CAMPAIGNS: Product Launch - New card has Visa passing the Buxx

Client: Visa USA (Foster City, CA)

Client: Visa USA (Foster City, CA)

Client: Visa USA (Foster City, CA)

PR Team: In-house and Ketchum (New York, San Francisco and Washington, DC offices)

Campaign: Visa Buxx Time Frame: August 2000 - ongoing

Budget: Less than dollars 1 million



Kenny Thomas, director of corporate relations at Visa USA, knew introducing the Visa Buxx card could be tricky. The card is a stored-value card, not a credit card, but Thomas knew the implications of introducing plastic to the 13- to 17-year-old demographic, without alienating parents who have heard horror stories of youth credit card debt, could be a PR nightmare.



Strategy

The Visa PR team decided to tackle potential criticism while the product was being prototyped, not while it was being launched. For more than a year before the card was introduced, Visa's corporate communications department asked questions, requested card features and influenced overall product development.

Based on its research of consumer attitudes and parent-teen financial relationships, the PR team persuaded the product development team to include a parental monitoring feature and financial responsibility lessons.

'I don't know how much PR research has gone into product development elsewhere, but our level of involvement was unprecedented at Visa,' says Thomas. 'Research was key to building the product correctly.'

Ketchum was also involved in the process from the start, helping with research and media strategies. 'For the whole 12 month lead-up to the launch, there was a lot of coordination,' says Brad Buyce, Ketchum VP and account director. 'You don't see that in a lot of client-agency relationships. It enables us to do our best thinking.'



Tactics

To reinforce the financial responsibility message, Visa partnered with the Jump Start Coalition for Financial Literacy, an agency that promotes education on financial management.

The Coalition helped Visa add a money tools section to the Visa Buxx Web site and design a financial literacy test parents and teens must fill out before they can get a card.

Pre-launch, Ketchum and Visa prepared materials designed to educate Visa employees, banks and merchants. Consumer reporters, national business press and personal finance reporters were contacted. To avoid being perceived as preying on young consumers, they did not target the teen audience.



Results

The Visa Buxx card debuted only five months ago, so Thomas is wary of proclaiming commercial success too early. The card beat rival American Express teen card Cobalt to the market by two months, and the Buxx card is soon expected to have seven issuing banks, up from four at launch.

Media coverage has included pieces in The Financial Times and Future Banker. Nearly 100 articles have been written and almost all mention the features the PR department insisted be added to the card.



Future

Future communication efforts will likely center around issuing banks.





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