It’s been a little more than two years since our launch of the Marketing with Meaning platform on this blog, and nearly a year since the publication of my book on the topic. One of the interesting things that has happened since I’ve been trying to drive this new paradigm of marketing is that I have come into contact with a wide range of individuals around the world who also believe in our cause. It’s a delight to log in to my email, Twitter, or blog accounts each day and find a random message of thanks from someone who has just discovered what we’re aiming to do.
As a spokesperson for this next evolution of marketing and a strategy leader at a digital agency, I also have a chance to connect with entrepreneurs who are building businesses based on the shift toward Marketing with Meaning. While there are some people trying to create businesses based on shoving interruptive ads in front of our faces, a handful of start-ups are working to build platforms for marketers to add value through their advertising. So in the next few weeks I plan to feature a few of these businesses here. Unless specifically called out, I have no financial ties to these companies; rather, I believe that their success will serve as a catalyst for the movement that we desperately want to see supplant the old approach–so I want to give them whatever helping hand I can. And in a few weeks I will even be able to share a meaningful marketing platform that we have been working on for more than a year here at Bridge Worldwide!
First Up: SaveWave
SaveWave is a rare example of a start-up that was spawned from a large company–that itself is part of a much larger organization. The company was recently formed as an offshoot of Upromise, the multi-brand loyalty program that helps people save money for college. Upromise itself is a great meaningful marketing platform that I had a chance to work with when I worked in marketing at P&G. It has helped people save billions and generates huge results for its brand partners (see my previous post here). Because of its success, Upromise, in turn, was purchased by Sallie Mae a few years ago. In June, some of the key founders of Upromise saw a huge opportunity to take a piece of Upromise’s success model and create something new. Such “intrapreneurship” is praiseworthy on its own, because it can be so difficult to build something on top of your day job and get the parent company to embrace a concept that is outside its usual business model.
SaveWave was created to channel a very powerful tool: access to product-level purchase data at more than 27,000 retailers in the U.S. Getting access to this UPC and shopper card data and building the trust of retailers comes from years of work by Upromise. Now this access will allow SaveWave to help marketers create other offers and promotions that are based on understanding whether a specific transaction occurred. This unlocks an incredible amount of potential for meaningful marketing. The first and most obvious use of this system is for mobile/digital couponing, which Upromise has actually been offering since 2008; but this also allows for much more, for example:
- Brands can partner with retailers to make personalized offers to customers. Instead of one-size-fits-all coupons, you can test various alternatives and vary your offer according to customer type.
- Marketers can go beyond just offering cents back, and instead could allow customers to earn other “rewards,” such as frequent-flier miles, iTunes songs, or Starbucks cards. These latter alternatives can be much more meaningful in that they are “real” benefits that you can feel and spend, whereas $.50 savings on a $100 bill at the checkout lane is not registered as a real savings by shoppers. Meanwhile, marketers can purchase these kinds of rewards for less than the actual cost of redeeming a coupon.
- SaveWave plans to “white label” its tool with one or more APIs. In other words, they want to provide the back-end engine that a thousand other big companies, entrepreneurs, and app-builders can use to create their own meaningful marketing tools. We’re already assessing the tool for our clients and our own app ideas.
Nothing is easy in the start-up world, of course, even if you have competitive advantages such as SaveWave’s data access and a nice first round of venture capital funding. I think the company’s main challenge will lie in figuring out how to stand out among a very wide swath of competitors. Digital and mobile couponing is a no-brainer and will eventually happen; the result is that everybody is going after the prize. I think the key to success will be to actually get relationships up and running quickly, using big deals to lead to drive positive momentum.
So if you’re on a big brand or working on a way to make digital coupons and rewards do more for your business or clients, check out SaveWave and contact my friend Brendaen Makechnie over there. Tell him that Bob sent you.