In the Beginning, there was #Smallenfreuden
Once upon a time – or about six months ago – there were ten rich, middle-aged, overweight white guys sitting in a posh board room on the eighty-second floor of a designer skyscraper in San Francisco. These were no ordinary rich, middle-aged, overweight white guys (RMAOWG), they were special. They were special because they had elite marketing powers and worked for an incredibly rich mega-corporation that specialized in making money.
They decided they wanted people to buy stuff but they weren’t sure how to get people to do what they wanted them too. Mr. RMAOWG #1 had a great idea and turned to Mr. RMAOWG #2 and said, “Hey, we should make up a word and then put it on the Twitter so young impressionable minds will twit about it.” Other RMAOWG gets super-excited, “You are like that weird holiday where people give each other free stuff in person form, Mr. RMAWG #1! We are going to make squintillions! Moo hahah.”
The Result: #Smallenfreuden is Inflicted on the World
Around the beginning of May, people began seeing these billboards about #smallenfreuden. With no branding, tagline, or “call to action”, it had all the beginnings of a viral campaign. People became curious, searched the hashtag on Twitter, and tried to learn more about it. At first, there was no information available about who was behind the campaign – just an anonymous Twitter account asking viewers who they “smallenfreuden” with or how they “smallenfreuden”.
In a Toronto Star article, the reporter references a Youtube video which reveals the meaning of “smallenfreuden” as the “joy of small” and that the word originated in Greenwood, BC. The video attracted more than half a million views. As far as teaser campaigns go, it was becoming quite successful.
Visa revealed itself as the company behind the advertising campaign during the NHL playoffs with commercials. The premise is that you will earn rewards and/or cash back on the little purchases you credit. They “joy in small purchases”.
The multinational financial corporation tapped into the power of creating a social movement, paying a tonne of money putting up hundreds of billboard advertisements, launching Twitter campaigns, producing and posting Youtube videos, and buying up prime television commercial slots. In a Globe and Mail article, it was revealed that Visa even paid NHL announcers on TSN and CBC to use the term “smallenfreuden” to describe certain types of hockey plays in the play-offs.
Let’s look at this another way, here’s what #smallenfreudening looks like according to the mega-corporation Visa:
But here’s what it’s probably going to look like in the real:
#Smallenfreuden is nothing more than a money-making machine designed to hook you into the habit of using your credit card for everything. A bid to turn your credit card into something that you can’t leave the house without. Like a cell phone or house keys. An every day thing. A routine.
Transforming your credit card use from buying airline tickets and big purchases to gas, groceries, movies, snacks, coffees, fast food, pack of gum, effing eff word everything.
There’s been a lot of buzz in personal finance blogging community about #smallenfreuden. Some of the highlights for using your Visa for everyday purchases include: rewards/cash back incentives for vacations and other posh free stuff; buyer protection on anything that suddenly breaks or is defective; and keeping all your expenses on one statement so it’s easier to track. Most of these articles also caution against racking up charges you can’t pay off at the end of the month.
To be fair, these are all very valid points. I can see the logic in why this would be a good strategy for financially saavy people who know their limits.
I know I’m not particularly worried about these particular bloggers falling into the trap of amassing piles of debts and declaring bankruptcy as a result of this dumb #smallenfreuden campaign. They are probably wise and fearless enough to avoid that whole mess.
However, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills because I’m looking around and wondering if I’m the only one that sees some problems with this lemmings-over-the-cliff idea. This is definitely not a one-size-fits-all credit card strategy and sure as hell isn’t for the beginner consumer.
I’m not talking about never using your card or never having fun, but do we actually always need one for the other?
What I’m more worried about is the little eighteen year old with their very first credit card falling prey to crappy Visa and their manufactured “it’s cool and hip because it has a hashtag” campaign.
A less sophisticated consumer, like a younger person, may be talked into using their credit cards for these reasons without the benefit of knowing when to apply the “financial brakes” on spending – like these PF bloggers most likely would.
Little eighteen year old buys like crazy and is sunk in debt before they even reach legal age in most states. Who can say they didn’t think they were ten feet tall and bullet proof at that age?
Now it can be argued that it’s up to the cardholder to be aware of their financial situation and use their card responsibly. They also said that about smokers when Tobacco companies were targeting teenagers to get them hooked early. As I recall – that shit’s illegal now.
Disclaimer for my #Smallenfreuden Hate
Okay, okay. I realize I’m being preachy. All I’m missing is a burning bush, a couple of stone tablets and a sermon on the mount.
I realize I am generally a hateful creature. I am squinty-eyed and suspicious of new things and I respond poorly to surprises. When I think about new experiences, I see potential for woe and despair everywhere I go. Think ten plagues of Egypt.
Here’s an example of me below:
Back to #Smallenfreuden
But I digress, my point is that #smallenfreuden wants to f*ck you up. You and your huge credit card balance. Visa does not care about what’s cool or not cool unless it makes them money. The next time you think #smallenfreuden is cool and hip, think of the Bobs (from Office Space) as the advertising guys that are deciding what you should think is awesome:
Thus concludes rant of bitterness and vitriol.
Sunshine and rainbows everyone!
*Images used under a Creative Commons Licence (Sermon on the Mount painting & David Berkowitz image)
*All other images credited with author permission, purchased legally, or used under the Parody and Fair Use (Section 107) clauses of the Copyright act.