BrandIndex's consumer perception research on credit card companies appears in Adweek and Mediapost

Visa Says Plastic Beats Paper

The new work claims
, 'More people go with Visa'

NEW YORK The No. 1 brand of credit card, Visa, has a new take on using plastic. In a global campaign breaking March 4, Visa tells consumers credit cards aren't about spending more money. Rather, "More people go with Visa" touts plastic as a better way to spend than paper cash and checks.

The campaign, created by TBWA, plays up the security, control and convenience of using a Visa card. The first two U.S. ads, "Let's Go" and "Aquarium," will debut on American Idol on Wednesday. In the coming weeks, print ads will flag the benefits of the Visa Check Card.

Visa also launched microsite It invites consumers to submit pictures and provide recommendations about different experiences to try along with offers from various merchants. "Visa gives people the ability to take action, the actions that are most important to them," said Visa CMO Antonio Lucio in a statement. "The 'More people go with Visa' campaign is an invitation to make the most out of life every day, a powerful message. It's not about spending more, it's about using Visa for those things that are important to you every day."

The campaign is meant to be optimistic "yet grounded in the reality that people are seeking to live both in the moment and within their means," per the company. Visa is also touting its range of payment product s while giving financial education information and providing money management tools at

Such a change in positioning is important for the brand, per Ted Marzilli, global managing director for BrandIndex. According to its poll of consumers during the first two months of the year, consumer perceptions of credit card brands has been plummeting. Visa's overall buzz score fell 5.7 percent while MasterCard and American Express each dropped nearly 10 percent. "Everyone has been trending negatively because credit limits have been reduced, cards are being canceled," said Marzilli. "Visa is focusing on less ostentatious spending. It's not put the card down and make big purchases. That's counter-intuitive because they know people are cutting back on spending."

The prior campaign, "Life takes Visa," ran for three years. Visa spent $350 million on U.S. media, excluding online, last year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.


AmEx, Visa Look For Ways To Build Image

It's no wonder that American Express is retrenching its strategy, and Visa is launching a new image-building ad campaign: The perception of credit card companies in the U.S. is dropping swiftly.

According to YouGovPolimetrix's Brand Index, the Buzz Index for all four major credit card companies--Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover--has dropped steadily since the beginning of the year. Given the economy, the drop is not particularly surprising, says Ted Marzilli, senior vice president and general manager of YouGovPolimetrix.

"A lot of people are having their credit limits reduced or their cards canceled," Marzilli tells Marketing Daily. "There also may be a backlash because these are companies that encourage [personal] deficit spending."

In the survey of 5,000 consumers, American Express suffered a 10-point drop in buzz score, which measures positive versus negative perceptions, over the two-month period. American Express was the only one of the four brands to have a negative buzz score as of Feb. 24.

"In the most recent couple of months, American Express announced it would be having layoffs, and that never helps a brand," Marzilli says. "The average consumer may not have as much of a history with American Express as Visa and Master Card, which also helps those brands."

According to a story in Monday's Wall Street Journal, American Express- -after launching more typical debt-carrying credit cards to average consumers--is retrenching its strategy and going back to targeting affluent consumers with charge cards that are paid off every month.

Discover Card, which usually has the lowest buzz scores of the four major credit card companies, started to make some positive gains toward the middle of February, and ended the period with a higher buzz score than AmEx. The company has recently been heavily running a television advertisement that showcases its Spend Analyzer tool available to Discover Card holders. Given the times, the message would likely play well with consumers, Marzilli says.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Visa--which had the highest buzz scores of all the credit card rankings-- announced Monday that it would launch its first-ever global marketing campaign with the tagline "More People Go With Visa." The effort is intended to encourage people to use their Visa cards in place of cash or checks for their purchases. In a press release about the campaign, the company's Chief Marketing Officer, Antonio Lucio, made a point of saying the campaign was "not about spending more, it's about using Visa for those things that are important to you every day."

While the campaign--which breaks in the U.S. on Wednesday--is not a factor in Visa's buzzmetrics, Marzilli says the message will be one worth checking in later surveys. "They're betting that the message they want to have come through will come through with consumers," Marzilli says. "If people misjudge the ad or judge it as saying something it's not, then there's a concern."