Visa embarks on new marketing campaign to define brand

SAN FRANCISCO: As the financial services industry works to rebuild its credibility, Visa has launched its own marketing campaign to better define its brand and clarify its corporate objectives.

SAN FRANCISCO: As the financial services industry works to rebuild its credibility, Visa has launched its own marketing campaign to better define its brand and clarify its corporate objectives.

Visa launched “Currency of Progress” earlier this month with help from GMMB, a member of the Fleishman-Hillard network of agencies.

“What we've realized is, everybody thinks they know Visa but nobody really knows Visa – they know the brand but they don't know the company,” said Doug Michelman, Visa's global head of corporate relations.

Until two years ago, Visa was an association run by several thousand banks around the world. In October 2007, the federation merged to create an independent company that went public in March 2008 in what is considered one of the largest IPOs in US history. This is Visa's first global branding effort since the public offering, said Michelman.

“As we became this public corporation we needed to define what Visa was,” he said. “Through our internal research, we realized the better people understand what we do, the more trust they have in us.”

But when the Credit Card Act was signed into law this May, Visa became associated with the economic crisis, Michelman said. So as part of the campaign, Visa plans to emphasize its role as a technology company, as well as showcase stories of people whose lives have been improved by its services.

“Early this year we realized we needed a way to talk about Visa in a way that positions Visa not as the source of the credit problems consumers were facing, but as part of a solution to help people live their lives better,” Michelman said. On the “Currency of Progress” Web site, visitors can click on videos that tell real-life stories that emphasize the benefits of using digital currency.

“People take Visa for granted,” said David Mitchell, partner at GMMB, a political consulting, advocacy, and advertising firm. “They take for granted that they no longer have to use travelers' checks when they travel abroad or that they can just get on the Internet and buy whatever they want with a Visa card.”

Visa is targeting policymakers and influencers with the campaign by focusing both the paid advertising and PR elements of the campaign mostly on political-oriented media and trade press.

“Our strategy is to grow the network,” Michelman explained. “ We want to grow the number banks that issue our cards, the merchant locations that accept Visa, and grow the number of times a user decides to use a Visa card instead of paying with cash or check.”

The team will evaluate the effectiveness of the Washington-focused campaign in January and then decide how to activate it in other markets.

“We intentionally took a low profile on this, but we're integrating this campaign into our overall corporate media messaging,” Michelman said. “The industry has been under heat for a long time, so [our clients] are happy that we're investing in reminding people what our technology offers.”

Visa, which works with Fleishman-Hillard, selected GMMB to aid this effort following a competitive search.

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