So Close, Yet So Far Away: Foursquare’s Super Swarm Sunday Promotion

This week Foursquare announced their new Super Swarm Sunday Superbowl promotion (Well, unofficial as the naming rights cost money) whereby checking in on Superbowl Sunday will get you $5 off at Pizza Hut. A few people on Twitter and Facebook were saying it was a great promotion, but after a few second analysis this falls under the category of “So Close (Yet So Far Away)“. Here’s why:

After years of struggling to find a way to create something that the majority of the country can identify with (Sorry, but the People magazine and Louis Vitton partnerships et al, while early, were absolutely pointless) — read as “Obtain users outside of NYC” — they finally figured out that, beyond lame ‘Polcalypses, the Superbowl is the uber sporting event of the year. Kudos to the team there.

They then figured out something everyone does during the Superbowl: Eat.  Yes, people consume so much food and booze that it’s almost illegal. Partnering with a pizza place was a great move as well! (See, it’s not all Debbie Downer)

Finally, you have to pay for this pizza, and since they already had a partnership with American Express it was the lazy easy logical thing to do.

Sounds like a great promotion, right? Not so fast, my friend.

I literally just posted about Foursquare today and how I’m done using it for a few reasons, one being that there are very few specials near where I live just outside of NYC. So where did this promotion go wrong?

The first mistake is that it’s being announced only a few days before the big game. With so many dormant users giving them short notice isn’t enough to time to bring them back.

The second piece that makes no sense is that their current user base is predominantly in urban centers, such as New York City and Chicago. I can tell you that when it comes to pizza, the Hut is quite possibly last on the list for New Yorkers to order from.

The final piece is that AmEx just put on one of the best local market campaign ideas ever using Foursquare, and while merchants I spoke with said they saw almost no impact, it sends a mixed message having partnered with quite possibly the most generic pizza chain possible.

Foursquare is trying desperately to prove it serves a purpose and can be the best friend of mass retailers. And while the value proposition of saving money is dead on, their core feature — the checkin — is something people just aren’t willing to do. Not even for a mediocre pie.

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