Begins to Test Digital 'Gifts With Benefits'
June 13, 2008
Facebook gifts used
to be graphical images of a Ben & Jerry's ice cream cone
or Sunkist soda that users could send their friends with
a quirky message. But now the popular gifting
application will let brand marketers create online gifts
with real-world value.
Brand Networks, Boston, has introduced a platform that
lets Facebook users send coupon codes and sample offers
to their friends. Dubbed "Gifts with Benefits," the
application kicks off with a beta launch next month.
During the initial test, a pool of Facebook users will
be randomly selected to use the application and submit
their feedback. From there, the program will spread
virally, allowing users to pass along 10% to 20%
discounts for select products. Continuing with the
benefits theme, 1% of the revenue generated will go to
the nonprofit alliance One Percent for the Planet.
Facebook will run a series of promotional ads in August
to promote the new program.
After closely tracking the Facebook gifting phenomenon
for six months, Brand Networks CEO Jamie Tedford
estimated there will be 200 million virtual gifts given
via Facebook in the next year: "That, to us, felt like a
real business opportunity." As part of the partnership,
Brand Networks retains a 3-7% share of affiliates'
One of the first major advertisers to sign on was
Student Advantage, which runs the nation's largest
college discount program. (The company offers deals at
stores including Target, Armani Exchange and Urban
Student Advantage hopes to have 15 of its retail members
on board for the August commercial launch, which
coincides with back-to-school shopping month.
"In marketing to college students, we wanted to make
sure we market through every channel that's optimal to
reach them. And we're confident this will be a success,"
said Student Advantage senior marketing manager Ari
Parnes. "Instead of having to pay for a certain number
of impressions, we're relying on the nature of the
[viral] environment to really propagate it."
Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus, New York, an interactive
media agency, said the Gifts with Benefits concept is
one example of an ongoing social network marketing
trend: "What's interesting is the fact that as new
applications get developed for Facebook, [then]
marketers develop successful platforms on top of
[them]," he said.
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