Surprise and Delight

This past weekend I went to the NY International Auto Show at the Javits Center in Manhattan. When I made my way over to the BMW pavilion, I saw a small sign telling me that if I was one of the first 5 check ins via Foursquare, I’d receive a gift from BMW. Instantly, I remembered that I received a nice, compact umbrella from BMW when I did the same thing last year. I figured this year’s gift would be along the same lines – a nice parting gift with solid value and utility but nothing more than that.

Well, was I dead wrong.

See those nice Harman Kardon headphones? Yup, that’s what BMW generously provided to the first 5 people who checked in to their pavilion this year. Harman Kardon speakers and audio systems are baked into BMW autos (along with Land Rovers, Mercedes Benz and Mini Cooper), ergo the choice of headphones.

The use of social media and Foursquare to help demonstrate the partnership between BMW and Harman Kardon is really smart. To me, this is the real power of platforms like Foursquare. I’ve received a lot of value and incentives from various check ins and this is just another way that marketing and brands can deliver exceptional value and loyalty to people. No, I don’t own a BMW but let me tell you, little things like this definitely make me seriously consider giving BMW SUV’s a second look.

From an customer experience perspective, BMW giving away a few pairs of headphones demonstrates the quality of the sound systems that are baked into each of their cars in a unique and sustained way that will leave a lasting impression on a few lucky individuals. Implicitly, when I use the headphones to listen to music et al, I’ll have some sort of recall about how I got them. Smart. They are also making an extremely positive association for their brand (and Harman Kardon’s) not to mention talk value, WOM, and fools like me publishing a blog post about it.

I listened to some music with them and watched a few episodes of Game of Thrones with them last night, and the sound was fantastic.

So thank you BMW. I’ll be sure to drop by when I’m ready to replace my 2004 model car.

Are Pigs Flying?

AOL for free? You can’t be serious. I never thought I would see the day. It took them long enough! Its funny when you look at the twists and turns of the Internet portal space and how all the “big boys” have essentially taken different paths but are ending up in the same place. Yahoo, Google and MSN (plus other not so big sites like Lycos, Ask, etc.) have a big lead in the ad market, however the volume of users at AOL can’t be denied.

From my perspective, AOL IM (disclosure: I used to work at AOL on the IM product) is now not the 800 lb. gorilla within AOL, but the 8 ton gorilla. With 35+Million users, this is an engaged audience that AOL needs to actively cross sell in order to get them to expand their usage of other AOL products and services.

I think the most pressing question is: what is everyone going to do with their AOL CD-ROMs?