Aishwarya Ramesh
Points of View

Coins for Oxygen: Has it worked for CRED, or does it look gimmicky?

CRED is letting users donate their ‘coins’ towards the supply of oxygen concentrators. The initiative has fetched polarising responses on, and off, social media.

Users of the CRED app now have the option of donating their ‘CRED coins’ towards the supply of oxygen concentrators for COVID patients. The fintech brand has partnered with Milaap, an independent NGO, to execute this initiative.

CRED coins are accumulated by users when they pay their bills on the app. Now, a UI/UX tweak allows them to donate these coins in the fight against COVID.

To begin with, CRED was already being called out, by users and rival brands alike, for its lack of clarity on the real world value of these virtual rewards points. However, this latest coins-for-oxygen move has drawn some serious flak.

While some are lauding the move, many are questioning it, not least because there’s no clear information about how the team plans to go about ‘converting’ virtual points into lifesaving oxygen.

On a blog post on the Cred website, the company mentions that more than 7.5 lakh CRED members pledged their CRED Coins, helping to initiate the deploying funds to the tune of Rs. 10 crores to CRED’s partners – NGOS Milaap, Hemkunt Foundation and Give India. These organisations are placing orders for necessary equipment for hospitals and healthcare organisations, and having them shipped to those in need.

There are many who echo this view. All in all, will this effort to be charitable backfire and make the brand look opportunistic and gimmicky? Here is what five industry experts have to say.

Edited excerpts:

Ajeeta Bharadwaj, chief strategy officer – Wondrlab India (ex-strategy head, Leo Burnett, and ex-EVP planning, Wunderman Thompson)

I think that the brands are simultaneously answerable to two realities. One is a shared human reality. You can’t serve humanity, but remain aloof from its crises. We are currently in the midst of one of humanity’s worst crises and it is only right that the brands should exert every influence they can, to make a difference.

"Whether CRED could have achieved this balance with an ad or two less, is certainly worth debating. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that with the initiative, it has provided a simple and easy mechanism for people to donate and make a difference."
Ajeeta Bharadwaj

However, there is also a parallel marketing reality, where the brands need to stay relevant and keep growing. Whether CRED could have achieved this balance with an ad or two less, is certainly worth debating. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that with this initiative, it has provided a simple and easy mechanism for people to donate and make a difference.

Ajeeta Bharadwaj
Ajeeta Bharadwaj

If anything, CRED coins broaden the movement because they also talk to people who might not want to give monetary donations. It’s intuitive and at the end of the day, it ends up doing good. So, the point goes to CRED, in this case.

Varun Duggirala, co-founder and chief content officer – The Glitch

During the current pandemic, people have been using Twitter as a medium to amplify resources, access information and find leads. I noticed quite a few people tweeting to Kunal Shah, asking if there was any way they could use their CRED coins to contribute to the fight against COVID. In CRED’s case, the consumers had posted the suggestion and the company followed through with it.

Varun Duggirala
Varun Duggirala

With what’s happening in the country right now, a lot of people have been looking at different ways to donate and play their part. It’s interesting how the donations have been integrated into the product itself, as a part of the app’s UI/UX, in a seamless way.

"One of the biggest takeaways from this is that a strong product translates to a strong platform. Its ability to create and scale into multiple areas, and quickly add more features is valuable for apps right now."
Varun Duggirala

The effort has been in line with what everybody else in this space has been doing. But what stands out to me is how it’s been integrated into the app. Today, it is oxygen, but tomorrow, it has the potential to lend itself to any other charitable cause.

One of the biggest takeaways from this is that a strong product translates to a strong platform. Its ability to create and scale into multiple areas, and quickly add more features is valuable for apps right now.

Navin Kansal – chief creative officer – 21N78E Creative Labs

When I redeemed my CRED coins, I was in two minds about whether I should share it on my social platforms or not but I went ahead and did it anyway so as to nudge other Cred users to act too.

Navin Kansal
Navin Kansal

The goodwill that Cred will get out of this initiative will be a result of the branding work they’ve done in the last few months since they’ve been very disruptive when it comes to their advertising. As far as this initiative goes, it is low hanging fruit for Cred since most users already had Cred coins that they in all likelihood hadn’t redeemed.

Tamanna Virmani, co-founder and executive creative director, ‎Blue Oktopus Communications

It’s hard to tell if CRED’s move is good marketing strategy, or a misleading campaign, or a genuine idea to help people during this national crisis. Is there any credibility in CRED’s move? Everyone is divided in their opinion. To prove that the initiative is just a gimmick, some even went as far as applying math and calculating if this is plausible, or if the oxygen will ever reach the needy.

Tamanna Virmani
Tamanna Virmani

A few users, who had CRED coins, were happy that they could finally redeem their coins as they had no idea what to do with them anyway. Others felt there is no transparency, or clarity on how this will actually benefit people.

Lately, I have noticed that CRED has rolled out a lot of new commercials. While some companies are not spending much on ads and are being very careful about the messaging in their ads… CRED has gone the other way. CRED ads are everywhere. A few even call it the ‘new TikTok, but without a content platform’.

I feel that right now, giving a different message will work more. Times are bad; the situation is grim - CRED ads seem too loud and in your face. The CRED coins can be redeemed for buying a meal, rations, medicines - multiple small initiatives by the brand will win more hearts effortlessly.

It will be more appealing if we understand exactly how the coin-to-cash conversion will happen. Otherwise, right now, the whole initiative seems misleading to me.

Joono Simon, chief creative officer, Brave New World (ex-CCO, Ogilvy and ex-ECD, Leo Burnett)

CRED’s brand messaging is currently a bit vague. But that could be some sort of an intentional imperfection designed to avoid being sharply positioned in one slot until it fully understands the ground and cracks the real game it wants to play.

"As long as it comes across as a well-meaning brand with potential, its consumers will give it some rope for a little while."
Joono Simon

Currently, the brand is that seemingly smart looking new kid at school, who is doing everything possible to draw some attention to himself, while also being seen as someone likeable, and somewhat well-meaning in its intent.

Joono Simon
Joono Simon

This gives CRED the luxury to not use the playbook other brands often use and invent something completely new, while enjoying the benefit of the doubt as a newbie’s privilege. Continued consumer interest is the constant fuel CRED badly needs. To that extent, it is bending some rules set by legacy brands. As long as it comes across as a well-meaning brand with potential, its consumers will give it some rope for a little while.

If CRED is getting people to ‘donate their CRED coins’, this could possibly mean that the brand has allocated a part of its CSR and marketing/promotions budget towards fulfilling the monetary cost of the initiative, and is simulating public participation. Help in any way at this point is a good thing.

However, the blog communication should have been a lot more informative, straightforward and transparent in order to lend more credibility and seriousness to the pitch.