Murphy's USA - a company with more than 1,000 gas stations next to retail partner Wal-Mart - last week began testing a rewards program with patrons via the location-based service Whrrl. For the month of July, the El Dorado, AR-based brand is rewarding Whrrl users who "check in" at its stations with a bevy of ongoing prizes - most notably giving one daily winner a digital coupon for $50 in free gas.
But will frugal gas buyers and Walmart shoppers check in with the location-based game? Murphy's USA is located next to the big box stores in Midwestern, Southwestern, and Southeastern states. Meanwhile most location-based services like Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt, Brightkite, and Booyah appear to be attracting a user base that's highly skewed to an urban and tech savvy set.
And Whrrl definitely has similarities to its location-based competitors. In short, users check in when they arrive at establishments and then can accrue points by influencing other people with recommendations.
John Kim, VP of product management and marketing for Whirrl's parent company Pelago, said mainstream Americans make up a healthy chunk of the location-based service's 300,000 users. "We've found a lot initial success with moms," Kim said. "And that demographic is actually one that shops at the Targets and the Walmarts of the world. So it's not really a stretch for us to go after this segment, because it's very relevant to the community that we already have."
Taking a page from discount-oriented gas loyalty cards that have been around for decades, Murphy's USA will not only give out the $50 free digital reward to a Whrrl user every day but also numerous $1 daily coupons. Other Whrrl users will receive free beverage and snack offers after they check in.
Murphy USA declined to comment for this story. When its customers stop in to fill up at one of its stations, they'll see signage around gas pumps encouraging them to sign up for Whrrl to get special offers. (See image below.)
Kim from Whrrl said, "They may not understand the category of location-based services, but they can understand [value]. When you put out something as simple as, 'Hey, this is your chance to check-in and win $50 of free gas,' it doesn't matter who you are talking to. They understand there's a value proposition here, and it's going to be very clear to them. It's not about social media. It's not about 'sharing out.'"
Seattle-based Whrrl offers "societies" to brand partners. These groups are essentially location-based versions of fans or followers that are seen in other social media realms like Facebook and Twitter.
The societies are tied together by specific interests while individually sharing recommendations on activities. Red Bull was the first to launch a branded society last month, and "Murphy's USA National Society" is the second to officially jump on board.
Whether or not the brand will utilize Whrrl's rewards beyond July appears to depend on how the platform performs this month. A Whrrl spokesperson said, "Their strategy is to test, learn, and grow."
Follow Christopher Heine on Twitter at @ChrisClickZ.
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
March 19, 2014