Carlsberg Launches Crowdit: A Non-Branded Mobile App [Interview]

We frequently see companies making use of mobile apps to promote their brand. Either by developing their own app, such as Converse’s The Sampler or by sponsoring already existing apps, such as Procter & Gamble sponsoring SitOrSquat. Today, Carlsberg launches a different kind of branded mobile app: a non-branded app. An app with no trace of Carlsberg in the design, no green colours and no Carlsberg logo. In fact, if I weren’t telling you right now that the app is made by Carlsberg, you wouldn’t know.

 

 

 

Crowdit – the remote control to your nightlife

The app is called Crowdit and is a window to the city nightlife that lets people explore and discover places and events while connecting with friends to see where they are and what they are doing.  The app allows users to browse through daily vouchers for deals and offers, and when a user favourites a bar, he/she will automatically be notified when a bar is promoting new deals or vouchers. The app of course also allows users to connect their Facebook account to access friends, share activities, check-in and to see friends’ check-ins, favourites and offers redeemed. Crowdit allows the user to discover places and events via searches, routes and an augmented reality feature allowing for a real-time walkthrough visualisation of the city.

The app is launched in Denmark with around 1800 danish places already on-boarded to the platform, but Carlsberg intends to expand across global markets during 2013. This way,  clubbers and pub crawlers will be able to plan their next night out wherever they are – even when visiting new cities across the globe. In short, think of Crowdit as a Foursquare for nightlife.

 

Non-branded promotion

The app gives places such as bars and music venues a whole new way of connecting with their customers while it allows for Carlsberg to promote their products seamlessly. Digital Platform Manager at Carlsberg, Martin Majlund, says:

“We (Carlsberg brand portfolio) drive campaigns using the platform as a tool to drive traffic and therefore increase sales. This Christmas, Tuborg can easily promote their X-mas beer by chipping in beers that our customers then can promote. Let’s say we get 100.000 downloads in Denmark. That means that we get 100.000 potential consumers that want to claim a voucher for a X-mas beer.”

The Tuborg example demonstrates the value for a Carlsberg brand to use the app as a communications tool during a campaign to create an integrated experience for the consumer.

 

Why is a non-branded app of interest to the brand behind?

From a branding perspective, it is very interesting how this app is an expression of a company taking part in activities similar to those of a media company. It is about delivering value to the users by indirectly connecting them to the brand by gathering them around something relevant to both the consumers and the brand – without ever drawing attention to the brand. In fact, the Carlsberg-logo is nowhere to be found on the app.

While customers get a larger experience and can engage in social activities revolving around passion points and common interest, it opens a door for the Carlsberg brand to access their target group where they enjoy spending time. Martin Majlund explains:

”We’ve built an entire new media platform that can support all our brands – both power brands but in time also local brands in other markets. A platform that enables our customers (bars, music venues, discos etc.) to communicate with the consumers and deliver experiences with our products. Nevertheless, in order to communicate with the consumers you kind of need…. consumers! That’s why we’ve built a non-branded universe. For the consumer it’s all about the content. It’s about delivering great engaging experiences – all the time. And in order to make our customers promote their outlets by producing events and offers, it has to be with no strings attached. No branding and no restrictions on the products promoted. Basically, if they want to promote a competitor, they can.”

So, through partnerships with bars and venues, Carlsberg can easily promote and increase sales through the app. Also, by informing the places about the existence of the app and encouraging them to create a presence on the platform, it opens up for further partnerships and expands the utility of the app. It is thus advantageous for both Carlsberg and its customers: The venues drive the communication with the users without involvement from Carlsberg and deliver experiences with the Carlsberg products while attracting the crowd to their venues. ”So we’ve turned around our marketing funnel by not showing the brand, but delivering a utility that makes consumers engage with our products. I think it’s beautiful…”, Matin Majlund says.

The mobile consumer

As I wrote in a previous blog post, today’s consumers are looking to take part in experiences that they want to be involved in and share with their friends. With today’s social, mobile and local revolution, an important part of this experience takes place through the use of tools and apps and users are often connected to physical places through tools on their mobile phones. The places where people are connecting also wish to be able to reach out the users and connect with them around experiences. The Crowdit app is a great example of a company managing to connect consumers and places without being self-centred.

Other brands have made similar initiatives of non-branded apps or apps revolving around a service rather than the product behind. A very similar example, yet with an entirely different target group, is the British butter brand, Country Life’s “Great British Picnics App”, which covers every aspect of an picnic escape out in the open air, including weather forecasts, games, illustrated bird & cloud spotting guides, nature’s first aid remedies, iPhoto treasure hunts, augmented reality maps and the ability to add your own favourite spot.

By making use of non-branded apps, companies can thus remove the focus from the brand itself and instead place it on adding value to consumers through passion points and experiences surrounding the brand. What do you think of Carlsberg’s non-branded universe?

Get Ready for the Bots – on Facebook Messenger

2Facebook Messenger was released 5 years ago and now has over 900 million users. Originally receiving a flood of negativity towards a standalone messaging app, compared to one simple Facebook app, users seem to be warming to it. The decision to make it standalone does make a lot of sense, since messaging is a big part of people’s lives nowadays and Facebook even bought the domain messenger.com to launch a version for web browsers last year. Their 900 million users will more than likely be merged with Whatsapp’s 1 billion users, which means that Facebook will have the personal phone number of every single user – sounds like $19 billion well spent.

 

Open for Business

So that’s humans covered. Where to go next? Facebook is now venturing into their next Messenger-based project: bots. If you haven’t been keeping up, Facebook launched Messenger Platform last month, which holds within it, chatterbots. Luckily, these bots are not machine learning bots, such as the disaster that was Microsoft’s Tay. They do have some humorous replies if provoked but they ultimately steer the conversation back to the subject they’re designed to cater for. Thanks to their highly advanced Send/Receive API, these bots are able to reply with actual structured messages, including links, images, hotel reservations, the weather etc. You may immediately compare this to Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Google Now and Amazon Echo, but what sets bots on Messenger apart is the fact that businesses can develop them, which in turn gives them another way to develop customer service. Simply put, bots could end up changing the world by replacing humans in such job sectors. Without the bespoke customer service integration that Messenger bots provide, the above voice-activated services will most likely not be able to solve business-related queries themselves. Having said that, the way bots behave is very reminiscent of the way Siri does. Maybe they’ll talk to each other one day and we’ll get the best of both.

 

Customer Service and Added Value

So how can these bots work for brands? Well, eventually, every major company in the world will have an account, which will be a first port of call when contacting their company. The reason this is almost definite is due to Facebook’s already-mammoth-sized network of users. It doesn’t get any bigger than Facebook when advertising to individual people, so connecting Messenger bots (as customer sales reps, for example) is extremely attractive. Messenger codes, one of many things taken from Snapchat, will also make it easier for businesses to connect with their customers. One industry example is how bots will almost certainly change how banking works for the consumer, replacing an app or web-based system with a dialogue with a machine that is able to understand your every need. The option to send money within Messenger itself is highly likely too, like Snapchat allows. This could also eliminate the hassle of speaking to a bank’s voice recognition system when calling by telephone – no more time (and money) wasted by the dreaded “I didn’t catch that. Please try again.” These voice recognition systems are essentially bots done badly, but they’re based on voice, which is a lot more difficult to translate into zeros and ones. Plus, you cannot autocorrect your voice (yet). I can see this whole system being replaced by bots – it could even connect you to a human advisor with ease, as you’re most likely already using your phone. Even if you’re using the desktop version or Facebook Chat, I’m sure they’ll figure something out. Besides banks, what other markets will benefit from this? Restaurants, travel and possibly supermarkets with online shopping services are big industries for it to thrive. The healthcare industry could also be a large portion – Healthtap have already created their bot, which isn’t surprising considering one of the first ever chatterbots was called DOCTOR and simulated a psychotherapist. In fact, the potential amount of markets are endless for this stream of interaction – just like it is with human customer service.

 

At the end of the day, customers are moving towards messaging as their preferred choice of customer service. And as generations progress, it will no doubt become the standard – a phone call will most likely be reserved for long, meaningful conversations with friends and family, which in turn will add even more meaning to them. The phone call will no longer be taken for granted, but talking to robots will be.