emerging communication tool

sophia lal | brendon holder


Passbook is an emerging communication tool within the digital and mobile realm and can be used with an integrated marketing communication campaign. By centralizing data from multiple companies, Passbook can help retailers to better understand consumer profiles and therefore better match communication channels to the target consumer. As well, Passbook can help brands to directly interact with their consumers on their mobile devices and in real-time relevant to the location of the consumer. Passbook is emerging to become the mobile tool for all passes; from tickets to loyalty cards, there are no limits to this app. Click on the button below to get the membership pass for QSBIMC!


Passbook is an application for the iPhone and Android platforms that allows consumers to complete transactions through mobile vouchering. By using this mCommerce tool consumers can access coupons, tickets, boarding passes and gift cards with the click of an app, therefore simplifying the shopping experience. Whether it’s paying for an Earl Grey Tea Latte at Starbucks or checking into an Air Canada flight, PassBook users benefit from the consolidation of “pass” infrastructure and simplified transactions saving them time, offering them convenience and amplifying participating brands share of wallet.



Immediacy, in the context of consumers, can be described as the right mix between ease and speed. Passbook accommodates the trend of immediacy as it allows consumers to access their passes with ease, by centralizing all their passes, and speed with Passbook’s geo-fencing technology. The ‘pass’ that is most relevant to their location is available even more easily on their lock screen. (Example: upon entering a Starbucks, the Starbucks pass with access to their Starbucks card shows up on the lock screen).

environmental sustainability

Today’s society is increasingly paperless in order to reduce the negative externalities of paper production. Passbook accommodates the trend of environmental sustainability, as the need to print passes becomes irrelevant. An added benefit of a paperless pass is that it can’t be lost. The digital trail is much more easy to re-trace than a paper trail.

small business trend

As large conglomerates dominate the consumer industry with their distribution channels, smaller businesses are finding it hard to have meaningful relationships with larger bases of consumers. Passbook accommodates this trend of small businesses by providing an easy platform for all iOS and Android users to be able to have brand interaction with even the smallest of businesses. Making passes is more cost effective than printing coupons and much easier to execute and distribute.  


profitability of loyalty

Brands have very quickly figured out that the profitability of a loyal customer is much higher than a one-time consumer. A report from Bain and Company shows that for a software consumer, the profitability increases by 7% with a 1% increase in loyalty. With geo-fencing, brands can provide more relevant information to their consumers, which can increase loyalty.

in-store vs online traffic

There is now a large debate for whether brick-and-mortar stores will be necessary in the future, especially for certain goods. Already, travel agencies and ticketing companies are moving to be strictly virtual stores. Passbook can increase in-store purchases with geo-fencing coupons that respond to consumer location.

opportunity of context

In the information age we live in, there are few filters that ensure the messages we are receiving are relevant. With time and location-based information, Passbook can ensure that only the appropriate and relevant brands are interacting with consumers so that each interaction has more meaning.


Everything about this tool is designed to operate seamlessly with other applications on the iPhone. If the user has a participating application on their phone the payment module of the application can be accessed through PassBook. For example one can use their Cineplex application to check showtimes, gauge reward points and watch trailers but the payment component of the application can be opened in a matter of seconds with PassBook.

From this, analytics can be collected as brands can acquire information about their target’s purchasing habits therefore providing them a more accurate representation of the consumer. Through reviewing their transactions on PassBook brands can determine where best to market to their consumers (Target, Walmart), to what degree they are price sensitive by analyzing purchases (Starbucks, Cineplex, Subway) and what their consumers interests are (Live Nation, Sephora). Using these insights brands can now more accurately create a market profile and segment based on purchase behaviour.

An opportunity for brands that are experiencing a high volume of cross-purchase behavior is to offer rewards for consumers through bundling incentives. An example is an airline serving Starbucks on board. By checking into Air Canada and scanning your past purchase behavior for your favourite drinks, the airline can offer you your most purchased coffee at a reduced price while onboard the flight. These tactics surprise and delight consumers and strengthen consumer loyalty.


vouchering inefficiency

A 2011 Colloquy survey found that while $48 billion worth of consumer loyalty reward points are dispensed each year in the U.S., only two-thirds are actually redeemed. There is strong reason to believe that passes will stay in the passbook and never be used therefore destroying any brand interaction.

redemption and clearing

There may prove to be a barrier for brands and products that use independent retailers (such as CPGs) because of compatibility and ability to redeem coupons.

information security

There may be a concern with personal information, such as flights taken, that consumers may not want in a third party application.

lack of crm data  for retailers

Currently, passbook does not have a built in customer relationship management software that would be an enticing tool for brands looking for cross-brand consumer data.


Passbook is not one of a kind. The Google wallet has similar capabilities including mobile credit and debit cards. Other competitors include the brands’ apps themselves. Passbook has to communicate the value of centralized passes to their consumers otherwise consumers will silo their information in independent apps.



Sephora is one of the more proactive strategies and because at implementation they already had a very robust loyalty program. Within 24 hours, they were able to have 20,000 users on passbook urging their ‘Beauty Insiders’ to sign up via e-mail.


            Medpass is arguably the most creative example of how a brand can use this tool. They have used Passbook to deliver a service. Doctors and patients can set up reminders that deliver notifications to smartphone screens for when to take medication, when to re-fill prescriptions etc. Security is a big concern, but Passbook has ensured that only the patient can access their own passes.


Bill Guard adds the functionality that Passbook and Apple seem to have missed out on. Having credit and debit e-cards or being able to pay with credit and debit from the app. It allows you to pay fees, redeem balances and check transactions from notifications sent through passes.


Passbook is an amazing way for brands to interact directly with consumers' mobile devices and has a built in filter to ensure that all messages are location-specific and time-specific, therefore increasing relevancy to the consumer. Passbook will become the next step in consumer relationship management and will give brands more robust consumer profiling data than current tools. Therefore, not only is Passbook a tool for marketing communication, it helps brands better develop their target market for the entire marketing mix. The video below explains the seamlessness of Passbook's design, and the ease of use, which we think will guarantee rapid adoption.

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