Apparently, spending like a pop star finally caught up to “the responsible teen spending company.” Today marked the formal end of the teen prepaid card programs offered by SpendSmart Networks, Inc. and endorsed by none other than teen idol and dubious financial role model, Justin Bieber.
As of today, SpendSmartCard.com and BillMyParents.com greet their visitors with the message:
Attention: The SpendSmart Prepaid Card program [or the BillMyParents Prepaid MasterCard® card program] is ending and your card will be closed as of 1/26/15.
For anyone who’s been following teen prepaid card offerings like I have, the announcement comes as a very predictable end to a very curious branding fiasco.
First, consider the original choice of product name. In 2009, just after dumping its unsuccessful American Idol gift card, the company launched a new product intended to “enable parents and young people to link and communicate in order to guide responsible e-commerce transactions on the Internet.” So what’s a natural name for a product designed to encourage responsible financial behavior on behalf of impressionable teens? “Bill My Parents” of course!
Hey, why not go all the way and just call it: “Stick It To My Stupid Parents”. Did somebody forget it’s the parents who have to pull the trigger on this purchase, not the teens? Apparently, they skipped the buyer persona step in the marketing process. What normal parent is out there looking for a teen payment solution and thinking: “Gee, I really want my kids sticking me with random expenses!”? I can’t think of one.
Then came bizarre branding blunder #2. At the end of 2012, the company decided to fork over the stunning sum of $3.75 million to pop idol Justin Bieber for a
14 month stint as a celebrity spokesperson to represent the BillMyParents card and the company’s mission of instilling teens with responsible spending habits.
That’s because, you know, every normal parent is thinking: “Gee, I want my kid to spend just like a pop star!” Not.
I bet the company was thrilled to see the headlines rolling out shortly thereafter as Justin made his transformation from boy next-door to bad boy to 2014’s most annoying celebrity. Doh! No worries for the Biebs, though. His BillMyParents gig payment was up-front and non-refundable. Done deal. Brilliant. Perhaps he is a financial role model of sorts after all.
Apparently, the massive disconnect between branding and mission became pretty evident over time — a long time. The company finally changed the name of their offering (and the company) to SpendSmart in March 2013. But, apparently, it was too little too late. After more than $15 million dollars in wanton spending on sales and marketing expenses. it was finally time to pull the plug. R.I.P. My only regret in the passing of the SpendSmart/BillMyParents teen prepaid card offering is that I will now have to search elsewhere to find humorous fodder for my Finovate demos. Sigh.
For any parents out there who were left high and dry by the demise of the SpendSmart/BillMyParents teen prepaid cards, I have good news: you can switch over to FamZoo cards right now, and you’ll get more for less. There’s one big catch though: you actually have to be committed to teaching your kid good money habits.
Need to think it over? This quick fee comparison might help (valid as of 1/26/2015, but subject to change, so be sure to consult our current FAQs ):