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Monday
Dec272004

Send kids (and your brand) to college

As the father of a two-year old boy, I've become fascinated with Upromise.

Have you seen the latest estimates for college tuition in the year 2021!? Estimates put tuition for attending a public school at over $100K and private school at more than twice that amount.

Enter Upromise.

Buy stuff - the same stuff you might otherwise buy - and get cash back for college. You can even set up a Upromise 529 plan and have your cashback savings immediately deposited. Very cool, very efficient.

Acquiring a college education is one of the most significant undertakings in both a parent's and child's life. There's a ton of goodwill created on the part of a brand by helping parents send their kids to school.

Here's where it gets interesting for marketers: I believe that it's got to drive sales. I haven't seen any data yet, but anecdotally I can say that of the parents I know who participate in the program, they are more likely to shop at stores or purchase products that support Upromise than any other.

Any other. Now that's power.

I know that my wife and I now start our online shopping adventures at Upromise.com. We check the directory for those companies that might have the products we need and usually buy from them. After all, if I'm going to buy something, I may as well help kick-in for my child's education.

And don't forget the residual effects of having your brand around the house. In addition to driving sales, you'll also be creating loyal lil' consumers of your products and services, which will ultimately find their place in the dorm rooms of the kids whose education you're helping to fund.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.
Now, you might say that this program doesn't create true brand loyalty and you'd be right. It's heavily incentivized.

However, this incentivized loyalty gives you the opportunity to convert passive consumers of your brand into active ones. Active in the sense that they will routinely seek out your product or service - even after their child has graduated summa cum laude - because they'll appreciate the consistent brand experience that your company provides. (You are paying attention to your customer's brand experience, aren't you?)

Here's the rub: yeah, I'm more likely to select one quality product over another if it helps sends my kid to college, but that's just it - it's got to be of significant quality.

For instance, I'd buy Gateway over Dell if Gateway would put cash in my kids 529 account after I bought a shiny new gaming PC. But, if the machine was in for service 4 or 5 times during its warranty period or I had to remain on hold for an hour while waiting for the next customer service rep in Bangalore, then I may just decide to put my own money in the 529 fund and buy a Dell, thankyouverymuch. It's just not worth the pain of poor customer service. (Of course, this is a completely hypothetical situation, since I use a Mac.) ;)

Incentivized programs provide your brand with a competitive edge, but you can lose that edge in a flash if you don't keep quality high.

I know plenty of people who left thousands of frequent flyer miles on the table because they just couldn't stand to fly with Airline X anymore....

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