Friday, June 13, 2014

Marketing Myopia : ICICI bank charging fee for rewards redemption

Last day when I got my ICICI credit card bill, an interesting notice was enclosed along with the bill. The notice stated that from June 12, the redemption of my reward points which was accumulated  because of the " Loyalty Program" of ICICI bank will attract a charge of Rs 99 + tax. 

Oh really .... What the hell !!

This comes from one of the largest marketing machine in the Indian banking industry and I am totally confused about the logic of this move. Then I happen to read an article in Business Standard and was happy to know that even the journos doesn't have a clue as to what is happening. 

First things first. 

ICICI bank in a way pioneered the concept of rewarding the consumers for their banking transactions. Where reward points existed for credit cards, ICICI introduced reward points for savings bank too and for that they partnered with Payback which facilitate the reward management. 
In my understanding, reward programs are considered an effective way to increase brand loyalty. It is a common method used by marketers to reward loyal and regular customers. There are two sides to rewards. 
Firstly it rewards the existing customers to use more of the service or product and also it acts as an incentive for new customers to be loyal to the product. The thumb-rule is that the rewards must be enticing enough to encourage the customer to see value in being loyal.
Here the smart brains of ICICI bank loyalty program has decided to charge the customers who wants to redeem the loyalty points earned. 
Does it make any sense ???  
First the bank says that you will be rewarded with Payback points if you use the credit card and uses reward points as an incentive to become a loyal customer and then charge the customer when it comes to actual redemption.  It is short-termism at its best. 
You are going to charge the customers for being loyal ?? Common dear marketer , you must be living in the seller's market which is dead a decade ago. 

Another factor is the reward itself. If the reward one gets from the Payback was superb, then 99 INR may be justified but what you get for 1000 reward points is a silicon egg beater or a Prestige LPG hose  ( what a wonderful reward)  for which I need to pay additional  Rs 99 + tax. 

Although I have a Payback card , I have never bothered to look at the points because the so called rewards are no-rewards. So am I bothered about the Rs 99 charge, no because I don't intend to redeem it .  
But as a marketer, what ICICI bank is right now doing is defying all theories.