Visa’s mission is to be the best way to pay around the world, and there was a time when paying meant swiping a card. And those cards were physical objects that frequently had big Visa logos on them.
Then, more and more, we started typing our card numbers into websites. Eventually, we photographed it, loaded it into an app, approved the transaction with our thumbprint, and pretty much stopped thinking about how we were paying completely.
But Visa’s success was also their biggest problem: their innovation was making them invisible.
It may not seem like a big deal: people still pay for things, right? But in reality, the brand was getting overshadowed in the innovation game by the Venmos, Apple Pays, and Paypals of the world. And Visa’s perception as an innovative brand is directly linked to how likely someone is to actually pay with it.
The issue was particularly dire among millennial women, who represent 62% of financial decision makers within their generations’s households. They didn’t see Visa as an innovative brand, and after a multi-year decline in brand love, we knew we had a real, pressing problem to solve:
How could we make Visa visible to millennial women without a product to show?
With this in mind, we set out to move the needle on innovation among millennial women, as measured by % lift in innovation across Visa’s Global Brand Health Tracker and Millward Brown Brand Lift studies.
But women had their own invisible struggle in culture.
They were using the power of conversation to unmask harassers and post ads for period panties in the subway (minus the polite blue liquid). But one issue still wasn’t visible: their uncomfortable relationship with money.
So Visa commissioned comprehensive research to shed some light on it. They discovered that millennial women were 3x more likely to discuss sex with friends than their salaries. They were more likely to report feeling financially stressed and fearful of judgment about money than millennial men. And discomfort was the #1 reason they didn’t ask for raises.
Women were fighting an invisible battle—one that was holding back their financial power.
That’s when we realized: being innovative had nothing to do with products, and everything to do with progress.
Financial brands were still stuck in the past. Still marketing new ways for women to pay for dresses and dry cleaning. Still spouting jargon about “finances” and “payments.” And still unable to even utter the word “money” themselves. Seriously, Visa almost never used it.
The key to making Visa visible was making women’s experiences visible, too.
So we started talking about the thing we’d all been avoiding: money.
Here’s how it came to life:
We created work designed to be seen: Women didn’t need Visa to brandsplain money. And they definitely didn’t need more ads to skip. Traditional advertising wouldn’t work. We needed to use our global reach to create real change.
So we reinvented how the brand looked and behaved. Our visual language was inspired by feminist art. Our message didn’t tell, but showed her a vision of progress. And we met her where she already was, surfacing provocative perspectives through influencers and female-focused media.
We said “money” a lot: Until now, Visa almost never used the word “money,” only “payments” and “transactions.” But if we couldn’t talk about money, how could we expect women to? So we created hundreds of pieces of content questioning norms and surfacing new cultural concepts, all prominently featuring the word we’d been avoiding.
We stopped talking and listened: Every piece of content was informed by what women said in our research, and every piece served as a way for us to learn more about what she really needed.
We ensured she knew she was seen: We used performance learnings to keep it relevant, and unlock funding for the campaign to expand beyond the screen, into culture.
We created over 150 unique assets, 690 million impressions, and 25 million millennial women finally had their feelings about money seen.
After years of declining visibility, more women see Visa, too. We saw our biggest lift yet in Millward Brown’s studies—+6pts in innovation. And we drove a turnaround in Visa’s own brand health scores, reversing a 10% dip in innovation, and increasing them by an additional 5% YoY. We also widened our lead against the competition, increasing our differentiation against MasterCard and American Express in Visa’s brand health tracker by 48%.
Most importantly, we didn’t just make Visa visible. We supercharged progress.
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