Payments Leader

Maintaining Brand Identity as Payments Become Invisible by Kris Carrera

July 19, 2018

Kris Carrera, Business Line Executive, Credit

Contactless payments – widely used around the globe – are coming in full force to the United States. Tapping will replace dipping and swiping – a seemingly simple change for cardholders, many of whom are already tapping their phones at contactless-enabled terminals.

But what happens to the issuer’s brand identity – often conveyed in the form of a well-recognized logo – when the consumer no longer sees it during the payment process?

As payments become integrated with connected cars, wearables, appliances and voice assistants such as Alexa and Google Home, the issuer’s brand fades into the background. Think about what would happen if the Apple disappeared from every Apple product.

Visa’s Sensory Branding

Visa’ s hologram dove was introduced as a prominent symbol of security in 1984. Then came co-branding with banks and shared real estate on the face of the card. In 2005, Visa agreed to cede its prime real estate on the card face to banks and move its hologram to the back. With visibility decreasing even further in the payment process, Visa’s hologram dove’s value as a differentiator and symbol of security is threatened.

In response to this unintended consequence of payments innovation, Visa is testing sensory branding – linking the Visa brand to a short sound and vibration upon completion of a transaction.

Visa’s initial research results are positive and indicate that its sensory cues signal speed, trust and convenience to consumers, according to its head of global merchant solutions. Furthermore, in a 2017 IPG lab study, 81 percent of participants said they would have a more positive perception of merchants who used either sound or animation cues and 83 percent said the sound or animation cues positively affected their perception of the Visa brand.

Noisy POS Potential?

Consumers are already habituated to an audible at POS that reminds them not to leave their EMV cards in readers, but, what happens if they hear multiple sounds?

In advertising, consumers are typically exposed to only one brand’s mnemonic device at a time – you don’t hear the Energizer Bunny beating its drum to the tune of Intel’s five-note ding, for example.

As the first mover in sensory branding, Visa has the best chance of creating a competitive advantage with its trademarked sound. That said, will its advantage be sustainable if other issuers introduce their own proprietary sounds? Will its audible and haptic devices still differentiate the Visa brand?

Expect More Innovations Around Payments

The EMV mandate represented the first step into a broader set of innovations such as tokenization to make payments safer, more secure and more seamless. Contactless payments are next in the queue to improve speed, trust and convenience.

While innovations move us forward particularly in the fight against fraud, they are often not without unintended consequences. Will sensory branding be the solution to connect consumers with issuers’ brands? Let us know your thoughts.


Kris Carrera

Business Line Executive, Credit

With over 25 years of international payments experience, Kris was responsible for the launch of the first successful cobranded card program. A leader in risk-based pricing and target marketing using predictive data analytics, she specializes in merchant services, credit cards and home equity. Kris has received Best Travel Card, Best Cobranded Card and Best Private-Label Program awards.