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KULA Causes Offers a Currency of Giving

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KULA Causes Offers a Currency of Giving
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If you aren’t convinced of the depths of our individuality as human beings, then stop texting at the next red light and have a look at the bumper stickers on the cars ahead of you.

I did just that, though I might have looked while texting, and saw three different calls to action to cure a disease. There was a pink ribbon representing breast cancer, a sticker for Team in Training which supports Leukemia and Lymphoma, and another for ALS, known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. That was just at one stop light in my neighborhood.

My thought, as it related to customer strategy and loyalty marketing, was how different all of our customers are and what a big challenge it is to offer them something that piques interest and springs them into action.

The loyalty and rewards industry has two big issues which it is facing today:

  1. Program membership is at its highest level ever, but participation levels are lagging. It seems we can get people to join with an initial offer, but there’s not enough value to keep people engaged.
  2. There is a tremendous financial liability that brands have accumulated on their balance sheets, which now is being impacted by stringent international accounting standards.

Charitable giving has long been a feel-good tactic applied by brands to solve both problems. Social responsibility and green causes look good on corporate resumes and can stimulate engagement with program members on a temporary basis. It is also a great vehicle to help burn off orphan point/mile balances.

The trouble with charitable outlets for loyalty points in the past has been lack of choice. If you offer me 3 choices after clicking on the “Causes” tab on your program website, I may not identify with any of them.

As illustrated by the bumper sticker example, we’re all individuals, there is an incredibly long tail of interests that shape us as people. I might want to build a house for Habitat for Humanity or give to my local church, while you may want to support Livestrong in its battle against cancer or donate to your child’s 3rd grade classroom to help defray the cost of classroom supplies.

The game is changing with the launch of KULA Causes. The founders of KULA Causes come from diverse backgrounds, and have depth of knowledge and experience in cause-related public works around the world. Gerrit McGowan, one of the Founders and CEO, worked with and for the United Nations for 10 years, helping charities and non-governmental organizations bring value to their causes.

He explained to me that the name KULA has roots in a system of giving practiced by Melanesian Islanders and the Coastal First Nations of Canada. As he stated “KULA introduces a “Currency of Giving” which changes the way loyalty program sponsors and brands will view the linkage between data driven marketing and charitable causes”.

KULA has three implementation models, allowing for “direct earn”, “direct burn”, or a “Currency Exchange”. A brand can build a Customer Strategy around this Currency of Giving or position KULA as a reward option. Whatever path is chosen, program members can convert any reward currency to make a donation to one of over 2 Million certified charities around the world. In the U.S., these donations are tax deductilbe, making KULA a “win-win-win” for consumers (program members), brands that sponsor loyalty programs, and the charities themselves.

Ask any seasoned loyalty professional and they will tell you that a “balanced blend of reward and recognition” is key to successful program operation over the longer term. To make a connection emotionally with program members is a tall task. It’s also a tough one to have to manage millions of dollars of accumulated points on the balance sheet.

KULA can help to do both, and brands that embrace KULA should see an uptick in member engagement levels as well as reduction in financial liability.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am working with KULA Causes in an advisory capacity to help them manage their high-growth environment. I know the points of pain in our industry these days, and have seen how KULA can relieve some of the pressure.

Loyalty Marketing needs an injection of innovation, and KULA Causes is a great source for that spark. Their potential goes beyond just our industry and will develop in surprising ways. In the interim, anyone wanting to increase member engagement and manage financial liability should take note of KULA Causes.

That would be good for all of us, right?


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