My wife doesn’t “get” Foursquare. In fact, she so doesn’t get it that she won’t even let me load it on her phone. The idea of checking in and knowing where her friends are holds no appeal. Despite my most compelling pitches for why she should be on there, she hasn’t budged.

That is, until I showed her the Gap ad above. The “Add to Foursquare” button was something she saw immediate utility in. If she reads a review of a restaurant she wants to try on a blog she follows- Add to Foursquare. If she sees an offer for a store she wants to visit or a product she wants to try- Add to Foursquare. Blending her online habits of discovery with an app that reminds her of  of these fleeting interests in the context of real world activites made for a much more compelling use case than any I’d ever offered up

Which is why I think “Add to Foursquare” is important. Its a way to fuse online intent with offline action that is compelling on both sides of the click.

To the merchant, its a compelling,  lightweight way of encouraging an action related to their product, service or offer in the moment of authentic discovery and interest. It can be embedded in a company site, a blog post or a banner ad. I’ve not seen much real innovation in online display ads over the years, but the marrying a banner ad with an “Add to Foursquare” button creates an entirely new ad unit that I think will be effective for any advertiser with an offline presence- large and small.

To the end user, it provides real world utility.  There’s no flashing “buy now” button or clicking of an ad that takes you out of your workflow. Its more of a bookmark for the real world. Take a look at this list of must try restaurants for 2011 from New York Magazine. With a few clicks I’ve now loaded up 4 I want to try on my next trip to NYC. No bookmarking the article, no emailing myself the link. Now they’re loaded up and actionable. 

This is still a very new feature for Foursquare with light distribution at the moment. But, as a user of the service, I’m anxious to see more and more of the “Add to Foursquare” buttons out in the wild. As an investor, I’m encouraged to see the team delivering on their promise to move beyond the check-in and unlock more utility for a broader audience of mainstream consumers. And, as someone deeply interested in the intersection of location and mobility I’m excited to see how this market continues to unfold in new and unexpected ways. 

One last point. These are the kinds of innovations you get when you lead from the front. Team Foursquare lives and breaths this stuff. Location is in their DNA. They were exploring the potential of mobile long before it was cool. “Add to Foursquare” is just the latest instantiation of the future they see for a mareket they are creating. This isn’t a move for the sake of parity, this isn’t a little twist on someone else’s feature, this is category defining stuff and that’s why its important too.