Social drives Visa's new approach to marketing

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The rapid rise of social media has led Visa Inc. to radically revamp its approach to marketing, the company's top global marketing executive said in a keynote address last month at ad:tech San Francisco.

“I have never seen such a transformative change as the one that we are living through today,” said Antonio Lucio, global chief marketing, strategy and corporate development officer at Visa, the world's largest payment network.

Lucio, former CMO of Pepsico Inc., said Visa has reallocated its marketing budget to give more emphasis to digital, and has developed a new marketing model built on three premises, the first of which is “think audience first.”

The second premise, Lucio said, is to be guided by “the three principles of social media.” These are: 1) Sharing is the new giving; 2) Participation is the new engagement; and 3) Recommendations are the new advertising.

The third premise is to “activate” with a combination of paid, owned and shared media. Lucio cited as examples of this new marketing approach Visa's major social initiatives in connection with the Super Bowl, Olympics and World Cup.

Immediately following his ad:tech keynote address, Lucio elaborated on Visa's new approach in a Q&A with BtoB.

BtoB: Can you tell us about your approach to social marketing and your overall approach to marketing?

Antonio Lucio: Over the last 2½ years, we've undergone a major transformation in Visa marketing. We moved from about 11% to 12% of our media investment in digital to 36%, close to 40%. Behind that decision was a very solid business case that underscored the importance segments like affluent, cross-border and e-commerce have to our business.

Also equally important was the realization that the purchase was no longer an action but rather a social experience that transcended the transaction itself. In order to get to that level, we had to pretty much change our overall marketing approach. We brought digital from the periphery of our organization, with its own team, to the core of our organization; and we made each of the brand owners responsible for ensuring that we were meeting the right business and media targets.

We also had to change our approach to development by working through the consumer decision journey prior to any creative development and understanding all the media interactions that consumer had across that path to transaction.

BtoB: What was involved in getting your agencies to buy into this approach?

Lucio: A lot of analytical work. I mean, we had to preach, if you will; we had to show what the consumer decision journey meant in terms of our business opportunity; and, importantly, what it meant in terms of creating a map for them to develop more focus, and more effective engagement and communication across the path to transaction. BtoB: Which social channels are you finding most effective for your marketing efforts? Lucio: Well, it depends on what you're looking for. We're getting a great level of engagement in social media—in Facebook and Twitter—but we're also getting a significant level of interaction in terms of guiding transactions when we are actually doing banner ads on specific sites like Amazon.

BtoB: How important are TV advertising and print advertising in your overall marketing mix these days?

Lucio: They continue to be an important component of the equation. It varies by market. What the new approach has done for us—it has assigned to each media vehicle a very specific role. So when you're talking about our emerging markets, the role that TV has is to increase awareness of a very specific message that is then linked to very specific actions that are performed in the digital world.

BtoB: Which media are you finding most effective for reaching your b-to-b audience?

Lucio: Well, actually the most important element in our b-to-b relationship is personal engagement with our key customers. So a lot of time and effort has been dedicated by Visa to build the engagement forces across the multiple dimensions of our business, whether those are our issuers, our acquirers or our merchants. And as time evolves, we are going to see that actually grow more because, through the utilization of our information platforms, we will be able to customize our offering to actually deliver against their needs.

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