Branding and marketing are crucial ingredients of success for any company, whether it be a large corporation or the kinds of new startups I’ve featured on this series. Facebook, Google, and at one point Groupon, resonate strongly with the world as the heavy-weights in digital marketing and brand awareness. With Global Coupon, local entrepreneur Jason Hari, believes he has created a business model that offers a more targeted and centralized marketing platform than the rest. It also has a socially responsible angle that’s impacting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) on a global scale.
1. Who are you? Tell us about your business/core idea and how it got started.
I was born in Alberta cattle country, both my work ethic and values are strongly influenced by my upbringing there – I also have a senior executive background in resources, real estate investment and business development. A few years ago, I visited the small village where my family emigrated from, to Canada, over a hundred years ago. After that visit, I realized that something impactful had to be done to break the cycle of displaced and dis-engaged people, as well as the learned hopelessness and generational poverty, obviously an issue around the world. In my view, this is an empowerment, access to education, and lack of opportunity issue. After the most recent global recession, I also saw that businesses and consumers were increasingly breeding animosity between each other, yet entirely dependent upon each other in the micro and macro economy, undercutting each other to stay afloat. As well, traditional forms of brand marketing and advertising is unaffordable to the mass business landscape, and offers very limited options for effective campaigns or brand engagement. I created Global Coupon as the answer to these worldwide problems.
2. Global Coupon talks a lot about the win-win-win scenario it has created for consumers, businesses, and affiliates. Please explain how this is unique from competitors who have the same claim.
When most businesses make a win-win claim, it’s usually one side’s win over another side’s win. Global Coupon is a sustainable ecology and marketplace with purpose. Global Coupon concentrates on building local to global brands, brand presence, market expansion, brand equity and value, B2C & B2B digital brand marketing and advertising, and integrating digital with bricks and mortar. Business health is paramount to us, as we want businesses to profitably thrive in order to build vibrant economies from the bottom of the economic pyramid, all the way to the top. Without business health, consumers lose as well. We are about global impact and empowerment, leveraging technology and mass commercial enterprise to accomplish big things. Worldwide brands and businesses, as well as consumers, value and support this ecology.
Take Facebook and Google – they really only offer spot campaign marketing/branding opportunities to a mainly unreceptive audience, whereas Global Coupon delivers relevant audiences with purchase intent. It’s obvious which model will lead to more sales conversion.
And although we are completely opposite and fully contrasting business models, take the Groupon example, where the business “win” is supposedly exposure and increased sales, and where the consumer “win” is supposedly great product/service, and a great price. In actual fact, the vast majority of mainstream businesses, brands, and consumers for that matter see very little use for that model.
Minimal exposure to un-targeted irrelevant audiences at dictated discounts and terms that are profitable for Groupon, yet entirely punitive for the businesses, and in most cases, the customers. Further, businesses are left having to service below cost sales, displacing regular priced sales of good and services, with the same cost of goods and labor, which leads to further losses, and no loyalty from ‘patented deal seekers’ awaiting the next steal, who are not the businesses’ loyal customer target base. After the coupon rotation is over, where are the long term branding, profits and growth in brand loyalty? It is extremely short focused and cannibalizes any possible profits for the business, and erodes brand value and brand equity. It is an entirely win-lose scenario, that has lead to the continual demise of this simplistic, one-dimensional self-serving model. It is disappearing.
For the consumers, the frequent complaint is they aren’t seeing offers for products or services they actually want, and even after purchase, can’t take advantage of the offer anyway because of restrictions and expiry dates. Meanwhile, Groupon, and companies like that limited model, dictate the deep costing and terms of the coupon deal, plus they take a large percentage of what you make from your listing. The clear winner is Groupon, at the expense of both the business and the consumer.
Global Coupon, in complete contrast, is an opportunity not only for all brands and businesses to market smarter to consumers and businesses long term, but for affiliates in remote or developing areas to create income opportunities empowering themselves and their families simply by making introductions to the platform, and for consumers to easily find offers on the brands they want, that share their values. The platform is a worldwide marketing and branding ecosystem that is self-sustaining, and complements the other systems and tools already out there.
3. Global Coupon has an interesting philanthropic angle to it, what makes it so special?
We enable corporate social responsibility for businesses, and global impact. We provide businesses, affiliates and consumers that use the platform, with a convenient opportunity to be socially responsible through our Charity of Choice program, or their own chosen registered charitable or non-profit entity. To use an example close to home – Global Coupon’s local Charity of Choice partner is the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation (BCCHF). How it works is, Global Coupon, as a corporation, provides BCCHF a percentage of every transaction generated through its platform in addition to offering the organization additional fundraising opportunities within its business membership, through use of the platform itself. Businesses that register with the platform will also have the option to allocate a portion of their annual business spend to many other diverse charitable organizations of choice as well. The businesses don’t contribute donations from their own revenue or sales; we step up to the plate and donate the amount from the listing/usage fee we collect from the business, so Global Coupon pays out twice – first its own corporate donation, and second, the donation on behalf of businesses.
4. What kind of challenges has your team had to face and how have you mitigated them?
It’s a massive dynamic platform and backend, so development has taken up a lot of time and resources. There isn’t much we can do about that except keep plugging away and launch enhanced/value added functionality in launch phases. The other big challenge, which we are able to be more agile about addressing more quickly, is having people understand what Global Coupon is. Innovative, new business models have early adopters, and those that embrace it in due course as a ‘fabric of life’ company. There’s nothing like it out there right now, so we can’t really say it’s similar to anything else as the “hook” to get people to understand. Evolution of business modelling is necessary for business and social purpose. We’re getting the word out now in smaller chunks, so people can grasp the Global Coupon potential using specific examples that apply to them – and we’re doing a lot of awareness building through social media, crowdfunding campaigns, our blog, and promotional campaigns with consumer bloggers as well. Most major worldwide advertising and media buying groups, significant brands like Samsung and PepsiCo, medium to small size brands and businesses in various global locations, as well as the heads of the Vancouver Economic Commission, the World Economic Forum – have all connected with us and expressed support of our business model, so we are confident in our value proposition to businesses and consumers – local to global.
5. How does this improve the city of Vancouver? What is the real world problem you’re solving?
Vancouver has many startups and small to medium businesses that can benefit from using Global Coupon as a “one stop,” end to end solution for their online marketing and branding needs. The problems Global Coupon solve are time, budget, accessibility, and market expansion. There are plenty of online programs and tools out there to separately manage grocery, restaurant, and spa coupons, advertising, email marketing and so on – but with Global Coupon you can do it all with full control. For a single monthly usage/listing fee based entirely on your desired reach and functionality. The Global Coupon platform is easy to use, as well. Anyone familiar with using a computer for basic Office tools, can use it with a minimal learning curve. Vancouver businesses, enterprise level and media buying/ad agencies can utilize Global Coupon as part of their reach, market presence and expansion as well as marketing research – brand market/advertise in a target foreign market, for a minimal cost, to expand presence and sales. We also have built-in analytics that help you track what your initiatives are doing.
6. What’s your advice for current or future entrepreneurs?
Think big, dream even bigger, but with purpose beyond corporate success. Surround yourself with people who get your idea, will champion it to others, and will help you take it to the level you want it to be at. It’s great to be fully bootstrapped, but make sure your investors are backing you, and not the other way around. Be aware of not only what business or consumers need, look out on the horizon to the bigger picture. Look at the conditions around you, look at how people do things, and think: How can I improve on the status quo – commercialize in a long term sustainable context. The most innovative business models ensure long term, sustainable growth for all stakeholders.
It’s very exciting to see a local company shoot for the stars and try to disrupt such a dominated space. The key here is going to be building critical mass and actually convincing consumers and businesses that adopting yet another platform is going to be worth the trouble. With agility, patience and persistence I think Global Coupon could very well give the Google’s and Facebook’s a run for their money. Only time will tell.
Stay in touch @pauldavidescu
*Vancity Entrepreneurs is a weekly feature on the city’s most notable entrepreneurs or startups that are making Vancouver a better place. If you think your venture deserves to be on the series, send firstname.lastname@example.org an email explaining why*