Fans of Farmville can now get a prepaid American Express card that will give rewards in the form of trees, ponds, hay bales, and anything else that can be bought with “Farm Cash” – the currency used in Farmville.
Zynga, the company that brought Farmville into the world in 2009, also makes the popular social networking games CastleVille, CityVille, and Words With Friends – the last of which is so addictive, it got Alec Baldwin kicked off an American Airlines flight last December, right before Zynga went public in a highly-anticipated IPO. Now they`ve partnered with American Express to offer prepaid cards to a new market – one that American Express hasn`t yet cornered.
Mark Pincus, CEO of Zynga, said that his company is “excited to partner with American Express to invent new ways for people to experience Zynga play in more parts of their day. Together we can add surprise and delight to every day shopping.”
Prepaid Card, Virtual Rewards
American Express will offer the Zynga Serve Rewards program through their Serve digital wallet, which is a reloadable prepaid account that customers access through their mobile devices. Customers will register for the program and receive a prepaid card in the mail, co-branded with American Express and Zynga. They can add money to the card through any bank account, debit card, credit card, or with cash using the GreenDot MoneyPak system.
The Zynga Serve Rewards card will be accepted anywhere that takes American Express, and for their first five purchases of $25 or more, they will earn Farm Cash Rewards. Farm Cash rewards don`t have value outside Farmville, but they can be used to make purchases within the game. In Farmville, players purchase land, which they then plant, till, water, and harvest. They can buy ponds, trees, and other things to improve their farms using Farm cash, which can be purchased with actual dollars – or earned through this new rewards program.
Appealing to the Masses
American Express has historically catered to elite and luxury customers, offering charge cards with no limits, high-value rewards for high-spending customers, and unmatched concierge service that has been rumored to do things like get water from the Dead Sea for a child`s school project.
However, they have lately been targeting a more middle-class consumer, with cards like the American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card – a no-annual-fee cash back rewards card, and a prepaid card, which is generally thought of as an option for under banked consumers who aren`t able to qualify for a traditional credit card, or students whose parents are giving them an allowance.
“This partnership isn`t for existing credit and charge card customers,” says David Messenger, executive vice president of enterprise growth for American Express. “It`s about trying to appeal to a new segment. These customers may be Millennials. They may be somewhat underserved in terms of banking. They may only use debit, cash and check.”
Advertising Inside the Game
American Express will promote their new prepaid card from inside the Farmville game itself, where virtual farmers will be able to plant an American Express branded tree on their farm. Once they`ve planted it, they`ll be prodded to apply for the prepaid card and register for the AmEx Serve digital wallet, in order to earn Farm Cash rewards.
Jeff Karp, chief marketing and revenue officer of Zynga, says they are “blurring the lines between real world and virtual world” with this deal. For customers used to getting “real world” cash rewards, they may not like the “virtual world” kind – but to the new generation, virtual cash may not seem so different than the real thing. If American Express can attract Millennials without even giving them actual cash rewards, it will be quite the coup.