Jennifer Kuperman, official watchdog of the Visa brand and reputation, talks to TRUE about how her company is using the Sochi Winter Olympics to help redefine its future with a 30-year-old marketing line.
Q: How would you define brand today and how has that changed?
Kuperman: Brand manifests itself as a great marketing tool or communications platform, but it also has to be grounded in who a company is. When I think about a successful brand, I think about those brands that really think about their end audiences. They think about what they are and what they are trying to accomplish—not just the message they are trying to communicate as a company or as a brand.
Brand is really about the value that end audiences care about. The role of mission and shared value today is probably the most critical ingredient, the most critical element, when you think about what a brand should do and be.
Visa is a misunderstood brand and company in a lot of ways. People think of us as the card. But take a step back. Your bank issues the card, and Visa is the technology platform that sits behind it. We are the rails on which your transactions run. Visa is really a technology company at its heart and the value that that technology brings to its stakeholders. For governments, our electronic payment system allows us to help then build their economies and better the lives of their citizens. For merchants, Visa helps large and small businesses build their businesses; for banks, it helps them build and deliver more value to their end customers. Then of course consumers, the cardholders, can live their lives with so much more convenience and security and reliability. That’s what shared value is: We get to be successful as a company, and yet look at all the things that we can provide to the world.
Q: Why did Visa decide to go back to a 1984 tagline for its new campaign?
Kuperman: We had a new CEO come in about 14 months ago, and as he walked through the door he was doing some soul searching on behalf of the company, looking at what has made this amazing brand and organization successful, and asking how we could ensure that we remained relevant for the future. His search concluded that our brand is all about inclusivity and universality, and we needed to make sure as we repositioned that we were hanging our hat on the heritage that has made us so strong. We were going back to the founding vision of our company as “the best way to pay and be paid”—and we were now were adding the words “for everyone, everywhere.” Those three very important words would help us define our brand moving forward.
Visa’s new tagline is really an exciting platform from which we can build. We went back to our heritage line that ran beginning in 1984. At that moment in time, “It’s everywhere you want to be” was all about differentiation at the point of acceptance, all the places that you could use your card. And it resonated for 20 years. People still remember it; they still love it, according to our research. Even outside the United States where we weren’t running the line, there was a familiarity with it and an understanding of it. So we started with our heritage, but we’ve redefined what “everywhere” means. “Everywhere” is now not just a physical place, a merchant who accepted your card, but an aspiration. How do you reach your “everywhere”? How do you pay in certain ways? How do you live your life differently? How do you grow your economy differently? How do you build your career differently? That’s what’s so exciting about the tagline.
“Everywhere” also allows us to think about the world today and the world in the future. This platform speaks to technologies today, but also future possibilities. Today you can use your card in various ways that you couldn’t 10 years ago. Whether that’s online or through a mobile phone, that’s your payment device. This concept of “everywhere” has so much possibility for what might be in the future, things that don’t even exist today. The line’s as much about future technologies as about the aspirations people will have to live their lives. Defining somebody’s “everywhere”, whether they’re a consumer, an athlete, an employee, a policymaker, a small business, a large business, a bank—that’s what we’re trying to enable through our business
Q: Why did you decide to launch the new tagline at the Olympics?
Kuperman: Visa has been an Olympic sponsor since 1986, and I think what hasn’t changed about that is the amazing global platform the event is to showcase a brand, to be associated with the great values of the Olympics, to be associated with such an amazing feel-good platform of bringing people together. Inclusivity, universality, those are all things that are synonymous with the Visa brand. What has changed, or certainly has evolved, is the fact that being associated with a global event such as the Olympics now presents lots of complexities, and we have to be ready for anything and make sure that we’re protecting all of the different audiences and stakeholders that we have there and that we’re bringing into the fold.
Visa decided to use the Olympic sponsorship as the launch of our new campaign and the repositioning of the company exactly for those reasons, because it is such a great platform and it is so closely tied with the values of who we are as a business. The Sarah Hendrickson spot, which was the first spot that ran of our new positioning, speaks to the strength of women. It speaks to human aspiration. It speaks to Olympic achievement, and I think it really does a great job of embodying what we’re trying to get across in our new campaign and our new tagline. At the end of the day, this notion of “everywhere you want to be” is about human aspiration. What we can enable and what we can help people, businesses, governments achieve, and I think what a beautiful manifestation of that concept the ad is.
Q: In the new era of marketing, do brands need to stand for something and occasionally risk alienating certain segments of their audience?
Kuperman: Brands today have a challenging job in making sure that they’re balancing the needs of their stakeholders, the values of their stakeholders and not alienating anybody that they care about. They need to do the best that they can to stand up for what’s right. I think brands that do the best job at this know who they are and stay true to who they are and take a stand on the things that are most relevant to their business. It’s not easy, and it’s going to get even more complicated, but I think if you stay true to who you are as a business and it comes from the core of your mission and your strategy, you’ll have a better shot.
Photo credit: Sochi Olympics (Getty Images Europe)