PR week recently reported that Visa Europe has retained Hill & Knowlton to promote Visa as a technology company to consumers and the business community. This is an interesting move. Traditionally seen as a payments company, why would Visa want to reposition itself?
My initial thoughts run to three possible reasons.
Firstly, I think consumers often perceive Visa to be a financial services company, in particular a credit card provider. The public’s dislike of financial services is obvious and “banker bashing” continues among politicians and commentators. Visa’s reputation might improve if it were to break the association with financial services and make people understand that although Visa processes financial transactions, it doesn’t charge interest or lend money.
My second thought involves mobile payments. Last night, I attended an excellent event called Digital Surrey where PayPal UK’s head of social media, Jon Bishop, spoke about the mobile web. His words on mobile payments in Africa and on NFC particularly struck a chord with me. He pointed out that people are, and will increasingly, use mobile devices to purchase products and services. With this in mind, it is obvious that if Visa is to maintain its dominant position within payments, it will need to convince businesses to use its technology rather than allow other companies to enter into payments (even if Visa still processes the underlying transactions).
Finally, there’s the money. Visa Europe is owned by its members – banks and other payments providers – however, Visa Inc. is a listed company. Perhaps Visa Europe wants to promote itself as a technology company not to reposition itself but rather to increase its profile overall in preparation for it to be floated at some future point.