“It's everywhere you want to be.”
As corporate mottos go, Visa has a good one. It’s short, it’s easy to remember and it makes Visa’s essential point about its most useful feature: No matter where you go, no matter what you want to do, if a merchant takes cards, it takes Visa.
But, in an era where the card form factor is disappearing behind a variety of digital vehicles, simply being there is not enough. Because consumers aren't pulling out those cards nearly as often and looking at the Visa logo, Visa needs a new way to remind their customers that they are paying with Visa.
Enter sensory branding.
Over a year ago, Visa began the hunt for a two-second sound that could represent the experience of using Visa. It’s a feat certainly harder than one might think it is — some sounds were eliminated for being too "angry," others for causing a "visceral" reaction, according to The Wall Street Journal.
According to Visa’s marketing chief Lynne Biggar, the goal for the chosen sound was finding something “energetic and optimistic and not overly intrusive.”
And now they’ve found it — and when customers pay at the register using a Visa product of some kind, it is the sound they will hear. The company is also launching a unique vibration to go with it and animation for its logo.
This has not been a casual process — Visa was very serious about finding the right sound, vibration and animation. There were focus groups, three specialist agencies and rounds of elimination to whittle down 200 different sounds. The company even did “neuro-research,” which entailed hooking people up to machines and studying their physical reactions to the various sound options.
“We wanted to make sure we had the global view. Not just four-to-five uninformed people deciding which sound won the popularity contest,” said Ms. Biggar. “You’d be surprised by how excited and how competitive or opinionated we all can be about very short sounds.”
Using sound to differentiate a brand is not news — three tones make it obvious immediately that one is watching NBC, and everyone knows the two-tone Intel cue by heart at this point. And, given the shift in payments processes of the last few years, Visa said it made sense to find new ways to cue their customers that they are actually using a Visa, even if they aren't holding a card.
“With the launch of different kinds of payment experiences, it became obvious to me and us at Visa that we need to ensure that the Visa brand mark is as prevalent in these new ways to pay as it has been in the old ways to pay,” said Ms. Biggar. “Its another component of our strategy to evolve how our brand is presented to consumers.”
The sound will get its global introduction through a series of spots that will show Olympians making payments in a variety of way and hearing the sound. Those adds will debut in January ahead of the Winter Games in South Korea.