoes was born to be viral:

Since I’m guaranteeing that this one will be a hit, let’s take a look at what makes it work:

  • If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It – Their original Gymkhana video, called Gymkhana Practice, was viewed more than 20 million times, including 12+ million views on Ken Block’s site, 5+ million views on YouTube, millions of views on a special Gymkhana site including downloads of the high definition version, and millions more views on copies of the video that fans uploaded into their own accounts. With success like that, why change a good thing? Thankfully, they didn’t, and instead, they took what was so amazing about the first video and just added to it, including more stunts, more speed, and more slow-motion.
  • Give Viewers OptionsToo many companies try to retain too much control over their video, and only let viewers watch it on a channel of their choosing. DC Shoes went in the exact opposite direction, and put the video in as many places as possible, starting with YouTube and expanding out from there. By giving viewers a choice, DC Shoes allowed them to find the video wherever they looked, and in all kinds of formats, including downloadable formats that could then be saved and shared with others using a laptop, iPhone or iPod. They also made it a point to release the video in HD whenever possible, giving viewers the full experience and showing off the intricate detail of the slow motion stunt shots. I’m always amazed by how many companies create a fantastic video and then cripple it by releasing a low quality version online, so it was good to see that this was not the case here. Finally, the video is embeddable and sharable so that any blog or website can grab it and feature it, allowing the view numbers to grow and the buzz to spread quickly despite the fact that DC can’t easily convert those viewers into sales. Like the low quality video issue, I’m always surprised and disappointed by companies that put their videos online, but then don’t allow them to be shared, since that’s what the web is all about, and a lack of sharing represents a huge missed opportunity for additional views and increased buzz. (I’m even more surprised by companies that go so far as to remove copies of their videos when they’re uploaded by fans into their own account, since these videos can only represent an opportunity for additional views, and are obviously created by fans of the work. Deleting these videos just limits the amount of free exposure that they will receive, and more than likely pisses off a major fan of the brand.) For DC Shoes, the extra views that these extra copies of the video generate will just make the buzz that much more intense, and the long tail sales will more than make up for the short term sacrifice in control.

Ken Block

  • Do Something Unexpected – Before the first gymkhana (pronounced jim-kah-nuh) video debuted, no one had heard of the sport, including most hard core car guys, so it caught people by surprise. (In fact, they spent a few moments in the first video introducing people to the concept so that viewers would know it wasn’t just something that the DC Shoes team had invented.) That being said, when a 500+ horsepower tuner car comes tearing onto the screen in a screech of tire smoke and then proceeds to spins around for five minutes, people are going to take notice. In the second video, unexpected comes in the form of unique stunts that were done as much for their visual appeal as they were for their danger. These stunts include a donut through a series of florescent bulbs, each one breaking in succession and sending a shower of glass shards into the air, a high speed spin though a field of water balloons, a slow motion smash against a water balloon being held by a crash test dummy made famous by a TV show that Ken Block’s cohort Rob Dyrdek stars in, a donut around a paintball firing Rob Dyrdek himself to pay tribute to the donut around a Segway that drove a lot of the buzz about the first video, and finally, a spin under a semi-truck (possibly referencing the original Fast and the Furious movie) that ends in a massive slow-motion explosion.
  • Know Your Audience – Even if the video doesn’t get viewed by millions of people, it will get viewed by every single automotive enthusiast with a computer and a friend, so DC Shoes is guaranteed to reach their target market with their message. Occasionally, this hyper-targeting results in the sacrifice of wider appeal in exchange for a greater appeal within the target market, but in this case, DC found a happy medium that will serve everyone equally. Plus, by understanding who they wanted to go after and what those viewers wanted to see, they were able to create something that was a must-watch for that target, and even better, a must-share as well. Fire? Check. Explosions? Check. Loud, brightly colored car? Check and Check. It’s all there, and it’s all got one goal in mind: Grab the attention of every car guy on the planet and hold that attention for five minutes.

Gymkhana Explosion

  • Set A Due Date – There was still plenty of buzz surrounding the first video when word of the second video started to spread, so when DC shoes announced a date and posted a teaser trailer for the second video onto their website, the frenzy just compounded upon itself. By giving (and also sticking to) a firm release date, DC made everyone a part of the debut, and didn’t just limit it to a few select blogs in an attempt to control the roll-out. This also meant that anyone who wanted to grow their whuffie by being the first to share it with their friends could do so, because everyone would see it at the same time, so chances are, if you shared it on the day that it debuted, then those that you were sending it to had either not yet seen it, or had just seen it and would be eager to watch it again.
  • Take Calculated Risks – One interesting aspect of this video is the fact that DC Shoes took a risk and lulled through the first minute of the video with product placement and blatant selling (normally a mortal sin for any video wishing to go viral). However, since viewers of the first video knew that delayed satisfaction was all but guaranteed, DC knew that anticipation would be high, and that as long as they kept the selling section to a minimum and made it fun and interesting (which they did) that they could keep the attention of their viewers for an extra minute, and sell to them at the same time. It’s a best of both worlds scenario that rarely gets pulled off effectively, but I think that DC Shoes did a great job in this video of combining both goals.

One Final Note: Another cool thing that DC Shoes did that hasn’t really been done before was experiment with holophonic sound, allowing the viewer to feel like they were a part of the action and placing them ‘inside’ one of Ken Block’s donuts. It’s basically an extension of point three above, since the ‘Donuts Audio’ video was released as a supplement to the main gymkhana video, but by toying with the audio and encouraging users to listen to it with their headphones on, DC Shoes was able to provide some extra content for the viewers that liked the main video, and wanted to dig a little deeper into the whole concept:

The Good:

  • Builds upon the success of a previous video while maintaining the proven formula.
  • Was made available in a variety of formats on a variety of channels.
  • Used a firm due date and teaser videos to build up a huge amount of buzz, and then delivered on that buzz.

The Bad:

  • Excessive product placement will turn some viewers off.

The Future:

  • Over-the-top videos almost guarantee viral video success, though companies will need to find a balance between entertaining and selling.

DC Shoes – Gymkhana Two Project