I love this cause-marketing promotion from a UK housing charity that brings together eight Edinburgh thrift shops with the leading location-based service, Foursquare.
It capitalizes on a physical location. Shelter Scotland helps people with all sorts of housing problems from homelessness to poor living conditions. 16 percent of Shelter's annual donations come from its two dozen thrift shops throughout Scotland. Not all nonprofits are destinations for shoppers or visitors. But the ones that are should follow Shelter's lead and tap Foursquare, which just isn't for nonprofits that are cultural institutions and museums. What about thrift-store giant Goodwill or a busy historical attraction like the Freedom Trail in Boston? Foursquare should be part of their [cause] marketing too.
Shelter jumped in with both feet. They launched the program in eight stores to start and created a great video to educate supporters about the campaign and how to use Foursquare. Shelter isn't assuming anything. They're building a Foursquare promotion one user at a time and are not giving people a reason to say no (e.g. "I've never heard of Foursquare." "I don't know how to use it.")
Shelter also developed real benefits for users that regularly checked-in to their stores. They're offering a buy two, get one free special for both newbies and for loyal customers on every sixth check-in.
I also like how Foursquare users can earn cool badges from a noted designer. Shelter even created a unique badge for each store. Those who collect all eight will be entered into a contest to win prints of the designs.
The promotion has room to grow. Shelter is off to a great start and can develop the promotion in a couple ways. The charity has a number of corporate partnerships they could add to the promotion. In exchange for a co-marketing opportunity on Shelter's Foursquare page a company could make a donation for each check-in. The real opportunity, however, is for Shelter to create Foursquare promotions for businesses -- preferably ones with lots of locations -- and include a cause marketing component that will benefit the charity. Companies would profit from Shelter's expertise and the housing chartiy would profit from sharing it.
Shelter was smart to focus on smartphone users. Now's not the the time to question the merits of mobile. Trust me, its future is as bright as the printing press! However, Shelter shouldn't stop with Foursquare. What about SMS? Those who read me regularly know that SMS is my new cause-marketing darling, so bear with me. Adoption rates for location-based services such as Foursquare are low and growing slowly. Adding a text component to Shelter's mobile promotion might make sense.
Use SMS for reach -- because it's the ring that everyone answers -- and then a QR code, landing page, application such as Foursquare for a richer media experience. SMS is the messenger that will tell mobile users that supporting Shelter Scotland and earning rewards for themselves is just a check-in away.