CMO Q&A: Antonio Lucio, Visa

Antonio Lucio, Visa's chief brand officer, talks about restructuring and results from its sponsorship of the 2014 World Cup.

As chief brand officer, you lead global branding, marketing, and communications. Do you think the joined marcomms leadership role is the future?
It’s actually the present. Everything converges in social media. The time when you could segment by audiences and have unique messaging or different chapters of a narrative that didn’t connect is over.

Whether you are an investor seeking information on our brand, a staffer in a government, a client, or a consumer, you are going to search for information about our company and all organizations through digital means and social media.

Understanding that dynamic and that you need to establish the right balance between stakeholder relevance, with everything laddering up to an integrated narrative, is the reason why you are seeing more and more companies going in this direction.

Visa spends about a third of its marketing budget on digital. Will that increase?
Thirty-seven percent is the number, and it is growing. The average American spends about 12 hours a week on media, and 47% of that time is invested in digital means. 

Unfortunately, the marketing and communications community has not caught up to that fact, and the numbers for digital spending in the US are about 27%. There is a big disconnect between where stakeholders are and where marketers and communicators are spending dollars. We are ahead of that curve.

On top of that, if you look at Millennials, the number of media hours per week goes from 12 to 18, and the amount of time spent in digital media rises to 57%. The strong answer is we are going to continue
to shift funds to digital and social media.

What results did Visa see from its 2014 World Cup campaign and sponsorship?
We always measure the impact of our properties in three ways. Our most important metric is the number of financial institutions and merchants around the world that are leveraging our property.

We acquire these assets with pass-through rights, which means financial institutions or merchants can use our property to drive their business. We had the highest level of country, financial institution, and merchant participation in history, with tailor-made programs to meet their needs. We had 854 distinct programs around the world.

The second metric is the relative equity shifts that we perceived as a brand in those countries in which we activated the property. In our case, Visa Inc. doesn’t include Europe, so it’s not activated there, and we minimally activated in the US. Most of our activation was in Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia. In those places, we saw big shifts in brand equity, both in absolute and relative terms to our key competitors.

The last one is ROI, which is the amount of volume through regression analysis that you can identify coming from those activations. We haven’t finished it yet, but the numbers are going in the right direction, in terms of beating the previous World Cup.

How has Visa been affected by the marcomms integration that took place last year, with PR being placed under marketing?
The transition was hard, as it should be when you are bringing two structures under one roof. It takes a lot of work to bring the departments together to work as a team.

Regardless of who ends up on top of the team, the other feels a bit disenfranchised. That is normal. We’ve done a lot of work to make sure all our communicators feel they are a key part of the team and that what they are doing is more important than ever.

We’re one year into our transition, and it’s going well. We still need to do a lot more in bringing both teams closer at the key country level, so that we have a comprehensive, multi-stakeholder integrated communications platform for everything we do.

The reorganization is a work in progress. It has not been without challenges. We are committed to it, and you’re going to see the traditional corporate communications group and marketing teams get closer as one truly integrated unit.

What agencies are you still working with?
We are working with FleishmanHillard and Edelman. We are no longer working with Brunswick as AOR, but we do projects with many agencies around the world. The biggest shift is toward doing a lot more work in-house and owning our narrative, as opposed to delegating it, which was critical.

How did Visa absorb that work internally without increasing staff size?
The first thing we needed to do was reprioritize the work that was being done around the world to ensure that our corporate communications and marketing agendas were completely aligned to the business agendas of each country in which we operate.

That led to a comprehensive reprioritization exercise, which ensured we were focusing on the things that really matter to drive our business forward in terms of reputation, brand equity, and revenue growth.  

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