act devin harris1 Gowalla, Garyvee, and the Nets Team Up to Try and Move the Crowd
“How could I move the crowd
First of all, ain’t no mistakes allowed
Here’s the instruction, put it together
It simple ain’t it but quite clever”

– Rakim (track)

The commercial promise of geolocation services has long been in their alleged ability to move the crowd – to mobilize hordes of people and direct them to a particular store, a particular deal, a particular local business.

Anybody reading this blog has surely heard the anecdotes:

“Imagine a local bar that is having a slow Tuesday night and can blast out a drink special to nearby consumers…”

“Imagine the bakery who has some scones that will go stale unless they are sold right now….”

“Imagine the hotel that has last minute cancellations and would gladly offer the room at half price…”

These anecdotes make sense conceptually, and people tend to get really excited about the story of how geolocation can change local commerce.  But can geo services actually drive consumers to a place that was not already in their plans?

Gowalla, Vayner Media, and The New Jersey Nets teamed up to try and answer this very question.

In the world of geo anecdotes, The New Jersey Nets are like the empty hotel, filled with rapidly rotting scones, facing a slow Tuesday night during an ash cloud induced apocalypse.  They had an awful year, and weren’t particularly fun to watch.  Competition to give away free tickets to their games was likely intense.

Faced with this daunting task, Gowalla ramped up a campaign for the Nets (VaynerMedia‘s client) to A) Try and put some warm bodies in the seats who wouldn’t have otherwise been there; B) Get people buzzing about a team that doesn’t generate a lot of buzz.

Here’s what they did:

– Gowalla dropped 250 pairs of virtual Nets tickets at sports themed venues within 75 miles of The Nets’ arena
– People discovering the virtual tickets after checking in were able to cash them in for real tickets for a Monday night game
– During the game, Nets memorabilia was also offered for check-ins

The case study cites a lot of positive outcomes – positive brand sentiment in the days preceding the game, lots of happy winners, and 76 bodies (out of 500 free tickets) with their associated food, beverage, and parking spend in the seats who wouldn’t otherwise have been there.

It’s not a Groupon type firehose of a local traffic, but it’s not bad either especially when you consider it’s hard to dream up a worse fit than artsy, early adopter Gowalla users and Nets fans.

We should watch this type of campaign closely.

Groupon and the collective buying guys are proving emphatically that local merchants will trade discounts for volume.  If geolocation services can move the crowd, there is surely a revenue model there – and more critically, that local merchants might be willing to pay end users to use services like Gowalla and Foursquare.

 Gowalla, Garyvee, and the Nets Team Up to Try and Move the Crowd