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The marketing minds behind four of the best-known U.S. financial service pro-viders-American Express Co., Citicorp, MasterCard International and Visa International-are moving to unify their global branding messages.

In an industry where the players' products are all pretty much the same, financial service companies are finding it increasingly important to differentiate themselves by crafting brand image. And ensuring consistency in their global markets is an important component of that.

The more competitive financial services environment of today is making branding more important, says John Hayes, 42, exec VP-global advertising for American Express.


Soon after he was hired in 1995, Mr. Hayes centralized the company's global marketing and followed up with the company's first global ad campaign last year. Handled by long-time agency Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, the campaign ran in 23 countries.

AmEx uses the same basic ads internationally but tweaks them from market-to-market.

"We've created an overall platform for positioning," Mr. Hayes says. "We make modifications and customizations to make sure what we do is right."

The "Do more" campaign positioned AmEx as a multi-product provider with a menu that includes revolving credit cards and small-business cards.

"From a branding standpoint in the past few years we have made a transition from a one-product brand to a brand that represents a multitude of products," says Mr. Hayes, referring to AmEx's formerly reliance on its trademark Green Card, which has been fading in popularity.

Mr. Hayes says AmEx plans to build on its global campaign with new spots featuring two American icons: Tiger Woods and Jerry Seinfeld. AmEx last month broke a Woods spot in Japan that touted the card and plans to run Seinfeld ads in Europe within a few months.


MasterCard, with 500 million cards worldwide, is seeking to unify its brand internationally by deemphasizing or eliminating local brands, according to Joseph Tripodi, exec VP-global marketing services.

MasterCard this summer persuaded Europay International, its European affiliate and marketing agent, to phase out "edc.", a German point-of-sale debit card brand, in favor of Maestro, which was more strongly identified as a MasterCard brand.

And last year, British banks affiliated with MasterCard agreed to drop their 7 million Access cards in favor of MasterCard.

Changes may be in store for MasterCard's international agency setup in which several agencies handle different regions. MasterCard tapped McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, as its U.S. creative agency in August and now is evaluating its multi-agency approach for the rest of the world.

Like MasterCard, Visa farms out marketing responsibilities to its six geographic regions, but about a year ago it created the International Marketing Group to help coordinate marketing efforts.

"We try to maintain consistency not so much through reporting as [through] collaboration," says Jan Soderstrom, 50, exec VP-marketing for Visa. "We share

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