The latest news from the South by SouthWest event in Austin, Texas, is that an advertising agency has left twenty bicycles around the city for visitors to use. But these are no ordinary bikes, they have GPS equipment built-in and can broadcast tweets automatically.
The bikes are going to tweet as if they were individuals, with each one tweeting about the local weather, the current location of the bike, and various local initiatives like food trucks.
They will even tweet ‘RIP’ and die if the bike is stolen and removed from the Austin area – perhaps anticipating what would happen to many bicycles left unlocked in the centre of a city. I’m a cyclist, I know what happens if you leave a bike anywhere without locking it up!
This all sounds frivolous, and maybe this particular example is, but it leads to several questions about advertising and sales, not least the possibility for promotion of a company brand through a social activity where a service is given away free as part of a promotional campaign.
Barclays famously sponsors the London “Boris bikes” and their logo is emblazoned on every bike, but compared to the tweeting bikes, just displaying a logo seems quite dated.
What other products and services might be given away to consumers in return for some advantage in the sales process, even if that advantage is just an awareness of the organisation?
Photo by Colin Strain licensed under Creative Commons