Whole Foods running @foursquare blackboard ads outside their stores = amazing
Photo by: dpstyles™

Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley @Dens posted a photo to his flickr stream of a Whole Foods location with a Foursquare blackboard outdoor ad/sign. The ad reads “Every 5th check-in receive a small scoop of house-made gelato from out gelato bar. Redeem offer (before it melts) at our gelato bar in our second floor cafe.” Is the idea of the ad ground breaking or new or the next level of “social media marketing” or location-based marketing? No, but it is smart. It’s smart that the owner/manager of the Whole Foods location understands that it takes an effort from the business to attract new and existing customers to check-in with @foursquare. It’s smart to understand that you can not just offer a check-in special and think people will automatically know about it and it’s smart to understand that in order for foursquare or any location-based promotion to work you have to see it as a partnership with the location-based platform. Meaning the location, in this case Whole Foods is endorsing Foursquare over other location-based applications.

I’m sure the Whole Foods location with the blackboard ad has seen an increase in check-ins since the sign has been placed outside but is it enough to make users check-in? I’m not 100% sure but I believe the answer is less about the blackboard ad itself and more about what Whole Foods is offering their customers who check-in on the blackboard ad. The blackboard sign reads “every 5th check-in” meaning I would have to visit the location 5 days just to receive a free gelato. If I visit Whole Foods everyday then the check-in promotion would be like a once a week reward. But what about the once a week Whole Foods customer? I would think a promotion such as “check-in and receive 10% off or Check-in between 11- 2 for a free gelato would be better if you’re going to use a blackboard ad. Something to make customers walk in the door and receive an instant reward for checking in. Also what if I don’t want a gelato.

Location-Based check-in signs

Regardless it’s a good start not only for Foursquare but for other location-based platforms. Businesses have to understand if/when they decide to offer a location-based promotion to their customers it’s going to take some OFFLINE effort to bring awareness to the check-in special. It may be a window cling, a QR code, a table tent, a PA announcement or a blackboard.

Wouldn’t be awesome if you were at @WholeFoods & they announced over the PA system the first 5 people to check-in on aisle 5 wins a free ice cream by scanning a QR code. The QR code would verify that the person is there.

TriOut check-in window cling at MarketRaleigh

With TriOut we consult with business when they’re considering a location-based promotion and encourage them to use a mix of offline and online marketing to promote the check-in special. A few use window clings and table tents and others have let customers know via email and social media marketing.

Interesting read: Big fan of Whole Foods, but this Foursquare thing is the wrong direction by @jeffhilimire

Have you seen other offline examples of location-based marketing?

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