China’s “Social Scorecard” rewards program is absolutely terrifying

Over the past few years, China has been piloting its “Social Scorecard” system (SS for short), which is a nationwide reward points program for its citizens. However, they’ve applied some extraordinary tweaks to a standard loyalty & reward program design.

Every Chinese citizen will be scored out of 800 based on their behaviour. Doing the right thing will earn points, whereas doing the wrong thing (as dictated by the government), will lose points.

The program is facilitated by cutting-edge facial recognition, body scanning and geo-tracking technology which allows for 24 hour monitoring of the population.

Depending on where each citizen sits on the points scale, benefits can be reaped or consequences can be suffered (insert scary music here).

At best, this is an absolutely terrifying proposition. Let’s take a moment to run a quick comparison against a mainstream consumer loyalty and rewards program.

A typical loyalty and rewards program:

  • Rewards its members for the right behaviour. This may include buying products, following on social media or referring friends & family to join.

SS:

  • Rewards its ‘members’ for the right behaviour. This may include buying Chinese-made goods, donating to charity, paying bills on time and even being friends with other high-scorers on social media.
  • Penalises its ‘members’ for the wrong behaviour. This includes things within their control such as jay walking, but it could also be something somewhat out of their control, such as a family member saying something negative about the government.

Thus, the program not only influences the member’s behaviour directly, but also stimulates them to apply social pressure to others in their network to comply.

A typical loyalty and rewards program:

  • Allows for additional recognition to be given to the highest value members, such as flight upgrades, surprise & delight treats or exclusive access to events.

SS:

  • Allows for bonus points to be awarded for its top tier ‘members’. This may result in getting discounts on energy bills, renting things without deposits or obtaining better interest rates at banks.
  • Curtails the liberties of lower tier members, including losing the right to travel on trains or planes, losing the right to hold certain types of jobs, or even losing their freedom via jail time.

China is moving towards full implementation of the program by 2020. George Orwell’s horrifying vision of the future from 1984 is crystallising before our eyes using loyalty psychology approaches devised by capitalism.

 

Max Savransky is Loyalty Director of Loyalty & Reward Co, a leading loyalty consulting firm based in Sydney. He has 10 years’ experience within the loyalty industry including roles at Mastercard Loyalty (Pinpoint), Silverneedle (Next & Sage Hotels) and Pureprofile. As Loyalty & CRM Manager at HOYTS, he launched the highly successful partnership with Qantas Frequent Flyer, including a world-first Qantas Points in-store redemption proposition. He is an active cryptocurrency trader.

Max regularly contributes to www.blockchainloyalty.io, a global resource centre for everything blockchain loyalty.

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