Monday, August 25, 2008

Prewards- Coupons for a Digital Age

Business Week has a fascinating article about a new Web 2.0 technology that marketers are using to court millenials. The concept is called a preward. Here is how Business Week describes it:

"Edo Interactive, a Nashville-based firm that deals with Web 2.0 technology, is trying to change the game. After spending a year studying young consumers, they developed Facecard, a prepaid credit card aimed squarely at millennials and the businesses that court them.
Launching nationally Sept. 1, Edo's gimmick works like a fiscal Facebook: After applicants create profiles on, they get a card in the mail that allows them to borrow, lend, or give away money to buddies electronically. For a fee, retailers can send them "prewards," small denominations of instant store credit, based on their age, location, and personal interests. Because the $2 to $3 gifts are redeemed via credit card, tracking consumer response is a cinch."

Now, I found this technology rather interesting, but I was also struck by the amount of spending by millenials, and thus the amount of marketers' attention focused on this demographic. According to the article, "America's 80 million millennials (and their folks) shell out roughly $200 billion annually, according to Chicago-based investment firm William Blair & Co.." Wow! Those are some huge numbers.

Well, this leads me to my main point. Both college faculty and parents need to be paying a great deal of attention to the importance of teaching young people about responsible personal finance. These young people are being hit with massive marketing efforts aimed at getting them to use credit cards and spend their money (and their parents' money!). Yet, many young people do not understand certain essential basics of personal finance. Unfortunately, that means that they leave college in far worse financial shape than simply the debt load of college loans. I don't think we can start too soon by the way. We need to begin educating young people about financial matters when they are in elementary school, and gradually introducing more complex ideas about how to manage one's money.