The Marketing Interview: Mariano Dima

Marketing, March 14, 2012 | Go to article overview

The Marketing Interview: Mariano Dima


Visa Europe's chief marketer wants its Olympics tie-up to do more than raise awareness: he hopes it will change our behaviour, too, writes Alex Brownsell.

Mariano Dima's mind is not fully on the job the day Marketing meets him It may be less than five months until the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games, and the culmination of a five-year marketing strategy, but Visa Europe's chief marketing officer is, understandably, somewhat distracted by the arrival of a new member of the Dima family.

Nonetheless, the Italian-Argentinian has taken time out of his paternity leave to discuss the company's plans, with only days to spare ahead of the launch of Visa's flagship pre-Olympics ad campaign starring Jamaican sprint champion Usain Bolt.

This will be the 'year of deliveries', jokes Dima, but the stakes could scarcely be higher for a brand that has invested such effort in ensuring its Olympic sponsorship delivers a tangible change in behaviour.

The campaign, created by Saatchi & Saatchi, advances the company's 'Life flows better with Visa' creative theme to focus on the speed of its latest contactless and mobile payment products, which allow users to pay for goods by simply holding a card or device next to a terminal.

Although the former Vodafone and PepsiCo marketer claims Visa is content with the current level of take-up, with 20m or so contactless cards in the UK, the frequency of transactions has not grown at the pace that some may have hoped.

The brand's forthcoming marketing activity, therefore, is intended to raise awareness and help usher in a much wider acceptance of the new technology.

In the pan-European TV ad, which carries the updated tagline 'Flow faster with Visa', Bolt races an unknown rival from the airport to London's Olympic Stadium in a playful reinterpretation of the brand's breakthrough 'Running man' campaign from 2008.

'We know that the concept of 'Running man', that somebody with a Visa card is able to achieve whatever he wants to achieve, is understood by consumers,' says Dima. 'Speed is one of the key benefits of our new products, so we thought about refining what we mean by 'better'. In the context of the Olympics, we thought, who is the fastest man on earth? That is where Usain Bolt comes in.'

Unlike many Olympic sponsorships where the primary objective is to increase goodwill - not to mention sales - through an association with the Games, Visa has set itself the lofty objective of using the event to change the perception of its brand from a traditional payments facilitator to a technology company.

Throughout our conversation, Dima makes remarkably little reference to such trifling matters as debit and credit cards - Visa's core business for decades. Instead, the brand is striking up partnerships and alliances with mobile handset manufacturers including Samsung and networks such as Vodafone in a race to become the de facto provider of new payment technology.

Dima explains: 'People are moving away from just card payments, so we must start building up the understanding that, although Visa has been here for 50 years, we are trying to innovate. For us, this is not so much a campaign, as a showcase of our innovation.'

By the time the Games begins on 27 July, there will be approximately 100,000 terminals in the UK accepting contactless payment, 3500 of them in the Olympic Park. Through Visa's partnership with Coca-Cola, the technology will be included in its soft-drinks vending machines. Four thousand London taxis will be fitted with contactless terminals, and Transport for London is aiming to fit the devices to 8000 London buses. All this in the drive to reach the 'tipping point' beyond which such a payment method will become the norm.

However, Dima concedes that the Games may come too soon for the more advanced mobile payment methods, including near field communications (NFC)-enabled handsets. …

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