A Card Reward Isn't an Advertisement — It's Bottled Joy

Gen Z and Millennials — Kard’s most represented demographic — are tuning out of traditional advertising like never before

Human brains like to solve problems. For us, there’s nothing quite like identifying a pattern or figuring out a riddle. This little quirk helped us survive the jungles and deserts of the world before we could store enough calories to start thinking about really important things like air fryers and true love and serial killer podcasts, but sometime in the twentieth century, advertisers figured out that it’s pretty easy to “hack” your brain. Skipping over a hundred years of development, eventually we arrive at clickbait titles, flashy YouTube thumbnails, and an advertising-distrustful society.

There’s a better way! In the anti-clickbait spirit, I’ll tell you right up front that the better way is the card-linked offer. For comparison, let’s first consider a particularly grim version of the customer journey with a traditional advertisement:

  1. I am assaulted with a flashy ad that tells me I’m not good enough or that there’s a problem I haven’t solved
  2. Feeling low, I reluctantly engage with the advertisement in an attempt to solve this new problem
  3. The lizard part of my brain tells me that it’ll feel really good to spend $19.99 (plus tax and shipping) in order to scratch this itch it just learned about, so I buy the product to please my lizard brain
  4. The advertisement disappears in a puff of smoke (job done!)
  5. I feel just as bad as I did before, but now I have yet another useless piece of plastic

Now let’s look at the customer journey for a card reward:

  1. I identify a need that I already have (food, gas, a new computer, a ride to the airport)
  2. I find an offer from someone who fulfills this need, right in my banking app
  3. I choose from a variety of competing offers, each guaranteed to put money back in my pocket — and then I go to the “winning” merchant to buy the thing I already needed
  4. I earn cash back (or points, or miles, or Bitcoin, or fractional shares of stock…) for having solved my own problem
  5. I see a notification on my phone telling me exactly how much I earned, and I finish my day delighted by the new conviction that I deserve this reward

You can see the difference immediately. Kard’s reward network doesn’t hijack your brain’s problem-solving response; it engages it naturally, keeping you firmly in the driver’s seat the entire time. And that means a reward isn’t really an advertisement as we traditionally understand it. It’s a helping hand — it’s pure dopamine from start to finish, because it allows you to retain your own agency in the process of solving a problem that you identified by yourself. A reward respects you. A reward is served to you on your own terms. A reward is bottled joy. It’s magic.

Most people don't think of a card-linked offer as an ad, because their experience with the two mediums couldn't be more different.

This distinction matters because Gen Z and Millennials — Kard’s most represented demographic, tech-savvy and already keyed into the neobank revolution — are tuning out of traditional advertising like never before. These generations have potential to become your most loyal customers for decades to come, and they’re blocking your banner ads, skipping your video ads, and recycling magazines before they can see your print ads. They think advertisements interrupt their day. Instead, they want to see your brand take action that helps them: They’re interested in corporate social responsibility, truly excellent product, and rewards that put money right back in their pocket. Add bottled joy to your advertising mix, meeting them where they are, and they’ll reward you right back.

Wrapping your head around the reward experience for the customer constitutes a pretty big paradigm shift, but it barely scratches the surface of what a card-linked offer means for the economy’s financial institutions (banks and issuers) or the great swath of business owners who provide goods or services. If you fall in the latter camp, chew on this for a moment: The customer’s positive experience with a card-linked offer notwithstanding, what if you had access to better and better data about your customers’ purchases? What if you had insight into their actual spending habits, based on aggregated transaction data? Not their flights of fancy or a probability distribution of their potential future actions — their actual choices. What could you do with that information? How would you be able to better target your advertising spend (or the money you spend delivering bottled joy)? How would it transform your company’s analytics?

Kard exists to solve several problems at once: Modern issuers want to keep their cardholders happy and engaged, merchants want to spend the right advertising money attracting the right customers, and cardholders want to be rewarded for buying the things they already need. At the center of these problems is our little bit of magic, the card-linked offer. And it’s not a fairy tale, either. Our merchants are seeing eye-popping numbers like 10:1 returns on ad spend, 50% increase in average order value, and 1.5x the number of visits per shopper. All in service of putting a smile on the face of the customer you need the most. All in service of that moment of joy.