Goldfish card heads for lucrative waters

With a non-aspirational reward scheme, British Gas’ Goldfish card is positioning itself for mass-market appeal.

According to the new 8m advertising campaign for the Goldfish credit card breaking this week, “Goldfish are everywhere”.

And who could argue? There are now 500,000 Goldfish cards in circulation, the Goldbrand com-pany claims that one in every five cards issued has the fish on it, and the campaign is celebrating the cementing of the latest building blocks in its growing loyalty scheme. BT and TV Licensing are joining a partnership which already includes British Gas, its joint venture partner the HFC Bank, Boots and Asda (MW September 4).

The TV, poster and direct marketing campaign promotes the fact that card holders may now convert Goldfish points to earn BT TalkTime minutes or a discount on their 91.50 annual TV licence bill.

So 12 months after it was launched offering money off the gas bill, Goldfish has expanded to offer savings on basic communications, entertainment, health, food and heating. This has given rise to speculation about where the goldfish will venture next – electricity and transport companies plus car makers are among the favourites to join the scheme.

Jonathan Moakes, manager of partnership development at Affinity Solutions, says: “When Goldfish launched it was a bit of a disappointment because all it offered was British Gas. After all the hype and brand building there didn’t seem to be much to it. Now the proposition is beginning to hang together.”

Judging from the selection of players, it is clear that the card is emerging as a mass-market tool that rewards its users with essential “grudge” purchases.

There are the beginnings here of an unwritten maxim: UK loyalty consortiums should ideally include a supermarket, a bank, a utility company, a telecoms provider, entertainment and a motor manufacturer. So far, the nature of the Goldfish members has reflected the practicality of the scheme.

So whereas Barclaycard is offering aspirational rewards such as air miles and discounts on Cellnet mobile phones, Goldfish is more concerned with gas bills and TV licences. There is nothing luxurious about its offer.

“The key to Goldfish is that it is not aspirational and that reflects its target market,” says Moakes, who worked on the launch of Safeway’s ABC loyalty card. “It is very basic, very down to earth and a simple and practical way of dealing with those everyday grudge purchases.”

The TV Licensing deal is confirmation of this. It is the first time Subscription Services, which co-ordinates TV licensing, has entered into a partnership deal of any kind, offering its 21 million licence holders the first chance to get a discount against payment for their TV licence.

Assuming the practical nature of the Goldfish brand continues, observers suggest the next partners recruited will be an electricity and a transport-related company. This could be the AA – its rival the RAC is a member of the Shell Smart consortium – a rail company, or a mass-market motor company such as Ford or Vauxhall. But both these car makers, along with most others, already have credit card and financial service schemes.

Goldfish head of marketing Claire Stroud claims the company is simply responding to customer demands for practical uses for their redemption facilities: “We sell our card to customers who would prefer to be rewarded in practical terms rather than by choosing from an assortment of luxury items in a catalogue. Any new card partners will be recruited as a direct response to customer demands.”

BT is already tied in with Sainsbury’s, Total petrol retailers, Barclaycard and the Midland Bank, which all offer TalkTime points. And TV Licensing says it will also be chasing after other partners.

Goldfish customers will now be able to use 1 worth of loyalty points, earned from every 100 spent on their card, to reduce their phone bills. Goldbrand will redeem the cost so as not to breach regulator Oftel’s restrictions on BT offering discriminatory discounts.

For Goldbrand, the more partners it recruits, the more versatility it offers customers and the greater its brand awareness becomes. But that might not be its main challenge. RSL Research earlier this year found that Goldfish had massive brand awareness, almost 50 per cent, but only one per cent of people were using the card (MW March 21).

RSL figures for August show that awareness has increased to 55 per cent and take-up to 1.6 per cent of the population.

Sales so far have been respectable, with Goldbrand claiming it is about to sign up its 500,000th card holder. But Moakes wonders whether take-up would not have been higher if it had launched with all its partners in place. It was approaching deregulation in the gas market that forced the hand of British Gas last year – in a rather haphazard way.

The new deals do not give Goldbrand access to any of the partners’ customer databases. The deal with BT offers nothing different from the other consortiums with which the telecoms company is involved. On the other hand, the deal with the TV Licensing company does offer a real point of difference.

It is innovative moves like the TV Licensing deal that could make the Goldfish card as ubiquitous as its advertising, created by TBWA Simons Palmer, claims.

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