Image from: John D. Sutter / CNN
If you see a man walking around Boston with bright orange sunglasses and an orange shirt, it’s either an aberrant competitive cyclist or Seth Priebatsch, Princeton dropout, unabashed genius, and founder of SCVNGR and LevelUp. (Other tech superstars were also known for their styling, or rather their nearly aggressive indifference to style; Steve Jobs was beyond loyal to that black mock turtleneck, and Mark Zuckerberg cannot get enough of those hoodies—but that is its own conversation all together.)
LevelUp is a company I’ve been watching for some time and recently I was happy to see some of their flyers in the café across from my office. The flyers are bright, aggressive and direct. They’re even a little needy, but it works; I picked them up, I flipped them over, I read the back. For those that don’t know, LevelUp is a smartphone app that links a consumer’s credit or debit card to a unique QR code displayed on their phone. Using this code, a user can quickly pay for things at vendors participating in the system. And the best part? The whole system is incentivized with neat loyalty rewards so that paying for stuff begins to feel like a game.
Naturally I wanted to use Compete PRO data to see how LevelUp fares online, so here is the traffic for LevelUp’s online hub, www.thelevelup.com. I’ve contrasted it to their average stay on their site, because I want to bring up an important point. A steep increase in visitation is not always correlated with a consumer’s interest, or even their consideration, and in this case the spike on November 2011 is a bit too contrary to be trusted. A quick search of the term ‘levelup’ and ‘November’ was revealing: evidently, on November 23 of 2011, the cable television network Cartoon Network premiered a pilot movie for a series by the name of Level Up. On the same month thelevelup.com’s average stay metric was its lowest ever (1 minute, 3 seconds). Page views, pages per visit and visits per person all show the same inversion of the UVs trend, which to me reveals a lot of confused Cartoon Network fans finding the site on accident and skipping off of it with not much interest at all.
LevelUp’s SEO troubles aren’t over, though. If I’m a consumer (which I am) and I’m interested in learning about what LevelUp does, the first place I’m going to look is a search engine, and according to Compete PRO the top ten destinations for the searched keyword ‘levelup’ are below. Luckily LevelUp has the second highest percentage of the keyword’s volume, but that darn Cartoon Network surpasses it which an immense 41.96% of total volume. That’s a lot of traffic for Cartoon Network, and it’s a lot of unanswered questions accumulating on LevelUp’s doorstep.
So maybe these pamphlets are the way to go? It’s a proactive campaign that lets people know what LevelUp is in a place where it already exists, and it’s enjoyably punchy. The only issue is that nowhere on either card is the URL listed in earnest, and when your URL is thelevelup.com and your product is LevelUp (notice the evanescent ‘the’), you’ve got a branding disjunction. You run the risk of derailing interest in your product.
I like LevelUp. I like Seth Priebatsch’s funny glasses and I liked their office when I visited. They even have this endearingly haphazard Call Me Maybe music video up on YouTube. But, aside from all this, I have to admit I’ve only used their app once, and when I got a new debit card I didn’t bother to hook it up to my code. Maybe I’m immune to brand loyalty games, or maybe I don’t mind the extra second it takes to hand my card over to the cashier, but I lost interest. Seeing these brightly colored papers at that café definitely re-ignited my curiosity and I suspect it will do the same for others. My only hope is that the pamphlets are enough to educate consumers on the product and make the sale on their own, or else this startup won’t be leveling up as quickly as it could.
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