Crosscuts: Innovation x Social Media
Culture Cut: When humans share an environment a community is born. When skydivers jump in groups they move at high velocity in close proximity to one another. They have only so much time to interact before they must pull the rip cord, as the ground rushes towards them at 150MPH. Could a brand other than Red Bull, fit neatly into this space and keep up? I doubt it. Location-based social networks move too fast for most brands.
Social networks represent the human layers and dynamic structures of associations through Cultural behavior, associations and consumer beliefs. These affiliations keep us invested emotionally, professionally and functionally in a digital, wireless and mobile diaspora. Technology is no fun if you can’t share it with others. But aren’t location-based social networks redundant and artificial communities - like organizing people in your address book by brand and product classifications and using emoticons?
Commerce Cut: Customer loyalty and rewards programs are tactics of a larger sales and marketing strategy. Is loyalty reward or is reward loyalty? Loyalty and CRM programs, along with customer satisfaction and quality assurance, help brand owners sustain reliable cash flow streams, which are the direct function of shifts in consumer and shopper behavior. Technology has increased the rate at which we buy and consume traditional products, but lags how we adopt new experiences. Start-up brands using innovation and technology are solving, correcting and inventing consumer applications for new communities to live even more connected lives. But this represents a fraction of the 2.5% of Innovators.
Crosscutting: Social media network brands and the branded apps that power them are fast approaching colliding into one another. They are becoming disposable digital experiences, deleted at the press of a button. And rightfully so, its a social network, there is no real commitment, it’s casual, fleeting, and it’s all about right now. Tomorrow doesn’t figure into the picture. When brands use Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite, Whrrl, TriOut or Loopt, they should remember it’s like renting a body.
Brand Oppty: The biggest opportunity for foursquare is to define its value proposition beyond the six-month business plan. Start-up’s often chase bad revenue to keep the lights on and forsake plans to generate quality revenues to sustain the business to exit strategy. Foursquare needs a more logical role that more of American can access. After cities and metros, colleges and universities, what other dense geographic and demographic experiences are larger enough, and mobile, to support its VC-backed business model?
Market Risk: Location-based social networks require an incentive; consumers cycle in and out of new relationships, uncommitted, advancing to the next technology in search of a better deal. It’s kind of like credit card shopping on interest rates. The category has low customer satisfaction and loyalty rates.
A technology explosion has created branded experiences most of us are not ready to consume yet. There’s a silently growing technology fatigue. Consumer are becoming confused which leads to late adoption and participation. Whether rewards, loyalty or game, Foursquare will have to prove to Culture that its function is greater than its form.
How many legitimate consumer occasions does Foursquare yield? What’s to stop Facebook, Google (GOOG), or new technology applications in search of a brand positioning, from encroaching upon Foursquare’s territory? Will there be enough of us that want to relate with each in this manner to co-consume?