This card is an idea for the times

The following column, which appears each issue, looks at new and emerging trends in direct marketing. Alternating columnists are Barbara Canning Brown, a leading figure in the Canadian direct marketing industry, and David Foley, a specialist in database marketing programs.Strategy also...

The following column, which appears each issue, looks at new and emerging trends in direct marketing. Alternating columnists are Barbara Canning Brown, a leading figure in the Canadian direct marketing industry, and David Foley, a specialist in database marketing programs.

Strategy also invites other news items or column submissions for this section. Enquiries should be directed to Mark Smyka, editor, (416) 408-2300.

Introducing….the Deficit Fighter Card, Canada’s newest affinity credit card concept. Now at your local bank or trust company.

It is just an idea, of course, but imagine the possibilities.

The Deficit Fighter Card (official name: ‘The Canadian Government Deficit Reduction Affinity Credit Card’) directs the credit-granting institution, in return for your business, to pay 1% of your total spending to the government of Canada, said funds to be applied directly to the principal amount of Canada’s huge, and growing, deficit.

Too numerous

The full range of potential benefits for the Deficit Fighter Card are too numerous to list, except to say that it is an idea for the times.

Affinity credit cards are those that provide a specific benefit to the cardholder or to a charitable organization.

These cards are growing in popularity as the financial services community seeks to identify ‘loyalty triggers’ among certain segments of the population.

The competition among affinity cards is heating up.

First came the cause-related affinity cards, followed by cards associated with a specific frequent flyer program.

Now come cards for cars.

In recent weeks, the Toronto Dominion Bank and the cibc have announced affinity Visa cards with General Motors and Ford, respectively.

These cards offer the user 5% of purchases, to a maximum of $3,500, that will be rebated when the customer buys or leases a new gm or Ford automobile. (Some restrictions apply. See dealer for details.)

Co-dependent relationship

These cards suggest a co-dependent relationship, driven by market conditions: the card issuers want to increase the number of credit cards in circulation (since that is where they make the greatest interest rate spread), while the domestic auto firms need to drive prospective customers into showrooms.

And, once you have acquired that spiffy new car or truck, your affinity can switch to your favorite sport.

Bank of Montreal offers a MasterCard that is ‘specially designed for golfers [and which] recognizes [their] love of this ancient and honorable game.’

The cardholder benefits have nothing to do with golf (a 1% interest rate reduction, $100,000 in personal accident insurance and a credit card registration service) although ‘it does identify you as a golf enthusiast,’ according to an operator at the card’s telephone inquiry service.

Good golf clubs also identify golf enthusiasts.

While more and more affinity credit cards are being offered, there is some much-needed relief in the crowded skies of airline frequent flier programs.

Since most airline companies have a program, and since most frequent fliers have at least three frequent flier cards, the benefit of any one program becomes diluted.

To make the programs meaningful again, airline companies are offering greater flexibility in the assignment of earned points.

Aeroplan members can now get Aeroplan points when they fly on Air Canada, United Airlines or Continental, just as Canadian Plus members can get credit for travel on American Airlines.

This is just the tip of the iceberg: in addition to shared sales and marketing activities, there will be greater integration of schedules, fares, routes, ground facilities and aircraft as a few ‘worldwide’ airline groups emerge.

Watch, too, for the airline group to have one centre for record-keeping, promotional mailings and processing flight awards, and for a ‘group-wide’ database.

Notes from Saint Maarten, West Indies, where this column is being written:

Adman lives and goes to heaven: Met up with David Dick (founder of Toronto agency Dick & Labrie) and his wife Elaine.

They have lived on the island for 2 1/2 years as the owners of Every t’ing cool, purveyors of hundreds of fruit-based blender drinks.

They opened their second store recently and people are lined up to get a franchise.

Their biggest problem is deciding whether they want the business to grow beyond its original concept.

Sweet advice: Kraft distributes sugar to restaurants on the island and the packages feature inspirational messages on a variety of subjects.

One packet, headed ‘Advertising,’ says: ‘He who has a thing to sell and goes and whispers in a well is not so apt to get the dollars as he who climbs a tree and hollers.’

David Foley Associates specializes in design implementation and evaluation of database marketing programs. Please direct comments and questions to David Foley, David Foley Associates, 48 Woodman’s Chart, Unionville, Ont. L3R 6K7, or call or fax (416) 940-8784.