Saturday, October 27, 2018

The ESOP of Branding:

This is one of the coolest things ever in branding. BUMPED. And I'll bet you haven't bumped into it yet. I assume that the name comes from the idea of going to one of your posts or items-for-sale and typing in "bump". It may be a couple days without activity, and now it has activity today. This is similar to the idea of going to your web site and changing something on it -- any change, even a space, used to work. It's all a game for search engine optimization (SEO).

But bumped, the company, is a way for people to sign up for a really cool affinity program for the brands that they really love, and frequent. Every time you buy something at Home Depot (or Starbucks, or....) you get special points. You actually get fractional ownership in the company you frequent. How cool is that?! The more you buy at Home Depot, the more you own of the company's stock.

This is a killer way to brand. This has got to be worth more that the usual 2% in credit card points. This has got to be worth more that 5% discount for using your Lowe's card. This is wonderful. The Bumped Consumer didn't get any money back. The company actually raised capital (in a fractional stock offering). If/When the Customer sells their shares, the sale would be in the secondary market, to another shareholder. The customer doesn't realize the profits until they sell the shares.

Also, the fractional shares can be sold by the customer/shareholder when they want... The expectation, however, is that customers will hold until and unless they become disenchanted with the brand that they bumped and give it the boot. Here's the YouTube Promo Video;

The old Hair Club For Men mantra by Sy Sperling: "I'm not just the president of Hair Club for Men, I'm also a client!" I remember a long time ago, I would invite people out to my restaurant, Miami Subs. At the time, it was a pretty cool restaurant. Not too fast, not too slow. It was publicly traded with some 180 locations at its peak... And I owned a few shares. Fortunately, I dumped that dog before it died. The company is private now, named Miami Grill, and expanding slowly (about 31 locations) in the US and internationally. Now I could invite people out to my restaurant, and watch the clock working as we show up at a Starbucks or a Chipotle!.

Companies have known for decades that getting employees to be part owners of the company helps to align the employees with the best interests of the company. Stock purchase options are common and bonuses are frequently in company stock or stock options. People who rise to C-level (or hired in as a Vice President) are often required to build an ownership stake in the company. This is a wonderful way to overcome the principle-agent problem in ethics (and in economics).

In many cases, especially if the company gets into trouble, they let the employees take ownership -- in part, or in total -- of the company, something called an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP).  One example, UPS was owned by employees before going public in 1999 (although the employee-owners retained a significant amount of stock). But getting company stock in the hands of consumers, takes this pride of ownership to a whole new level.

The company is currently beta testing the APP and the concepts and the transactions. You can sign up on the wait list at: 

An article in Wired talks about Bumped Raising an additional $11.5m in venture capital (in addition to the 2.5m raised a year earlier).

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