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Why AMEX Isn't Feeling Much ‘Like’ for Facebook
By: Ted Curtin
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One of the key pillars of mobile marketing’s promise is the ability to finally make good on the long coveted potential of being able to deliver the right message, to the right customer, at the right time. Location-based features built into smartphones use GPS signals that can be used to match users with local businesses and relevant deals and incentives. Whether you like the gaming aspect, the social element, or the commercial potential, nothing has captured the attention of marketers and acquired as many users as Foursquare.

With over 15 million users and more than $70 million in funding, privately held Foursquare has established itself as the “check-in” leader in just over 2½ years. Not bad for a company that admits to not having a business model figured out yet. But Foursquare isn’t alone. Both Facebook and Google have tried to gain some traction in this area without much success. Other start-ups like Loopt and Gowalla have also attempted to stake their claim but neither has been able to build enough momentum to threaten Foursquare’s popularity and mass adaptation among a significant demographic slice of smartphone users. Until now.

Facebook’s recent announcement that it was buying Gowalla — talent, technology, and all — has many people cheering. Sure, there’s the Gowalla team that gets into Facebook just prior to the anticipated mega-billion IPO, but Facebook fans and the mobile marketing industry itself are excited to see what the social networking behemoth can do with a re-energized focus on delivering location-based fun and value to the more than 350 million Facebook users that connect through their mobile devices and the plethora of companies that would love to target them. Still, not everyone will be pleased.

American Express recently entered into a partnership marketing deal with Foursquare to entice AMEX cardholders with exclusive deals and discounts at major retailers such as Sports Authority ($20 reward for $50 spent) and H&M ($10 for $75 spent) as well as various national and local restaurants. While no timeline for a “re-launch” of Facebook’s location-based initiative has been set, you can bet that Facebook will be looking to cut into Foursquare’s sizable user base with better deals and integrated Facebook functionality. Ultimately, American Express will have to decide whether to continue to push for greater Foursquare adaptation or try to work out a similar partnership with Facebook — that is, unless Visa, MasterCard, or even Discover beats them to it.

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About the Author
Ted Curtin is a recognized strategic marketing leader with over 22 years experience covering online and offline marketing channels. Follow him on Twitter or at TedCurtin.com
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