Delta Card is dead. Long live Visa Debit. On second thoughts, that
should be: Delta Card is terminally ill. Expect death around 2001.
For in the rebranding of its debit and cash card (Marketing, July 9),
Visa has chosen to roll out its new-look pieces of plastic as current
ones reach their expiry date.
The new card - which states Debit Card clearly on the front, alongside
the Visa flag, and relegates the Delta logo to the back - are all about
’cardholder clarity’, according to Adrian New, Visa’s senior
vice-president for relationship management and marketing.
Ten years after the launch of Delta (and its rival, Switch) says New,
consumers understand the concept of debit, so the card itself doesn’t
have to look different to remind them.
The gradual roll-out, he says, is to avoid giving the banks another
deadline and imposing extra costs.
There are other reasons for the rebranding too, says New. Delta was a
UK-only brand, while the Visa flag commands worldwide acceptance and
Visa’s debit system is usable worldwide, so it makes sense to ditch the
UK Delta symbol.
’We’re hoping to lever the globality of the brand,’ says New. ’It’s
taking the confidence and trust people have in the Visa flag and making
it more global. The Delta logo was purely UK-based, but now people are
using the debit facility abroad more.’
In an industry where there’s a revolution every 18 months, New claims
that smartcards, which will put loyalty, debit and credit card
facilities onto one piece of computer-chipped plastic, is at least three
But the fight to brand that single card will be fierce and if Visa can
de-clutter its own cards, that will, he believes, help it win the
looming brand battle.
Scott Anderson, editor of Cards International, which analyses the retail
banking-card sector, says this is one of the main business reasons for
Visa ditching Delta.
’Control of that branding is going to be much more intense than anything
we’ve seen before,’ says Anderson. ’The key to control is certain
account relationships with customers, and debit cards are an important
strand in this battle.’
Switch has about 54% of the debit card market via relationships with
NatWest, Midland, The Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of Scotland and
Delta has the rest, through Barclays, Lloyds TSB, Co-op Bank Abbey
National and Nationwide.
Naturally, New would never concede that Delta was too weak a brand
compared with Switch and that it has had to roll out the heavyweight
global name to fight on the British front.
But Anderson believes this is what happened. To a great extent, he says,
Visa has been a victim of its own success, with its name now synonymous
’The word ’Switch’ entered the latest edition of the Oxford English
Dictionary,’ he says. ’If that doesn’t indicate the success of the
brand, what does?
I’ve even heard people refer to their Delta Visa card as their ’Switch
’Visa is perceived as a credit card. But they just haven’t been able to
get the message across that your cash card is also a debit card - 25% of
Delta cards are never used at point of sale,’ he says.
Delta was the highest spending brand in the Visa portfolio, worth around
pounds 6m annually, arguably up to twice as much as Switch spent.
Kevin Monks, Visa corporate communications executive, agrees that the
new card aims to ram home that this is a cash and debit card. ’By
calling it a debit card on the front, we’re emphasising the cash card’s
Vanessa Feltz will be going on a photo-grabbing shopping spree to mark
the roll-out of the card at the beginning of September, but no other
advertising is planned, according to Monks: ’That’s a decision for the
banks, not us.’
Meanwhile, Visa International is reviewing its dollars 40m (pounds 24m)
pan-European ad account, currently handled by Saatchi & Saatchi.
Saatchis’ ’Kerching’ Delta ads starring Mel Smith were heavily
criticised for failing to explain what the brand is about.
But pushing the Visa brand is now top of the agenda, and the company’s
need to compete for card custom against MasterCard and American Express
will form the focus of briefs agencies will be receiving in the next few