Amazon Borrowing Old-School Marketing Tactics From Credit Card Brands

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It wasn’t that long ago that credit card brands tried relentlessly to win the hearts of co-eds on campuses everywhere. Through promotional events and branded swag, college students were met with repeated attempts to make brand loyalists out of impressionable young minds. Today, Amazon is using a similar ploy with Amazon Prime accounts for undergraduates – in ways that will actually benefit students and enhance the academic experience.

Prior to the CARD Act in 2009, credit card brands were aggressively targeting college students, luring them not only with free t-shirts and promotional materials, but also with the  thought of “free money”. Students (and more than likely, the parents supporting them) were in the dark about how their college or university may have been profiting from partnerships with credit card brands – the more students who signed up for a particular card in partnership with the school, the greater the kickback from the card brands to the school. These deceptive practices prompted The Fed to bar credit card brands from coming within 1,000 feet of a campus border.

So, what’s the big deal? It seems like everyone has a credit card or two in their wallet – why should a college student be denied the ability to have one of their own?

Credit is tricky and brand loyalty is attractive. To the impressionable, young student, faced with new dilemmas and challenges in a new environment, a piece of plastic may appear shiny (money for books next semester, something other than frozen pizza for dinner – again) but can lead to a tarnished reputation when it comes time for the “real world” of mortgages, a car loan, and – gasp! – those student loan bills.

I wish I was able to say that I didn’t fall victim to the attraction of free swag associated with a credit card back in college – but I did, and I paid for it for a long time after graduation (hey, nobody’s perfect!). Amazon is creating an opposite impact at colleges and universities by hooking students only on the things that can assist with their transition to those post-grad, real-world responsibilities. Amazon Prime is infiltrating college campuses to benefit students with demographically-appropriate products, but also with better spending habits that Prime promotes.

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