Social Media Case Studies, Social Media Strategy, Social CRM, Social Media Marketing, Social Media Monitoring

Are We Making Our Fans Work Too Hard?

Just because you CAN do something in social media, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

This point was driven home for me recently when reading an AdAge article about CKE Restaurants (Carl’s Jr. and Hardees) launching their own mobile loyalty cards via iPhone and Android app.

“As far as we know, we’re the first quick-service restaurant to combine the location-based tech with tangible rewards,” said Brad Haley, Executive Vice President of Marketing (in the AdAge coverage).

Seriously?

First of all, every fast food location with a FourSquare Mayor reward is combining location-based technology with tangible rewards. Secondly, why is being first even remotely worth trumpeting?

There are 550 million Facebook members, four million FourSquare users, and in the digital loyalty game you already have players like Loopt and Shopkicks offering well-executed solutions.

But, CKE ignores all of that installed base and decides to go it alone, forcing its customers to become aware of, download, and utilize its very own application? Why would you erect that many barriers to participation? Why not just launch a tattoo-based loyalty program, where customers that get inked with pictures of burgers get discounts? Or, “walk across molten lava” Thursdays?

This eschewing of perfectly good solutions in favor of a bespoke approach that offers the exact same functionality is not only understood by CKE, it’s embraced. Says Mr. Haley (again, in AdAge):

“If you are one of the first ones to offer a card in the mobile wallet, that’s a huge advantage. Some of these multi-brand platforms are convenient, but it’s irreligious, you’re just one of many choices.”

I Prefer My Marketing (and my eggs) Over Easy

Good plan. Let’s admittedly and purposefully ignore something trivial like “convenience” in favor of increased participatory friction, just so that we don’t have to share an application with other (possibly complementary) products and services.

While I do like the “Wheel of Awesome” element of the app, as well as the count-down clock to redeem offers (smart feature), overall I just don’t see this as being worth the customer’s effort – recognizing of course that I am not the target demographi.

The future of marketing is to decentralize and be part of platforms and communities that your customers prefer, not insisting that they meet you on your field, and play by your rules.

Ironically, CKE’s attempt to be “first” and “modern” actually makes them seem unable to grasp the future – which is increasingly the present.

Related
  • Anonymous

    Preaching to the choir, Jay. I expressed a similar sentiment today with a post:

    http://www.philsimonsystems.com/blog/social-media/the-big-gap/

    Great minds, right?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZUSY54ECZDBPOZB5473KYDBVI4 Brown Willson

    This point was driven home to me recently while reading an article in AdAge CKE Restaurants to launch their own loyalty cards through mobile iPhone and Android.

    Free Poker Money

  • http://www.facebook.com/jenniferfong Jennifer Linnell Fong

    While I love the content you provide here, I have to say I disagree here. I think the app is pretty cool. And if someone likes a particular brand, you get a lot more rewards with this app than Foursquare, etc. I could definitely see it encouraging people to come back.

    My 2 cents.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Thanks very much for the comment Jennifer. I have no problem with being disagreed with, ever. I don’t hate the app. I hate what it represents, which is a siloed, construction view of customer engagement, rather integrated, contextual engagement. There are far more egregious examples out there, but I just happened to notice this one.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jenniferfong Jennifer Linnell Fong

        And I don’t disagree with that. But if we’re trying to build brand loyalty, a specific app where I don’t have to compete with anyone else is a competitive advantage. Of course the flip side is device capacity, and overwhelming our audience. Where’s the line? :)

        • Anonymous

          How can I agree with you both?! I do like the idea, but if I’m loyal to 20 or so places, does that mean I need 20 or so apps? And check each of them all the time to see what I’m missing? If so, I’m not sure that’s the way I want things to go (especially having a blackberry and being very limited in app releases!).

    • http://twitter.com/julie_hall julie_hall

      Hi Jennifer, I agree with you… I think the app is cool and convenient because I can take it with me. If it is sign posted in their outlets, I can download it and take advantage immediately. I don’t live in the US, but if an organisation that I used frequently had an app like this I would use if over Facebook and Foursquare.

      I think it’s all about offering choice and allowing the consumer to choose.

  • http://www.wish.org Petri

    CKE’s overloaded sense of accomplishment and progressiveness aside, this raises an important internal organizational struggle: Do we piggyback on existing tools and communities based on their current popularity and user-friendliness, or design and build our own platforms and environments? Since we know the tools will always change – sometimes to our advantage, sometimes not – the answer is not always as simple as Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare (or Gowalla, or Scvngr). Convenience is important – extremely important. Organizations also need to ensure that, whatever the platform, their community building strategies are flexible, transferable, and sustainable. I look forward to hopefully hearing your thoughts in a future column about the criteria companies should use to evaluate which direction to go with new platforms, when to make a change with current ones, and whether to leverage existing solutions or invest in creating your own. Great stuff Jay, as always.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      It would be easier to condemn this type of empire building except for the fact that all the potential partners out there (Facebook Places, Gowalla, FourSquare) change their mind so much that it’s a little risky. I’ll work on that post Petri. Great idea.

  • http://manamica.com Mana

    Jay, congrats on being direct on this one. Not only that we’re getting these private label apps now but there’s an overabundance of location-based services. As marketers we may love the newer options but the consumers are utterly confused. We went from “there’s an app for that” to “not another app for that!” [I'm writing a post on this].

    Here’s an example: There is a new location-based app/startup here in the Chicago area whose sales people have turned cyberstalkers in trying to get my clients to use the app to offer loyalty programs. Our end-customers aren’t even familiar with Foursquare and for our Foursquare promotions we had to run tutorials (multiple times) on how to use the application. So just by looking at our Foursquare numbers we know we’d get little to no benefit throwing another application in the mix. We’d just create confusion.

  • http://www.expion.com EricaMcClenny

    I have to agree on this point…there will be too many choices and people are not going to download multiple apps in the long run. Facebook deals could work the same way and reach so much further.@ericamcclennyExpion

  • http://www.expion.com EricaMcClenny

    I have to agree on this point…there will be too many choices and people are not going to download multiple apps in the long run. Facebook deals could work the same way and reach so much further.@ericamcclennyExpion

  • http://coryobrien.com/ CoryOBrien

    Great point, and a feeling that I echo’ed as well. It’s ridiculous to think that CKE Restaurants expect users to download and use an app JUST to get rewards at their restaurants, when the people most likely to use an app like that (those already using geo-location apps) are already using one, if not multiple check-in apps, and aren’t exactly looking to expand that number. While the concept of rewarding frequent customers is sound, I think they should have thought it through a little more before trying to reinvent the wheel.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nicolesorochan Nicole Sorochan

    Hi Jay. I really like how opinionated you are in this post- and I have to agree….mostly. What happened to “listening” and figuring out where your audience already is/plays online? I think that is key to building a great strategy- and re-inventing something that already exists is not really money well spent and its a huge risk. The only reason this may have legs is simply b/c CKE already has a huge evangelist group and the prizes are enticing (buying loyalty and adoption). If you were to try this with a smaller, less known brand it would no doubt flop. Only time will tell if their loyal customers adopt the technology. Now, if you could order your food via your smart phone (and have it pre-paid for) and avoid the line-up… once you arrive and “check-in” your order is processed without having to go to the register… hmmm :P

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      I agree that their particular brand may be able to pull this off, based on their historical positioning and the demographics of their target. Good thoughts. And thanks for the compliment on being opinionated. I usually try to stay mostly positive here, but it’s nice to cut loose a rant now and again.

  • Anonymous

    Isn’t there some value in truly owning and housing all that information though? You have more control over it. What if Foursquare shuts down tomorrow? What if Facebook is down for 12 hours?

    Not agreeing or disagreeing with you, just a honest question.

    Also, there is a lot of value in being first…if you’ve done it right, that is.

  • Anonymous

    Isn’t there some value in truly owning and housing all that information though? You have more control over it. What if Foursquare shuts down tomorrow? What if Facebook is down for 12 hours?

    Not agreeing or disagreeing with you, just a honest question.

    Also, there is a lot of value in being first…if you’ve done it right, that is.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Definitely. It’s a tough one, because as I mentioned in a comment, Facebook and FourSquare change a lot, you don’t own them, etc. But, I look at it as the number one goal is to drive customer interaction, and putting up a barrier to that does not outweigh the benefits of ownership.

      • http://ronsparks.net Ron Sparks

        There it is you said “What is the goal” thats huge.

        Also as far as Facebook and FourSquare always changing. It good to keep in mind that an app should change as well to adapte to any new OS, new device and new context, (NFC, RFI, QRcode, GSP ect.).

  • Anonymous

    I get your point, but the wheel of awesome is just hard to resist. I’m not a fan of CJ, but it one of the companies that I was a fanatic of invited me to their exclusive party where there was… a wheel of awesome. (and discounts and personalization of my order) I’d have to go to that party.

  • Moot

    “Location-based apps like Foursquare get plenty of press, but they’re far from mainstream. The Pew Research Center recently found that only 4% of online adults use services such as Foursquare or Gowalla and, in a single day, only 1% use them.” Yeah so as a business they should go with a platform that nobody uses. Most location based services are going unused because nobody cares about them, and a lot of people have privacy issues with them.

    So CKE did exactly what you said they should do – “be part of platforms and communities that your customers prefer”. Their platform is the iPhone. Their preferred community is Facebook but if you can figure out a way to deliver the location based loyalty program they envisioned with just Facebook and an iPhone that’s fully automated and hardees-clerk-proof, you should call them. Free stuff for visiting CKE restaurants, just download a free app and spin a wheel? A lot of people will download it who eat there regularly. Stop trying to make the business world conform to your hippie vision of the tech world.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Hi Moot. Thanks much for the thoughtful comment.

      I’m a big fan of Pew, but that study is months old (in terms of when it was in the field), thus it’s not reflective of the recent growth of location apps. In fact, the study doesn’t even mention (I don’t believe) Facebook Places.

      They cite 4% of online adults as using location apps. That’s ALL online adults. CKE’s target young demographic, me, my mom, and my grandmother. Thus, I’d expect usage among their core demo to be far higher than 4%.

      Foursquare just passed 4 million users, which is approximately 20% of the viewers for American Idol, which isn’t exactly a niche. Something like 150 million people (globally) use Facebook from a mobile device monthly, so to claim that there is not installed base for location apps simply isn’t true.

  • Jen

    This is beautifully stated and although I would be interested to see how the “walk across molten lava Thursdays” would work out, you hit the nail squarely on the head. Even if loyal fans do the work this time, as things move forward and they have quickier and easier access to rewards from their other favorite brands, they will forget the CKE app they downloaded. It’ll become an annoyance when it’s the only one, or one of a few that takes them out of where they want to spend there e-time.

  • http://twitter.com/socialpr socialpr

    Long before the Internet, you had loyalty cards. Restaurants like CKE would produce a loyalty card and ask you to stuff it into your wallet.

    With so many restaurants out there issuing loyalty cards, you will most likely suffer from the fat wallet syndrome. You would either then throw over the card or leave it at home. You be reluctant to sign up for another card. So the restaurants will have to bride you with better offers.

    Even with modern technology, CKE is still thinking traditionally. Let’s create our own app, and get our visitors to download it into their smartphone. Soon, the “fat” smartphone syndrome will appear and users will resist putting more apps.

  • http://insightsandingenuity.com heatherrast

    I’d be interested in knowing the “why” behind the move. I’ll admit I know very little about the current marketing ambitions of CKE although I was familiar with their unapologetic move into the Big Portions arena when the trend was lighter, smaller. But what I’d like to know is what drove them to decide to build a proprietary app right now. Is there data to support that a large number of CKE customers own smartphones? That they use mobile data minutes? It would also be good to understand how they plan to use the information gleaned from participants (more exclusive offers?) and to what end. What will a successful program look like?

    I am on board with many of your points, Jay. On a practical level, it seems like wasteful spending in support of a super-sized ego, with a complete disregard for the big picture customer element (shiny coolness aside). But in one way, I suppose for the uber CKE evangelist, there may be some appeal or gratification in using a one-off app. And maybe that’s all CKE aspires to achieve – to talk to the burger eaters that really, really dig their stuff. I’ll bet a couple of bucks that within 6 months this is a has-been. It doesn’t have the mass appeal required to sustain itself.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment Heather. Indeed, this might fit their plan, and I don’t want to suggest that it has no redeeming elements. But I fear we’ll start to see a lot of this kind of stuff from many brands, and I’m just not sure it makes sense for most of them.

  • http://twitter.com/JennaPet Jenna Petroff

    Okay, admittedly, I’m a bit biased. However, I had to respond and reiterate that the Happy Star Rewards application was designed to do exactly as you assert – make it easy. You see, we have been meeting our customers in their preferred platforms, having launched The Wheel of Awesome loyalty application first on Facebook. If you read the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. Twitter streams, you’ll see that we also reward our Foursquare mayors and regularly tweet contests and challenges to provide an additional incentives to our followers. All of these platforms serve a purpose and have a unique and loyal following, but the audience and capabilities are not the same on each. You write that the “future of marketing is to decentralize and be a part of platforms and communities that your customers prefer.” Jay, that is exactly what we are doing. We will continue our efforts with loyalty programs on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, while also looking to the future of marketing and rewarding as many of our loyal customers as we can. Why shouldn’t one of our Twitter followers have access to the same rewards as our Facebook fans? Should we force their hand to join both? Or should we make it easy by creating a feasible solution that provide rewards bigger than a coupon offer or snazzy badge, while still fully supporting their preferred communications outlet? Well, mobile is the platform that is allowing us to do that. It was never our intention to “eschew perfectly good solutions” but rather to bring all of those users and platform features together to provide a dynamic user experience. We’ve been working with Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare from the application’s inception to ensure cross-platform integration. Users can cross-post and sync their check-ins on all three. Fans on our Facebook page can push their Wheel of Awesome rewards to the mobile app, thus eliminating the need to print a coupon. That’s pretty easy. No need to carry a membership card in your wallet. Just put the app on the Smartphone you already carry. That’s pretty easy. Look up menu and nutritional information before you order. That’s pretty convenient…and easy. Have your rewards increase in value with frequency of visits. That’s pretty…well, that’s just cool. I understand the tone of your post and if we weren’t already actively involved with the several of the other social media platforms you mention, I might agree with your assertions. But, we’re not creating the app as a silo. It is part of a highly integrated program to meet our customers where they are now…and where they are going to be.

    • http://twitter.com/luckylou Luis Antezana (luckylou)

      I have to agree with @Jenna. Great response. A specialized app provides more functionality in a branded environment. I continue to use the Starbucks mobile app because it provides valuable functionality beyond what the various location-based services can.

      CKE is wisely considering their strategy for the various social solutions, and are not doing short-sighted things other brands do, like tell their Twitter fans to go to Facebook to complete an offer.

      I see Jay’s points, and I also agree an app per brand would seem to be too much, but I think most people only care about a small enough number of brands’ apps to be easily manageable on their devices.

    • http://twitter.com/luckylou Luis Antezana (luckylou)

      I have to agree with @Jenna. Great response. A specialized app provides more functionality in a branded environment. I continue to use the Starbucks mobile app because it provides valuable functionality beyond what the various location-based services can.

      CKE is wisely considering their strategy for the various social solutions, and are not doing short-sighted things other brands do, like tell their Twitter fans to go to Facebook to complete an offer.

      I see Jay’s points, and I also agree an app per brand would seem to be too much, but I think most people only care about a small enough number of brands’ apps to be easily manageable on their devices.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Great comment Jenna. I appreciate you taking the time. I love that you’re integrating across the board. Well done. However, the quotes from CKE in the article are almost derisive of existing technology, making it seem like the integration is not the intent.

      Perhaps this is a case where the reality and the comments about the reality don’t sync up.

      I love the wheel of awesome concept overall, although I wish it worked. I checked it out on Facebook recently, and it was offline.

  • Anonymous

    We’re moving into a era where leveraging will be more productive than innovating. Being “first” isn’t what it used to be.

  • http://www.skypulsemedia.com/ Howie at Sky Pulse Media

    I like CKE’s take on things. I view LBS as a 1 to 1 relationship adding a networks brings in a third party. Plus you don’t have to keep migrating each time a new service comes and go and you can focus on improving your App which will set you apart. There is zero reason to help these services make money off you when you can have an App and do it yourself if you can afford it and they can. I don’t agree with your installed base view since you need a smart phone anyway to use those LBS services you mentioned, why not an App? In 5 years when FourSquare and Facebook are has been’s there will still be IPhone and Droid Apps. So that’s my view. I do agree being first isn’t always best though. I am a firm believer in technology one day being imbedded. I sold Pagers in the early 90′s that cost $25/month to rent plus $0.25 per text message. Now that is imbedded in our phones. Social and LBS are going the same way within 10 years.

  • http://twitter.com/egockel Eric Gockel

    Why does foursquare allow me to check into places seconds after each other? That’s obviously not physically possible, yet they allow it. They may police distances, but fraud is a valid concern.

    Checking in doesn’t necessarily mean you bought something at the store either.

  • http://twitter.com/egockel Eric Gockel

    Why does foursquare allow me to check into places seconds after each other? That’s obviously not physically possible, yet they allow it. They may police distances, but fraud is a valid concern.

    Checking in doesn’t necessarily mean you bought something at the store either.

  • http://twitter.com/egockel Eric Gockel

    Why does foursquare allow me to check into places seconds after each other? That’s obviously not physically possible, yet they allow it. They may police distances, but fraud is a valid concern.

    Checking in doesn’t necessarily mean you bought something at the store either.

  • http://twitter.com/egockel Eric Gockel

    Why does foursquare allow me to check into places seconds after each other? That’s obviously not physically possible, yet they allow it. They may police distances, but fraud is a valid concern.

    Checking in doesn’t necessarily mean you bought something at the store either.

  • http://twitter.com/KaufmanwithAK Alex Kaufman

    Having used the wheel of awesome on Facebook prior to this app, I can say that this solves (POS redemption) the issue of printing a coupon to use it, which was a major bummer.

    Side note I used the wheel of awesome after they gave me 30 spins due to chipping my tooth eating a CJ breakfast sandwich, which cost me $300 in dental bills. Either way it’s clear the CKE is one of the social leaders in the fast food space – which makes them a top target for feedback on their actions.

  • Anonymous

    What I find interesting is that the video here is completely off brand. I’d expect this tone and detail for a product targeting baby boomers…not young adults who are pretty savvy when it comes to downloading and using mobile apps. If I’m comfortable getting sauce all over my face, I know how to get an app on my phone.

    In regards to the app itself, it seems that the objective was to develop a mobile-based loyalty program, not to increase loyalty using mobile devices. A slight altering of the objective would have had a different execution.

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