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SoftCoin Launches Promotions Platform

SoftCoin is expected to christen its new Promotion Service Provider Platform today. The company will offer offline companies such as consumer packaged goods manufacturers the ability to put together loyalty and sweepstakes programs as well as a variety of other promotions.

SoftCoin considers itself a Web-based promotions service provider that bridges offline and online retailers in a co-branded marketing campaign.

The company's first offering was its cross-promotional platform that companies such as Nokia and Procter & Gamble have been using since its launch in April.

A consumer who buys a phone, for example, receives a card with a unique code at the point of purchase. The consumer then goes to the phone provider's site or a section of Softcoin.com and creates an account. After providing demographic information in six areas and filling out a short survey, the consumer enters the code, which gives the consumer a pre-allotted cash amount (Nokia offered $20) that can be spent at more than 100 online partner merchants that have signed on with SoftCoin. Merchant partners include Fogdog.com, FTD.com and Sharperimage.com.

The Promotion Service Provider platform takes this model to the next level. Its loyalty offering allows a company to place a code on its products. Consumers then can go to the company's site to activate the code and add it to an account. For brands that do not have an Internet presence, SoftCoin will create a site.

The sweepstakes and instant-win promotions also operate using a code. For an instant-win contest, a consumer enters a code and is given a dollar amount. Random winners will earn a grand prize.

For standard sweepstakes, consumers earn any entry for every code they type in. “We're focused on the needs of an offline brand. We have a variety of promotional modules for the customized needs of an offline brand. We're a secure infrastructure with a Web interface,” said Chris Redlitz, CEO of SoftCoin, San Francisco.

One stumbling block this company may come across is that Beenz, an online loyalty currency, claims it already has the patent for a similar code-based technology (www.dmnews.com/articles/2000-10-16/10937.html).

Beenz announced last week that its technology allows beenz to place a code on product packaging, receipts, newspaper ads and direct mail pieces. If a consumer visits a client's Web site and enters a code, such as in the ongoing Pepsi Stuff rewards program, he earns an allotted number of beenz. Beenz claims it acquired the U.S. patent from a German company called Credigy.

SoftCoin, which has four patents pending for its technology, does not think there will be a problem. “Ours is unique enough. It may not affect us,” Redlitz said.

SoftCoin's platform offers reporting tools that consolidate the data collected when a consumer registers. Marketers can monitor the performance of their promotions using its tracking tools.

SoftCoin also can create e-mail campaigns using the names gathered during the promotions. Additionally, the company provides inhouse customer support, including live chat.

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