Inside the Mix

To be effective, marketing programs must grow brand knowledge, not just awareness

To be effective, marketing programs must grow brand knowledge, not just awareness

Brand awareness is a key goal for many marketing programs, but be careful what you wish for. What's to say a consumer won't think he knows exactly what your brand offers, when in fact he only knows the half of it - and that half is half wrong anyway?

This occurred to me last week, when I decided to research British-based currency exchange company Travelex's new campaign, featuring John McEnroe. The integrated push is an effort to introduce Travelex - a big brand in many other markets - to the US, to all audiences through a b-to-b and b-to-c push.

Living in New York with a family in England and a fair few business trips and vacations under my belt, I'm a captive audience at an airport for currency-exchange services because I never want enough cash to buy currency from a bank before I travel. While I use my American ATM card in machines around the world and my MasterCard for noncash purchases, I always like to arrive in London with a little bit of cash for a taxi, a tabloid, and some cheese-and-onion crisps.

Travelex is the one exchange brand I can recall from airports, and my view of the business is somewhat dim - there's little to no competition, my math is too poor to trust that I'm not being gypped on the exchange rate, and there's that grubby commission thing.

In short, I approach buying currency from Travelex as I approach spending $2.50 on a tiny bottle of water from its neighboring newsstand at Terminal A: It's a necessary evil.

Through researching the McEnroe campaign, however, I now know that the retail outlets only represent 40% of global revenue. The balance comes from a range of services I had no idea about, including dedicated business software and customer-service reps to help with any level of transaction.

McEnroe's presence runs through all parts of this campaign, from the aforementioned b-to-b element (which includes ads in broadsheet papers and such titles as Investor's Business Daily) to his appearance in bold, point-of-sale material in the retail locations. He was picked because he's a global character, a winner on and off the court, and has a commitment to excellence.

But running Mac's eternally boyish face across marketing materials won't stop customers like me from using the service only grudgingly at an airport location, and it won't tempt me to use any of the company's other consumer services, such as prepaid cards and the like.

What will, however, is what Travelex's VP of marketing and PR, Andrew Zimakas, explained to me: While Travelex does indeed charge a commission, don't overlook the hidden fees that come from using your credit card and ATM card abroad. And now I recall just how onerous they are. How did I forget that?

And that's the precise message that Zimakas admits Travelex needs to do a better job in conveying. This goes for commercial customers, as well as retail ones, and going forward it will become an increasingly key part of Travelex's efforts, particularly through PR.

Awareness of a brand is one thing. But learning that a brand you thought was, to be frank, a little money-grubbing is in fact going to streamline the currency-exchange process and protect you from nasty credit-card charges is quite possibly going to turn a skeptic into an evangelist. It did for me.

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