5 Questions for Susanne Lyons, CMO, Visa USA
As chief marketing officer of Visa USA, Susanne Lyons orchestrated the launch of the credit card company's first new brand campaign in 20 years. At Visa, she is responsible for all aspects of brand, advertising, and marketing services, and serves on the company's executive management committee. Lyons has been instrumental in promoting the use and integration of digital media and marketing strategies across Visa's multiple communications initiatives. She has held senior marketing and general management roles at some of the largest financial services companies in the U.S., and prior to Visa was the CMO at Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.
How challenging was it to rally all parts of the organization around Visa's new direction?
> Everyone at Visa recognized we were in a unique position to capitalize on the heritage and equity of our "It's Everywhere You Want To Be" campaign, and evolving it to focus on the ways our products and services empower cardholders to do the things they need to do, want to do, and what they never thought was possible. The whole organization believes "Life Takes Visa" has the depth and flexibility to grow our business, as electronic payments continue to be the preferred way people want to pay and get paid.
Visa has been a leader and a champion in the creative use of online media and marketing. What do you think distinguishes your approach?
> Back when most companies were consumed with lifting click-through rates, we were looking for an online branding strategy. During the past six years we have learned a great deal about using the Web for branding purposes, and we believe that has given us a competitive advantage.
The Internet was just the beginning of an advertising revolution. Since we entered the online space early, we feel that that has given us an advantage to expand to other areas in the emerging digital world. As opportunities in television broaden to include iTV or DVRs or VOD, we have already piloted tests. As gaming goes well beyond consoles and young males, we are there integrating and engaging with our message. As mobile phones are more than just phones but a new means for communication, we are there experimenting and learning.
This past spring we decided to team up with the top-rated CBS TV series "CSI," not on the "small screen" but on the computer screen. We incorporated one of Visa's multiple layers of security into the story line of the "CSI" video game. To solve the mystery, you had to understand how Visa protects its cardholders from fraud. It was important to us to go beyond a traditional product placement into the actual game so our message could be taken in a way that was authentic, relevant, engaging.
What are the most pressing issues for chief marketing officers right now?
> Making sure our role is recognized as a way companies can drive growth by expanding their brand permission with customers. At Visa we start all of our planning with a thorough understanding of our business needs, and then take a strategic and integrated approach to addressing those needs. Being a valued business partner comes first; delivering great marketing comes from that process. Finding the appropriate balance between measurable, quantifiable data and strong marketing creativity is always a challenge, as well.
What role does digital media and marketing play in the overall media plan for Visa? To what extent do they drive the plan?
> Digital is an essential part of our overall media mix. Our approach is never about the medium, but rather about the message, and how best to communicate it to our cardholders. Fortunately we have many options for our integrated effort, and online is one method to help us accomplish some of our objectives. When we are looking for additional consumer engagement, brand-building, or even direct response, we always consider the medium.
If you weren't the CMO of Visa, what would you most like to do?
> My interests are very varied. I might run a company, sing in a nightclub, open a bakery, or become a life coach. Time will tell!