The Return of John Costello

Former Home Depot, Sears Exec Lands at Biometric Company Pay By Touch

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COLUMBUS, Ohio ( -- One of marketing's most-watched players, John Costello, has finally resurfaced: as president of consumer and retail at Pay By Touch, a privately held biometric payment company in San Francisco.
Longtime marketer John Costello is now co-president of biometric payment company Pay By Touch.
Longtime marketer John Costello is now co-president of biometric payment company Pay By Touch.

Mr. Costello, a former Advertising Age Power Player who has held high-level marketing positions at Yahoo, Sears Roebuck & Co. and, most recently, Home Depot, will report directly to Pay By Touch founder-CEO John Rogers. The 59-year-old Mr. Costello shares the president title with John Morris, who joined the company in May 2005 after 23 years at IBM.

Passed up CEO offers
"I had a number of CEO opportunities, but at the end of the day I became the most excited about a partnership with John Rogers," Mr. Costello said. "I was excited about the potential of Pay By Touch to transform the relationship among consumers, retailers and manufacturers."

Though he declined to name specifics, Mr. Costello said offers came from "retail, consumer products and technology companies," adding: "They are still coming in." Chicago-based recruiting firm Spencer Stuart handled the Pay By Touch search.

Mr. Costello said that he sees mass marketing evolving into one-to-one relationship marketing, where brands seek ways to isolate their most valuable customers -- something he said Pay By Touch is positioned to capitalize on. He said the company's 3 million members eventually could, with a touch of a finger at a kiosk in a grocery store, receive offers tailored specifically to their needs and shopping history.

Although promising, the field of biometric technology and the prospects of Pay By Touch, which employs 700, have many hurdles to overcome before mainstream adoption.

Obstacles to overcome
While the company has several tests in national retailers and operates in 2,400 retail locations, there has yet to be a mass rollout of the technology, and there undoubtedly will be a battle with privacy advocates before that occurs.

And as Pay By Touch brings fingerprint payment-scanners to checkout lanes at leading grocery chains, convenience stores and check-cashing facilities nationwide, Mr. Costello's contacts in the retail and marketing world, including his role as a key player in the Association of National Advertisers, will prove useful.

Mr. Costello's unconventional career track led him to the top marketing ranks of Sears and Yahoo before his nearly three-year stint at Home Depot. He was also president at Nielsen Marketing Research and AutoNation and was CEO of, before it folded in the late '90s dot-com bust.

Varied career
That varied career, Mr. Costello said, will serve him well at Pay By Touch. "This job goes back to my days at Yahoo and my days at Nielsen," he said. "I know how to help early-stage companies in an emerging technology space."

Mr. Costello said that in the 14 months since he left Home Depot, he served as an adviser to a number of private equity firms and merchant banks, and recently joined the board of Aspen Marketing Services, a privately held marketing services company known for its direct-marketing work.
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