There is no denying the power of association marketing. That is, the attachment, or association, of a brand to a particular public person or entity. We see it in sports, cars, alcohol, clothes, cell phones and just about any other sort of consumer you can imagine. And yes, credit cards have long used such tactics to lure consumers.
Enter the Kardashians.
Don’t pretend you don’t know you they are. But, in a way, you’re right. For what on earth are these women famous?
Pardon the digression.
The Kardashian sisters, we’ll call them socialites, recently attached their name to a pre-paid debit card backed by University National Bank, called the Kardashian Prepaid MasterCard. Problem was, they didn’t know too much about the details of said card. The State Attorney General of Connecticut, however, did. So he came after the sisters and its bank for promoting a card with legally questionable and predatory fees.
Promptly, the card promotion was halted and the sisters, through a publicist of course, rescinded their involvement in the bank’s card marketing effort.
The attachment of the Kardashians, an all too unfortunate symbol of American excess, to this card makes this a much more compelling case than it appears to be. The three sisters are essentially famous for being attractive and wealthy.
As “socialites,” they are literally recognized for showcasing their wealth and societal standing on television, at sporting events, along the red carpet and on endless tabloid covers and Web site landing pages. So what better way to market the benefits of spending than by partnering with the very manifestation of greed?
The Connecticut AG, Richard Blumenthal, wrote in a letter to University National Bank, “Among the prepaid debit cards now on the market, the Kardashian Kard is particularly troubling because of its high fees combined with its appeal to financially unsophisticated young adult Kardashian fans. Keeping up with the Kardashians is impossible using these cards.”
The fees for card use could climb for some toward $100 every year in addition to charges for speaking with an operator, adding money to it, withdrawing cash from ATMs and even cancellation.
In short, University National Bank was aiming its product directly at high school girls, hoping they would see in themselves what it is they admire so much about the Kardashians: a big-spending, fly-to-Vegas-on-a-whim lavish lifestyle. Problem is, that exact mentality helped lead the country into its current financial state. Buy now, pay later, right girls?
In a statement almost too difficult to read with a straight face, a representative of the three sisters communicated their discontent with the bank’s card. "The Kardashians have worked extremely long and hard to create a positive public persona that appeals to everyone, particularly young adults. They have been successful in doing so because they are recognized as honest, ethical, and fun-loving individuals who are kind and caring to others."
Worked long and hard? Seriously? Doing what, exactly?
Celebrity slams aside, this marketing effort on the part of University National Bank demonstrates just how far some financial entities are willing to go in the post CARD Act United States, where inactivity fees and annual dues will become the norm.