Are you the Mayor this Christmas?

I lost my mayorship of the office this morning… 3 days before Christmas, and I’m distraught.

The fact of the matter is that I’ve been trying exceptionally hard to compete with a colleague (thanks @ronaldzouein) and maintain this mayorship over the last 3-4 months (between trips to NY, Chicago and Riyadh) and then I woke up this morning to see the below in my Twitterstream. It’s doubly a pain because we are always very excited when we know that something pops up in the mentions section of our stream, beyond the back and forth messaging of the hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people we follow – when a DM or mention pops out of the load it normally means something good, apart from today.

But all this is the power of Foursquare (and essentially all location based services going forward, be they Gowalla, Facebook Places or the rest), because these applications are creating a social utility by connecting people, an entertaining pastime by checking in, competing, watching what others are doing, an emotional boost by offering rewards (be they only in the form of badges) that we can display to all and sundry of our checking in prowess, and finally by helping brands who are (unbeknownst to the majority of users) getting hits and mentions on their brand on Facebook, Twitter (and the Foursquare site) and beyond as a result of our checkins at their locations. And this doesn’t even touch on the commercial potential of the Foursquare application that we now see cropping up with the first foray of the brand through mayor specials.

This is the future of marketing (and many brands are already living it), providing real social utility in our lives and benefiting from it. Not invading our heads with clutter, not blocking our path with messages of no relevance and not trying to interupt a conversation between us and our friends and family. There are already countless examples of brands offering this type of utility, Nike+ being a major example, or mobile applications like that of Pizza Hut that let you have fun whilst finding and ordering a Pizza; but there are still far too many brands out there who are simply throwing out their message, much like they throw out the trash to every single dustbin / rubbish bin / trashcan they can find – filling our lives with the useless one way clutter. We have the misfortune of having an abundance of media space on the web (not like the scarcity that has existed for so many years in traditional media) and there is therefore the opportunity for this trash to grow in size, volume and pervasiveness – as marketers we need to stop this, we need to make our clients understand that they will deliver differentiation by delivering utility (in whatever form it takes) and then, and only then, will they start to see real success and results from their marketing spend.

For my part, I shall as a result, be heading into the office everyday over the holiday break to try and win back my mayorship, thankfully I still hold down another 11 for the moment – you can see my Foursquare profile here – but I guess I’ll need to be more vigilant over those in 2011 too.

By Lex Bradshaw-Zanger

A digital native and integrated brand marketer with a passion for marketing-communications and product design, Lex has a truly international outlook and experience, having worked both in major marketing agencies and client-side brands across Europe, the US and the Middle East.

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