AmEx And Starbucks Get ‘Special’ on Foursquare

amexTwo high-profile brands launched initiatives today on Foursquare. American Express will give card members a $5 credit when they check in and make a purchase at any of 60 South By Southwest venues in Austin, Texas from March 11 through the 15th.

The campaign is running on the geo-social brand’s revamped “Specials” platform for businesses. The platform includes playfully named rewards offers, such as “Swarm Specials,” “Friends Specials,” “Flash Specials,” “Newbie Specials,” “Check-in Specials,” “Loyalty Specials,” and “Mayor Specials.”

To participate in AmEx’s special, SXSW goers will need to link their Foursquare and AmEx accounts at a dedicated website. When they check in and see the venue’s AmEx discount special, they must tap “Load to Card” on the geo-social smart phone app before their credit card is swiped for payment. According to New York-based AmEx, the user’s account will be credited in less than 5 days. The $5 credits are available for personal accounts, but not corporate ones.

When users check in at their first participating Austin restaurant or bar, AmEx will donate $1 to a local music-and-youth nonprofit called Grounded in Music. The company has capped contributions at $20,000.

The Foursquare effort underscores how the 160-year-old brand has targeted the youth market via social media channels. Initiatives have included an iTunes giveaway on its Facebook page and a Vevo sponsorship of five live-streamed performances by artists like Arcade Fire and John Legend in a series dubbed “Unstaged: An Original Series from American Express.”

starbucks-new-logoStarbucks Raises Stakes on Foursquare With $40 Gift Cards

Like some people who have recently hit 40, Starbucks is turning to Foursquare to look cool. The coffee retail giant is celebrating the big birthday, which happened Tuesday, by randomly awarding $40 gift cards to check-ins on the geo-social platform.

The promotion, running until midnight Pacific Standard Time, awards 500 gift cards to a subset of those who unlock a “Tribute Badge” at participating Starbucks locations. Oddly, consumers can also enter to win one of the cards by e-mailing a message with the subject line “Starbucks Foursquare Entry Submission” to foursquare@starbucks.com. Winners will be drawn March 16.

The Foursquare effort is part of a larger marketing campaign for new product lines like “Starbucks Tribute Blend” coffee, as well as introducing the brand’s new logo (see image).

The lucrative $40 reward ups the ante for the brand’s Foursquare incentives. In a promotion last July, Starbucks offered Foursquare “mayors” (people with the most check-ins at one store location) only $1 off their orders.

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