A marketer’s work is never done. This is especially true at Visa, a company that’s not new, by any means, but has a full agenda ahead of it, especially when it comes to engaging with its customers. I recently spoke to the company’s Global Chief Brand Officer, Antonio Lucio, who walked me through Visa’s innovative marketing strategies, how it measures ROI and the future of its social communications. (By the way, Antonio was a recent winner at The CMO Awards hosted by our friends at The CMO Club.)
Drew: A CMO has a lot of choices in terms of where they invest their time. What have been your top priorities in the last couple of years?
Given the increasingly complex media landscape, deepening Visa’s focus and commitment to digital and social communications is a constant priority for my leadership team and me. The imperative has never been greater for us to better communicate the strengths, values and mission of Visa to our full range of stakeholders in an integrated way. This meant that some structural changes needed to be made to set us up for success. We have made significant progress on this front, but it is a constantly evolving ecosystem so our work is never done.
Drew: Have there been any big surprises in terms of what’s worked really well and what hasn’t?
It’s not really a surprise, but what I’ve learned is that showing vs. telling is the way to go. Whether it’s addressing a question from our management by showing results and data, or teaching the organization how to do social by putting a team in place to show them what a best-in-class social effort looks like (i.e., our recent #goinsix social media campaign). Showing has a much bigger impact that just teaching alone.
Drew: How do you stay close to your customers when you operate in so many markets and have so many different types of customers?
Social media is a great equalizer in so many ways. It enables global brands like Visa – and myself personally – to stay close to customers in markets around the world, understand what is important to them, what they are talking about and what they care about, all while providing the ability to engage them directly.
Drew: How do you evaluate/measure the success of your marketing? Are there some channels that work a lot better for you than others?
At Visa the ultimate measure of success for our marketing is ROI – our ability to drive the business. We break that down to three components: 1) reach (how many people can recall our campaigns); 2) short-term impact (the short-term usage lift of consumers); and 3) long-term impact (lift in our brand equity and our ability to influence consumer behavior longer-term).
Drew: Marketing seems to be getting increasingly complex in terms of ways to spend and ways to monitor. Has it gotten more complex for you and if so, how are you dealing with that complexity?
While the media ecosystem is definitely becoming more complex, our approach of putting the consumers at the center has not changed. We strive to understand how our consumers are using different devices, where they are spending their time and what they want to hear from us. And then we adjust our media mix and messaging accordingly. We want to ensure we are delivering unique and relevant experiences across all these screens by using the unique capabilities of the technology or platform the consumer is engaged with and delivering them a message that will interest them. Through technology we are better able to measure engagement with our brand and understand the impact of the experiences we are delivering to our customers.
Drew: How does new product development work at Visa? Does it report in to you? If not, how do you make sure you have the right “news” to market?
While product development is led by our global product teams, our marketing and communications teams have strong partnerships with these teams – often sitting on their leadership teams. A collaborative work environment is essential to product development that registers as being innovative and relevant among clients and customers. As a team, we bring our respective areas of expertise across product, marketing and communications to ensure that we are bringing new products to market that will truly resonate with consumers.
Drew: Your “Go World” cheer campaign during the 2012 Olympics was one of the most successful examples of traditional and online marketing integration to date. What strategy did you use to integrate the various channels and what were some of the biggest lessons learned from that campaign?
We used our “Audience First” approach to develop a global campaign framework that directly engaged consumers through a global social platform that allowed fans to connect with the Go World marketing campaign by “Cheering” on athletes. London 2012 was heralded as the most social games ever and our Olympic Games marketing campaign was the most successful in our history – a true “game changer” in the way we drove engagement. We’re still applying the lessons learned from London, such as the benefits derived from engaging in social with concise, snackable content which inspired our #goinsix campaign.
Drew: Have you been able to link your innovative marketing activities to the kinds of business metrics favored by CEOs?
Our key performance metrics evolve to address changing dynamics in the industry. For example, we recently added metrics to address social marketing, which enable brands to build direct relationships with consumers. We added social KPI goals that are part of a select few KPIs known to drive the business. We closely track our progress, and have timely and transparent accountability across leadership towards delivering against these business driving KPIs.
Drew: Visa has made a big push to integrate social media into their overall marketing efforts over the past few years. Can you comment on your current strategy and where you plan on taking the program in the future?
Visa believes we are in a social era that extends beyond any platform or community; social is a mindset that empowers consumers and connects communities. We are incorporating social in the very heart of our marketing, not merely during the execution phase. We strive to develop social-at-the-core campaigns by designing for share-ability and planning for conversations. We invite consumers to drive the conversation while structuring our ecosystem to make sharing frictionless.
Drew: Do you agree with that notion that “marketing is everything and everything is marketing” and if so how have you extended the boundaries of your job beyond the normal purview of the CMO?
Everything is marketing when it comes to the customer experience because whether you are designing a product or a marketing campaign it is about designing it to be a more consumer centric, intelligent and seamless experience.