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“We are very lucky to have a CFO who believes in brand building” – Visa’s Vivian Pan

During a question and answer session following her keynote at the first Mumbrella Asia Finance Marketing Summit, Visa’s vice president and head of marketing for South East Asia, Vivian Pan attributed the brand’s high profile brand building initiatives to its CFO Vasant Prabhu being “a big fan of marketing”. 

Pan made a presentation on the brand journey of the payment solutions company. She also fielded some tough audience questions on the future of Visa and its brand building approach.

One of the questions was about how Visa managed to get a management buy-in to associate with marquee events like the Olympics and FIFA, considering the fact that it was more of an enabler and less of a consumer facing brand. 

Pan explained that these initiatives helped Visa navigate a future in which one of its major sources of brand building – its logo on plastic cards – was fast disappearing. 

She said: “Ever since Visa was founded in 1958, our first 50 plus years was about issuing a product that carried a logo. Everyone carried a card in the pre-digital era. We had our logo on cards from hundreds and thousands of issuers. The management team thought of building a common narrative to make people be aware and connected to the brand, even though we didn’t issue cards directly. 

“The reason we did that was to drive a consumer pull effect. So, when they went to the bank for a card, they specifically asked for Visa, or when a new card acquisition opportunity presented itself, they picked the brand. It was a typical B2C2B (business to consumer to business) approach. 

“We have embarked on big global engagements for a few decades – Olympics and FIFA gave us a huge platform. 

“It was a big investment but it came because of a commitment from our management team. Our chief financial officer Vasant (Prabhu) was actually a marketer before. We are very fortunate to have a CFO who is a big fan of marketing and believes in brand building. 

“It is proven that we have done the right thing. In the future, with plastic disappearing, nobody will have the card any more since it will all be digital or online. That branding is disappearing.  And so, our most critical job is to ensure that the brand narrative continues to be built, so we attract the B2B relationships who have more of a direct interface with future consumers.”

Asked about her vision for 2025 in terms of product and marketing, Pan said: “Our product is our key technology capability.

“It will become invisible. It won’t be a card as a presentation format for consumers. But they will engage with a player that carries technology provided by Visa. That is good timing for us to now think about how we build our brand story and how we connect with future business players who have a broader connection with end consumers.

“One of the things we are trying to change is that people should not think of us as a credit card company. We were never a credit card company. The future of commerce, payment and engaging with business partners is at the heart of everything we are working on.” 

Pan’s presentation delved deep into Visa’s approach to marketing focusing on three segments: A large general audience via association with global sporting events like the the FIFA championship and the Olympics; a small group of people or community around a passion point like music or fashion and finally to individuals via digital and programmatic led communication.

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