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Co-Branded Cards

Companies extend their brands while extending their thanks

Gift cards are a cornerstone of most corporate incentives, rewards and client appreciation programs. But they’re not just for gifting anymore. Gift cards are mini-billboards that can communicate a wealth of information, drive website traffic and perhaps even influence behaviours.

It starts with customization. You can co-brand corporate gift cards that are issued by virtually any type of company such as coffee shops, restaurants, retail chains or credit card issuers like financial institutions, Visa, MasterCard and AMEX.

Co-branding can be as simple as printing one’s logo and personalized message onto the cards. The top reason for handing out co-branded gift cards is brand extension, says David Eason, CEO of Berkeley Payment Solutions, a Toronto-based provider of Visa prepaid corporate incentive programs.

The top three denominations for corporate gift cards are $25, $50 and $100, Eason says. Berkeley often creates reloadable co-branded cards for clients who operate ongoing incentive programs, so that recipients carry around only one card. “Branded cash is how we describe it,” Eason says.

There are many ways to make gift cards work harder. Companies are adding URLs and access codes that drive recipients to branded microsites where any type of messaging can be served up such as announcements, contests and surveys.

Calgary-based Benevity helps companies add a corporate social responsibility component to their gift cards. Recipients are encouraged to go online where they can direct a portion of their gift to their favourite charity. (See the sidebar story “The Card That Keeps On Giving.”)

The beauty of the co-branded gift card as mini-billboard is that when recipients go online, their activities are trackable and measurable. That helps companies determine whether their reward programs have meaning and value. “Companies like to get the metrics in terms of how many cards have been activated, how many cards have been loaded, how many cards are being used,” Eason explains.

Canadian companies are beginning to show interest in electronic gift cards versus actual plastic cards, says Douglas Garcia, president of Toronto-based Preferred One which offers co-branding solutions through its own JUMP card program. JUMP card recipients are able to redeem points for retailer gift cards online.

During the first quarter of 2011, Preferred One plans to launch a new platform that is connected to social media sites like Facebook. JUMP cardholders will be able to instantly redeem points online, and by using their mobile phones at the cash register.

“The shift is from plastic to electronic because, with the electronic code, there’s instant gratification,” Garcia explains. And, it would seem, endless opportunities for companies to further develop employee and customer engagement.

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The Fine Print:
Open loop
. Prepaid gift cards issued by banks and credit card companies, such as Visa, MasterCard and AMEX. They can be redeemed wherever their cards are accepted.

Closed loop. Cards that are issued by establishments like stores and restaurants, and can only be redeemed at their locations.

Survey Says…
When asked to rank the specific incentives they believe to be valued most by recipients, Canadian executives named Visa, MasterCard or American Express prepaid corporate incentive cards (74%), retail gift certificates (55%), individual travel (51%), and experiential events such as concerts and special events (42%). Traditional incentives such as catalogue and company selected merchandise ranked extremely low at 9% and 4%, respectively.
Source: Canadian Incentive Trends Outlook 2010-2011, a survey conducted by Berkeley Payment Solutions. 

The Card That Keeps On Giving
Everyone likes receiving gift cards. Now recipients can pass along some of that goodness to their favourite causes. Calgary-based Benevity has developed an online platform that enables organizations to embed social responsibility into core business activities.

Here’s how it works: When a company buys co-branded gift cards, it also purchases donations. Card recipients visit the Benevity giving platform–a plug-and-play solution that can be housed on the card giver’s website–where they input the special code that is printed on their gift card. A card denomination of $100, for example, could consist of $95 for the recipient and $5 for the registered charity of his or her choice.

The program helps companies to make meaningful connections between their corporate social responsibility strategies and their incentives, rewards and appreciation programs.

“Most companies have a budget for philanthropy and community investment. They don’t necessarily have to change that budget. It’s just a different way to deploy it,” explains Benevity president and CEO Bryan de Lottinville. “The idea is to integrate CSR and what people care about with transactional and other online interactions that companies are having with their customers and employees.”

It’s a win-win: not only do card recipients feel appreciated, they get to share the love.

By Angela Kryhul

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