No check-in required: Foursquare's plans to re-introduce itself

Foursquare is very ready to move beyond the check-in.

That’s why mobile search app Foursquare just hired Kinjil Mathur as its first vp of marketing in company history. Foursquare famously splashed onto the consumer tech scene in spring 2009 at South by Southwest. But after more than five years of using check-ins and badges to grow and engage its user base, Foursquare redesigned its app this July to focus solely on mobile search and discovery. Check-ins, its signature feature, were spun out to a separate app called Swarm.

Now the company has hired Mathur to spread the word about the new Foursquare — and dispel any misconceptions that it’s still just “that check-in company.”

“It’s really the first time we’re thinking about crafting an integrated story about the new Foursquare,” Jeff Glueck, Foursquare COO, said of hiring Mathur.

Digiday spoke to Mathur on Monday about the forthcoming marketing campaign, the absence of trolls on Foursquare and how her background in retail will help the company in its future. Excerpts:

What is Foursquare’s consumer marketing strategy?

We’re definitely going to walk before we run, but we have an amazing product to market now. We’re going to be running on every channel you’d imagine we’d need for a consumer campaign.

Which channels?
We will be in app download ads on mobile and social platforms, for sure, but we’re also thinking of what we should be doing from a rebranding approach. We’re going to get the word out first with existing Foursquare users, so email marketing is an opportunity. We have a lot of traffic to our website, so we’ll be retargeting and remarketing based upon what people are looking at. And we have a huge content-marketing opportunity because we have such rich user-generated content. It’s a big differentiator versus other discovery applications.

What will Foursquare content marketing look like?
We are one of the first to know when a micro-community is excited about a store opening. Those users could receive a notification or email about the top 10 places, dishes or cocktails in your area.

How much will you be spending?
It’s a test-and-learn approach for us, so there’s no solid budget target.

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How is Foursquare’s brand different from Yelp, Google and the other mobile search apps out there?
We use the tagline “Foursquare learns the places you like to lead you to the places you love.” Foursquare truly is a personalized recommendation engine. It’s really about understanding your individual taste and serving you up the best place to go based on where you are. Second, the tonality within our community is positive. It’s about how to have the best experience where you are versus long rants, complaints and things to avoid.

Is shaking off Foursquare’s old image as the check-in company as important as asserting the new one?
One hundred percent. They go hand in hand. Getting more people to understand what Foursquare is doing while helping broaden existing users’ views of Foursquare are equally important.

When did you use first encounter Foursquare?
I’ve been a user for awhile, but to be perfectly honest, I’m not prone to ever checking in. That’s not really an action I would take.

You worked at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. How will your retail experience come into play at Foursquare?
For retail marketers, Foursquare solves for challenges I’ve worked on my entire career. One being how to cost-effectively get the right product and the right message in front of the right person at the right time. Foursquare does that absolutely. The second is how to use digital to drive offline sales. Foursquare is the exact kind of tool that I wish had existed when I was trying to solve for that issue.

Image provided by Foursquare