Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley Can’t Stop Believing
Steven Levy

Dear Dennis Crowley,

First, let me say that I enjoyed this interview. Thanks for doing it.

Count me among those that didn’t understand Foursquare. I thought it was all check-ins and badges and didn’t see the utility. Now I do. I will finally sign up and become a user. Seems really awesome.

Next let me applaud the Swarm strategy. Brands (perceptions of products) tend to be just one thing in the customer’s mind (Google the company does a lot of stuff but ask any person what Google is and they will say one thing: search. The brand is not the company.) Unfortunately for Foursquare that one thing was social check-ins and badges. Narrowing a product offering to the one thing a customer needs to know about it is counterintuitive for most but it’s the essence of great branding. Most companies extend their product and message rather than contract it (“Let’s add more features so more people will use us!”). Ditching features is hard. Kudos for you for getting this 100% right. I hope your new VP of Marketing is not just advertising as you describe but is actually focusing on building your brand (i.e. creating the accurate perception of Foursquare in customers’ minds). What’s the one thing people need to know about Foursquare? Every touch point should help support that perception.

Finally, wanted to toss a crazy idea out at you. You probably get these a lot, but, hey, what the hell. I think it’s wild that in this day and age users have to manually navigate to a company’s website. We all talk about bringing useful info to customers but when it comes to a company’s web presence the user has to manually get there somehow. That’s crazy.

So why not leverage your location database and provide companies with a digital placeholder that comes to the user?

Example: I am staying in a Marriott. I don’t want to download the Marriott app or navigate to the local Marriott’s site for information. But I open the app (let’s call it “Here”) and I am at the company page with the breakfast hours I was looking for.

Another: I am in a gastropub. I wonder what’s on tap and if there is a happy hour. I open “Here” and find the information right away.

One app that connects me to the places I am in instead of me having to navigate to those places or download a bunch of place specific apps. It has applications beyond biz too, information about public spaces should come to me rather than me to it. You know where I am, bring the info to me.

From a business perceptive they claim their space and choose from a number of templates. Templates range from social integration, links to Yelp pages, blogs/news feed (chef’s specials, etc.), custom code or a simple redirect to the company webpage. Sky is really the limit here (place an order, make a compliant, ask for live assistance, and on and on). It’s their page, we are just the portal to it.

Foursquare sort of did this with nearby deals and updates but from a brand standpoint this concept is much better. The concept is so narrow that we would own the share of the mind connecting the physical place to the digital place. I am here. Open the app to be digitally here. It would stick in the mind like glue.

Thanks for hearing me out and again for the interview.

Best wishes,

P.S. I would be happy to lead up the branding charge for you, if you’re looking. Sounds like a fun challenge.