Visa reflects the image of the world’s largest retail electronic payments network brand providing a medium for processing payments that includes consumer credit, debit, commercial, and prepaid services. The company operates through a network of more than 170 countries and territories facilitating global commerce through the transfer of value and information serving thousands of financial institutions, business establishments, and government entities. Customers across the globe enjoy and trust the Visa cards that they use extensively for making any purchase or transaction.
The global brand recognition of the Visa card has made the company the largest payments company with nearly US$ 3. 5 trillion revenue (Visa Inc website). Visa has been serving the business community worldwide since 1970 and has grown to become the largest secured payment processing service provider. Dee Hock founded Visa Inc in the year 1970 in the state of Delaware. It was incorporated as the National Bank Americard Inc (NBI) that launched the first electronic authorization system followed by an electronic clearing and settlement system.
In 1976 the name was changed to Visa that evolved as a major brand name in the electronic payments industry. In 1983 the company launched a global ATM network providing 24-hour cash access to cardholders. Visa became the first payment card that allowed multiple-currency clearing and settlement thus enabling increased transaction efficiency. Being a pioneer in the concept of electronic payments, Visa strengthened its hold over the financial institutions that partnered with the company to enable swift and secure transfer of value and information among individuals, businesses, and government entities.
The convenience that this service provides to the modern business has added new dimensions and value to the Visa concept. The secured mode of payment options made available by Visa built a confidence for the brand among its customers. Visa adopted new state of the art technology to promote its client needs and generate efficient transaction processing. The chip card specifications, Europay/MasterCard/Visa (EMV), developed by the company ensured that these cards could be read by all chip card reading terminals.
Visa has incorporated the latest technology medium to ease payment-processing options. Online applications and mobile technology has added new dimensions to the service efficiency of Visa cards. The whole concept of Visa is based on relationship management. Nurturing fruitful partnerships and alliances with globally recognized brand names serves to add value to the service provided to financial institutions, businessmen, and cardholders. A large network of financial institutions, the Visa clients look after these relationships across the globe.
The company has 21,000 financial institutions as its clients currently that issues more than 1 billion card that are used to pay for goods and services worth more than US$ 3trillion through 20 million retailers. (Visa Inc website) These figures relate to a universally accepted and trusted brand name that transcends global barriers and culture. The discussion that follows highlights the brand portrayal and the message that it communicates to consumers in Asia. The evolution of the brand Visa through the years The brand of an organisation is the most valuable asset for any business.
Brand positioning consists of how a particular brand is better and different from its competitors. It assesses the functional aspects of products and services. It signifies the ability to command a position in the consumer minds and distinct its qualities in terms of service value from the competitive brands existing in the industry. Visa has evolved as a major brand recognized globally representing convenience, flexibility, and security of payment processing to millions of customers. Dee Hock the founder of Visa realized the importance of a suitable brand name to promote brand awareness on a global perspective.
The NBI was repositioned in the industry as Visa, a short name with simple graphics that would be instantly recognizable and accepted worldwide. But it is the name Visa that is more widely recognized than the logo. Visa made vital changes to its brand logo design to ensure its success in the 21st century too. To make the logo more prominent the company redesigned the graphics to attract consumer attention. The “V” was enhanced with gold accent to lend an elegance and clarity to the new brand image. The change has some practical benefits to the commercial establishments that have partnered with Visa.
The logo now occupies lesser space as compared to the previous logo and this allows more space on the card for the financial institutions to insert their own design on the card front. The evolved Visa brand has two distinct advantages for the commercial partners and retailers – 1. It offers flexibility of use in different environments ranging from cards, computer screens, personal digital assistants, and shop windows. The use of the logo in varying platforms has added significance and value to the core brand. 2.
The other advantage that the re-modeled brand logo offers to its consumers is the uniformity of look portraying the uniformity of trust and quality of service provided. It brings the diverse payment and information processing services under one brand. The change reflects the growing choice of products and services available while ensuring consistency and clarity across all lines of business. Along with a re-designed logo the card format has also been changed with dove hologram moved to the back of the card along the magnetic stripe to ensure greater safety against fraud.
This also ensures more space in the front for new designs for the commercial institutions. The new design cards were first rolled out in Korea in September 2007. The re-furbished logo has been adapted in the point of sales too that includes ATMs, and shop windows of retailers. (Source: Visa: An evolution in four letters management journal) The Emerging Asian Market The Asian market provides immense potential for Visa products and services with growing number of high net worth individuals in the region. Higher per capita income and increasing gross domestic product has created a huge market niche for Visa products and services.
Rising wages and wealth accumulation combined with higher standards of living are some of the important factors that have offset a greater demand for such services. The ease and convenience of plastic money allows greater freedom of usage and speedy transactions. The past few years have seen a greater number of multinational banks and financial institutions entering the emerging and developing economies of Asia. The market for debit and credit cards is rising with increasing money-spending capacities and rising need for speedier transactions.
Visa Electron is greatly popular in the Asian market with millions of customers opting for debit card facilities. The company has used tag lines “Add power to your ATM card” in television and print ad campaigns for Visa Electron to make the consumers aware of the fact that this card acts both as an ATM and debit card. Popular taglines like “Visa Power” and “Go Visa” used in television commercials and print ad campaigns have also created huge brand awareness for Visa products. Visa distributed window decals and other display materials for shop windows and ATMs to attract customer attention.
The brand visibility of Visa products and services extended with the use of such promotional strategies. This not only ensured consumer retention but also created the need to “Go Visa” within the consumer segment. Despite all these advances and strategic moves being adopted by the company Asia presents a challenging market with diverse cultural and social barriers associated to the use of credit cards and electronic medium. The developing economies of India presents a stiff barrier to using credit cards mainly owing to lack of sufficient funds among the people to pay back the money and collections can prove a little risky.
Rising incidents of online frauds is a matter of concern for commercial establishments placing them at a risk. The consumer too thinks twice before using the credit card and making transactions online. The wariness of the customer is increasing with rising incidence of fraud. This can eat away the market share of Visa. Reaching out to the consumers who are keen to get a credit card is quite easy in these countries but evaluating their capacity to pay back on time can be little difficult. Defaulters pose a potential business risk to the commercial establishments and financial institutions.
Debit cards are better alternatives for such economies where the risk is mitigated. Brand Communication Strategies The brand positioning thus plays a vital role in creating a successful retention strategy. With increased competition in the industry customer retention can be achieved by ensuring that the customer retains the card for longer period of time. Effective retention strategies include client segmentation, market acquisition, customer service, and collections. Knowing the clients needs and alternatives available in the market is vital for any brand to position their product or service.
Armed with this information the next step should be effective use of marketing campaigns and advertising strategies to promote services and increased visibility of the brand. These efforts are targeted towards increased sales and revenue collections that determine the success story of the brand promotion. Visa Inc has adopted numerous partnership strategies in Asia to promote its range of products and services. In July 2007, Visa partnered with Beijing Tourism Administration to launch a program that will select the best franchised Olympics merchant in the city.
This initiative was targeted to encourage the merchants at various locations in the city to expand and increase the acceptance of electronic payment modes. The company launched several ATMs and points of sale across the venues where the Olympics games were to be held. This was done to ensure widespread accessibility of its services to the customers. Visa partnered with Bank of China to install ATMs and point-of-sale acceptance devices at strategic venues. This move resulted in the installation of more than 25,000 ATMs and 76,000 merchant locations in the period between June 2006 and June 2007 (Visa Asia news release).
Aggressive advertising campaigns launched by the company to promote Visa products and services have been an integral part of its brand building strategy. A television commercial featuring the popular Jackie Chan was another move by Visa to promote its services. The campaigns stated that Visa was the only card accepted at the Games and the customer can get a free ticket to the Games by the use of this card. These commercials were used in television, print, and online medium to reach the targeted audience. The Visa advertising campaigns especially television commercials are market development activities that promote the use of credit cards.
The Asian market has two major competitors fighting for market share in the region. Visa and Mastercard are the two prime contenders for the payment processing market. Mastercard too has captured a niche market in the region and have been providing intense competition in terms of advertising and brand push strategies. The television and print ad campaigns of both the brands are paralleled to the ad-wars of Pepsi and Cola. In India Visa has a greater market share than Mastercard since it entered the market in the early 1980s.
Growing economies of China, Japan, Hong, Kong, Taiwan also present a lucrative market for the Visa products and services. Visa Inc has adopted an aggressive and penetrative marketing strategy in these countries to gain consumer acceptance and larger market share. The company has integrated latest technology with an effective promotional strategy to capture the growing online commercial activity. The Visa brand has entered the digital marketplace in a strong way and promises secure payment processing and information processing for commercial establishments seeking profit and revenues on the information highway.
The online presence of Visa payment gateway generates trust and confidence among the users making online transactions. The Visa brand is a formidable brand in the financial market and its association with reputed financial institutions and commercial establishments have created a brand awareness possessed by very few products or services in the market. Carl Pascarella the head of Visa Inc Asia-Pacific operations states in an interview with Adweek editor Michael Schrage “Visa is the brand. We spent a lot of money in brand awareness advertising.
The banks are leveraging that as a credit card, as a non-relationship product. We are facilitating their overall business, their overall relationship with the consumer – providing the infrastructure for remote banking, for remote bill paying for electronic commerce. ” The uniqueness of the business model of Visa lies in their mode of operation and their relationship management with the financial institutions that act as the agents for Visa to the consumer. The perception of banks as stable institutions in the consumers mind plays a great role in defining the success of Visa.
But this can hold true for other similar brands in the market like Mastercard. They too have captured high market shares globally and have been providing stiff competition to Visa, but the brand visibility that is enjoyed by Visa remains unparalleled. Online Application The superior technological advantage that Visa enjoys has created a confidence in the consumers by easing their transaction processing needs coupled with secured and speedy transaction. With growing e-commerce activity people want to access funds and process transactions on their desktop Personal Computers within the reach of their fingertips.
The adaptation to new technology and providing the customers with digital processing over the electronic commerce media is yet another milestone in strengthening brand positioning and customer retention. The Visa can now be used to make bill payments online, purchase grocery over the Internet and home banking. The range of services available to the consumer has no doubt increased the business volume and more commercial establishments willing to partner with Visa. Visa entered into an agreement with JCB, a global payment brand, and leading credit card issuer in Japan, to provide contactless cards in Asia-Pacific region.
The alliance significantly increased the network of acceptance points for both Visa and JCB contactless cards. This move has ensured that merchants accepting Visa and JCB contactless cards will not require separate terminals thus minimizing their investment and benefiting the consumers and merchants through faster and more convenient payment system. Contactless cards do need to be inserted or swiped at point-of-sale terminals. Radio frequency equipped smart cards held a few centimeters from the payment reader enables payments to be made without inserting or swiping.
This mode of transactions ensures that the payments made are more secure preventing frauds and misuse at the same time increasing the speed of transactions. The time of waiting for each customer for transaction processing is reduced by 77 per cent that has resulted in higher turnover at the point-of-sale (smartcardalliance. com). This has revolutionized the payment processing industry and popularized the Visa Wave cards among the financial institutions, retailers and other commercial establishments. Conclusion
The discussion above based on various business journals and press articles from the official web site of Visa offers an introspective outlook on the brand positioning and brand communication strategies adopted by the Visa Inc globally and in Asian market. We can infer that effective brand communication can bridge the gap between the target consumer segment and the product or service offered by the organisation. Visa Inc has effectively reached out to its target audience with the blue, white and gold striped logo reflecting elegance and conveying a message of uniformity in payment processing gateway across the world.
The clarity of the re-designed brand image has lent practical benefits to the commercial establishments and financial institutions that have partnered with the Visa brand. It cannot be denied that the company has successfully positioned the brand as an instrument of trust and confidence among the end users assuring them of secured payment processing. It is this factor that has ensured that the consumers retain their usage of the Visa brand. The success and evolution of the brand in its 30 years of inception is a phenomenal.
The brand has risen to become a global entity adapting itself to new technological changes and innovating the payment processing system in line with advances in business world and changing consumer preferences. Visa Inc has adopted aggressive marketing, advertising, and promotion strategies to increase brand visibility and create brand awareness among the end users. Mutually beneficial alliances with upcoming events and companies in the region have helped in grabbing significant market share. Partnerships with prominent financial institutions and commercial establishments are another stronghold that has pushed the brand in the market.
Effective television commercials combined with print ads and online promotion using catchy phrases like “Go Visa” and “Get the Visa Power” have popularized the brand among the end users. Extensive accessibility through large number of ATMs and points-of-sale at merchant locations has also ensured increasing usage and added to the ease and convenience of the customer. With more people preferring to make transactions and banking online, Visa ensured secured payment gateway to its consumers on the information highway. References: 1. Sicco van Gelder – Global Brand Strategy – Unlocking brand potential across countries, cultures and markets
2. Michael Schrage an interview with Carl Pascarella – Branding digital cash: Visa plans the leap from value exchange to information exchange. Source: British Council Library Management Journals 3. Hot Topic: A brand evolution – Australian Banking and Finance Volume 14 2005 British Council Library 4. e-volve Digital insights for multichannel marketers December 20, 2001 Source: British Council Library 5. Hillary Cassidy, Cards seek more “you” in usage – Superbrands June 4 2001, http://www. brandweek. com 6. The Evolutionary vision of Dee Hock: From Chaos to Chaords – Source: British Council Library Management Journals
7. Karen Gullett, Senior Vice President, Global Brand and Marketing, Visa International, An evolution in four letters – http://www. visa-asia. com/ap/center/mediacenter/hottopics/includes/uploads/VisaBrandingByliner. pdf – accessed on 27th March 2008 8. JCB selects Visa Asia Pacific’s specification for expansion of contactless payments – http://www. smartcardalliance. org/articles/2007/02/22/jcb-selects-visa-asia-pacifics-specification-for-expansion-of-contactless-payments – accessed on 27th March 2008 9. Visa Inc Corporate Overview -http://corporate. visa.
com/av/pdf/Visa_Inc_Overview. pdf – accessed on 27th March 2008 10. 300 days and counting: Visa survey shows mounting Beijing 2008 Olympic Games excitement – http://www. visa-asia. com/ap/sea/mediacenter/pressrelease/NR_SGP_121007. shtml – accessed on 28th March 2008 11. Battle of debit cards heat up as firms scramble for customers – http://www. indianexpress. com/res/web/pIe/ie/daily/19990411/ibu11059. html – accessed on 28th March 2008 12. Chan returns for Visa Olympics push – http://www. marketing-interactive. com/news/4063 – accessed on 28th March 2008
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