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SXSW Series #4: Is fulfilment the most important word in digital? A GoWalla and Sweet Leaf Tea story...

In the last post, I was quite excited by the application of location based services in a community that has the infrastructure to generate enough traffic. I'd like to temper that exuberance with some considered thinking . It involves a good story, and a not so good story.

And one word, for which I have my 'banking' experience to thank: fulfilment.

My first attempt at acting on a LBS (location based service) was at a curio store called Ten Thousand Villages. The offer was a Fair Trade chocolate to every 5th FourSquare check-in. The poor lady behind the
counter didn't have a clue what FourSquare was. In fact, she looked at me like I was a little mad (foreigner?!).

To her credit, she was a dear old thing, and I left with the desired chocolate having had a long chat with her about the store (store managers are volunteers which starts to explain the issue).

The experience very quickly highlights the great potential social media has to disappoint.

As a business, you're suddenly opening up a myriad of customer contact points above and beyond your call centre and front line staff. The positive side of that is: conveniance, your customers can now interact with you on the channel of their choice. The negative side? If you're not ready for it - you're creating many additional opportunties to fail. Exposing your internal inefficiencies is a very quick consequence of not doing this 'digital' thing correctly.

Could fulfilment be the most important word of the digital age?

Let's contrast those words of advice with an example of how it CAN work.

During my coffee cafe travels, I picked up a virtual object using the GoWalla LBS. It was a virtual can of Sweet Leaf Tea - redeemable at their head office for a real world can.

So off I go this morning, using a combination of cunning directional ability and Google Maps every 30 seconds, eventually stumbling upon Sweet Leaf HQ.

The picture you'll see in the next post is an indication of my success! The two ladies at Sweet Leaf, April and Charla were brilliant, hooking me up to their office wireless so I could show them the virtual can and just generally treating a stranger-off-the-street with warmth and friendliness. Tea advocates indeed! (While I was chatting to April and Charla, 3 Germans came in to claim their can of tea off the GoWalla virtual campaign. I feel sorry for the ladies, with SXSW in town, there's every chance they're going to get bombarded over the next couple of days).

What an amazing advert for a brand and what an incredible way to incite product trial. GoWalla really has this 'experiential journey' thing going for it. My little application induced journey took me from a coffee shop to an ice cream parlour and eventually to the HQ of an iced tea brand, meeting friendly and interesting people along the way.

Yesterday, it even took me to a film shoot location for Death Proof, the Tarantino produced B-movie. Tourism is changig ladies and gents.

There are some questions.

What constitutes success? Ten people? One hundred people? When someone runs the numbers, is it worth the resultig word of mouth considering the feet-on-ground required to pull off a real engagement campaign like that?

I don't know the answer - time and case studies will tell us, but it certainly brought me closer to a product that I might never have tried otherwise.

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