Badges schmadges

Yesterday we hosted a “digital innovation day” at Engauge.  We invited several tech companies to come and present the newest new, giving us and our guests a peek at where the digital world is headed.  It was tremendous (for more, check out the tweets from #DIGday).

Two of the companies that presented were location-based-esque.  Kinda in the space, kinda not.  The first was WeReward, my personal check-in app of choice.  The second was MyTown, which is a very cool game-based check-in app.  Both very different from Foursquare and Gowalla.  (oh, and PlacePunch presented as well but they aren’t a check-in app themselves, but rather allow marketers to do some really cool things around check-ins…).

I don’t know about you, but the rankings, badges and mayorships are getting old (ok, mayorships are still kinda cool, but I’m not hip enough to earn many of those).  Ok, so I earned a “bender badge” because I was up late…now what?  The first few times it was cool.  Going to a new state, getting a badge, ok, that’s cool.  The 5th time it just kinda gets ho-hum.  And after using these apps for an extended period of time, at least for me, I got to a point where I kept asking myself, “why do I keep doing this”?

I really like the new evolution of check-in apps.  WeReward literally pays you to check-inCash money yo, put right into your paypal account.  MyTown is a competitive Monopoly-type game that you can play against your friends.  It’s crazy addictive.

Both of these apps have taken the idea of telling your friends where you are and made it something that goes far beyond the “hey, look at me” novelty of Foursquare and Gowalla.  And Facebook Places is really at location-based 1.0.  It’ll evolve, for sure, but its even more boring than the others.

Ultimately I think check-in apps will become check-in features of other apps/services.  I don’t really believe a stand alone app is required to check-in.  And that’s kind of where WeReward and MyTown have taken it.  And Facebook.  And Yelp.  In all of these, check-ins are a feature that contribute to the overall experience, but the act of checking in ISN’T the overall experience, the way it is in Foursquare and Gowalla.

That’s my two cents.  Come debate me you Foursquarers and Gowalla-girls :)


  1. Tony Kinard on October 8, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    I agree with your thoughts on the reward system. It’s a novelty that wears off. I’ve got better and more important things to work on than being the mayor of my local dog park. There is a recent buzz happening with apps directing people to “check in” into such things as television shows and products. Not necessarily location based I guess, but the product thing has definitely gotten my attention. Now there’s an idea where an advertiser can effect a purchase decision right at critically valuable moment: when the consumer is at a store, with their wallet out and in the buying mode. Take the new Checkpoints app for example – check in at your favorite shopping destinations and then use the app to barcode scan promoted products to earn points redeamable for stuff. Basically, it’s a scavenger hunt to earn points during trips you are already making . It’s the whole points thing where I feel the reward is lagging for me (unless maybe I got some frequent flyer miles… hmmm…). I think I would be far more excited about a product that effected me directly and immediately in my wallet. Give me a coupon (for the product being “checked into” or even let me check a product not on the list to see if I’ll get a competitive offer) as a reward. I see this as a trend that will evolve in so many ways. The competitive check in thing can be interesting. I guess the bottome line is: give me rewards that really matter and maybe you’ll win some of my money, my referrals and my friends.

  2. Drew Hawkins on October 8, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    I’m going to partially agree with you. I think the location systems with a game layer are ones that will thrive long term. Just look at the success of social gaming so far. Cash necessarily may not be the best motivator for people (even though it’s pretty cool) and may not give the best incentive for participation every time.

    I’m really interested personally in the direction SCVNGR is going. It has a well-designed game function to it as well including a “progression dynamic” application to it as well. That’s one system I’ve been keeping on my personal radar.

    We can both agree though that badges will only go so far.

  3. Thomas L. Strickland on October 8, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    You make a great argument. Can I walk into Starbucks and trade my FourSquare badges for a latte? No. And while there are a few establishments that lord their Mayors with discounts and freebies, not all do. More often than not, there is a far better deal to be had via ScoutMob or GroupOn. So yes, WeReward’s reward of honest cash is the best premium going. But …

    Here’s my deal with WeReward … it’s a crashy little app on my venerable iPhone 3G. I’ll likely be upgrading to the retina-massaging iPhone 4 in February, but until that time, I will continue to see WeReward as a well-meaning application that takes far too long to open, even longer to use — particularly when it isn’t likely to complete the check-in.

    Additionally, it looks like WeReward is oddly selective about where one can and cannot get credit for checking in. Things might’ve changed lately, but I don’t believe Target is in their list of available check-ins, which is a shame as I do a fair amount of Target-ing.

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