A Better Course

“thou hast councilled a better course than thou hast allowed”

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OnePulse, TooMany Functions

September 20th, 2007 · No Comments

There are a lot of adverts for the Barclays OnePulse card in London recently, leading with a slogan that indicates that once you’ve got an Oyster card, a contactless credit card, and a Chip & Pin based credit card you really don’t need another card.

There are some things I like about this product and campaign – how unashamedly targeted at London (where, clearly, an enormous volume of young, affluent early adopters live) both are, and the obvious convenience of a card that combines the ability to travel, buy small items very easily and larger ones quite easily.

It’s the last point, though – the ability to make both small and large purchases – that makes me unsure about it as a product. It makes sense to assume that the same action – touching a card on a reader – should get you through the barriers at a rail station and buy sandwiches in Pret. In fact, these two actions are very similar in terms of the costs incurred. Buying an MacBook, by contrast, is quite different, and the idea that the same card that facilitates small, pointless impulse purchases (smoothies) might also facilitate the same thing on a much bigger scale. It’s not a card that does three useful things – it’s a card that does two very, very different useful things.

However, the fact that the action is different for the bigger purchase (entering a PIN number rather than swiping a card on a contactless reader) means that there is a meaningful division between the two types of spending. The metaphor I’d been using to think about what’s wrong with the card had been getting one fifty pound note when you wanted two twenties and a ten; it’s the same amount, but there are differences in the way you think about the units that make up that amount. The physical difference between the actions required to spend money on a large and a small scale maintain that division in a way that makes sense.

Of course, if you lose it and you don’t have any change on you, you’re still walking home from Oxford Street. But I wouldn’t expect them to lead with that as an advertising slogan.

Categories: advertising · product

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