Gowalla Plays Around With Virtual Product Placements In Apple Stores

As geo social networks gain some traction, we are beginning to see novel forms of marketing and advertisements triggered by people’s location.  On Foursquare, for instance, you can get a discount if you check into a restaurant or even get a free meal if you become the mayor. GowallaIncase messenger bags, computer backpacks, and iPhone sleeves. Collect all the badges and you get a chance to win a real Incase product.

Gowalla is doing the promotion in partnership with Incase. Apple has nothing to do with it, but because the location of Apple Stores is known, Gowalla can trigger the promotional badges whenever someone enters a store. The badges serve as a virtual product placement. The hope is obviously to raise awareness of Incase products at the point of purchase. “Our experimental goal is simply to encourage people to visit a real world location where they can actually find and sample the Incase products,” says Gowalla founder Josh Williams.

It is very much an experiment, which is in keeping with Gowalla’s focus on virtual goods. In this case, there is a link between the virtual goods and real-world goods. Gowalla will be tracking impressions, check-ins, number of badges collected and other metrics to figure out how best to charge for such promotions in the future. It seems that one easy way to charge is to tie a coupon to each virtual good and then simply track purchases. Or maybe if you collect all the badges, then you get a discount.

But there’s a line between cool virtual goods and spammy ads. The key is to keep it fun and make it seem like a game.