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The Challenge:
In order to remain the world's leading payment card and system, Visa needed to gain broad acceptance and use of its smart card technology platform, the Visa Open Platform®, amongst issuing banks and application developers worldwide.
Research and Strategy:
  • Visa had long been the leader in the global card payments arena, but that position was now being threatened as the industry began its inevitable migration to more powerful chip-based smart cards.
  • Visa's main competitor, MasterCard, was backing a competing smart cardplatform, Mondex/MULTOS. This technology had already gained traction with issuing banks, mainly because it was first to market, and was viewed as easier and cheaper to implement.
  • With no exaggeration, Visa and MasterCard's future leadership positions hinged on the choice of these smart card platforms. If the Mondex/MULTOS platform won out, Visa could well lose marketshare, as well as billions of dollars in annual card payment revenues. This could potentially signal the end of Visa's global market leadership.
  • Visa's Open Platform enjoyed a slight advantage because of the popularity of the Java language, on which it was based. Visa had also attracted greater interest from application providers, developers and strategic technology partners, who would be critical to enhance the platform's value proposition for consumers and card issuers.
Research found that Visa had other strong advantages, including:
  • Successful completion of Open Platform pilot programs
  • More Visa Open Platform cards actually issued worldwide
  • Strong reviews by key industry analysts
  • Visa's reputation for technology and product innovation
Create a global integrated marketing program to promote the essential "openness" and flexibility of Visa's smart card solution, emphasizing how it was better positioned to help issuers accelerate their adoption of business-building smart card programs worldwide.
  • Encouraged industry analysts in Europe, Asia and the U.S. to carefully compare the Visa Open Platform with MasterCard's solution; we were confident that Visa's platform would prevail under such in-depth scrutiny, which it did
  • Conducted "Visa Future of Money" media/analyst events in London and New York; each event attracted more than 100 leading technology/business/financial media and analysts. Collectively, the two events generated nearly 200 million media impressions about Visa's Open Platform solution
  • Implemented Open Platform direct mail program to all 21,000 Visa issuers worldwide; created Open Platform monthly newsletter
  • Created and launched Visa Open Platform Web site for issuers, developers, technology partners and media/analysts; the site became a critical, interactive vehicle to communicate regularly with key Open Platform stakeholders
  • Conducted joint PR activities with Sun and its Java Group, and with other technology partners, such as Gemplus (smart card developer) and telecom companies that would ultimately use the platform for payment applications on cell phones
  • Launched a worldwide developer communications program, including developer seminars at major conferences in London, Paris and Orlando, and a joint conference during Sun's Java trade show
  • Full page ads in influential trade publications
  • Ongoing media outreach campaigns worldwide
  • Visa succeeded in encouraging key industry opinion formers (media, analysts, consultants) to "question" the sustainability of MasterCard's smart card solution because of its closed architecture (as opposed to Visa's "open" system)
  • Industry analysts published several reports, outlining the inherent benefits to issuers and consumers of Visa's Open Platform
  • Major issuers in each of Visa's six global regions decided to license the Open Platform instead of MasterCard's Mondex/MULTOS offering
  • Significant positive coverage that emphasized all key messages, including prominent stories in leading business, technology and industry trade media worldwide
  • Because of the growing issuer acceptance of Visa's Open Platform, MasterCard recently - and reluctantly - agreed to offer it to their issuing banks

By creating strong demand for, and adoption of, the Open Platform, Visa solidified its leadership position, particularly as the global card payment industry migrates from traditional magnetic stripe technology to chip-based smart cards.