Payments are a form of branding.

Building a brand is no longer a one-dimensional goal. Take your product or service as the base, add engagement, and you have your formula for building brand loyalty. The traditional methods of marketing are now elevated through experiential marketing in lieu of standardized ads, events and emails. Experiential marketing is the action of creating unique, face-to-face branded experiences.

Companies think of branding in terms of advertising, mailings, inserts, logos and social media. However, payments, and all the touch points associated with digital and plastic payments, are an equally important opportunity for branding.

Marketers are diligent in ensuring that the brand is consistent throughout all aspects of consumer contact. Signage, logos, websites, mobile and online shopping are all inspected for consistency with the brand. However, payments should be included in this thought process too.

Payments are activity based, while other branding elements are more passive. Nevertheless, from a branding perspective, payments can be far more memorable, both positive and negative, because people are more likely to remember the experience in doing an activity.

Every step along the customer’s payment journey, as well as every touch point, should be considered. When loading a card into Apple Pay, the text message to authenticate, the email to confirm enrollment, and every aspect of friction, or lack thereof, is an opportunity for branding.

Marketers should take great effort to ensure that their card art reflects the company’s brand. But once the card is entered into the Uber or Lyft app, for example, that card art has been exchanged for 12 X’s followed by 4 digits. This is when a focus on experience becomes even more important because the ultimate goal is to have customers make their company-branded card the default card in these apps. Any rewards or incentives that will encourage continued use of the company-branded card should be incorporated into the customer experience.

Millennials spend a lot of time browsing content. Within seconds, you either intrigue or disinterest a potential consumer. Focusing on the client experience, Ulta Beauty incorporated a full-service salon in their stores and, in 2014, announced its Ultamate Rewards program. The concept was basic with a reward system of one point for every dollar spent. Members were awarded with opportunities to receive bonus points throughout the year including their membership anniversary and birthday. This created a cyclical consumer base where guests would make purchases to increase their points which would later be converted to free rewards. Consumers no longer come in just to purchase when they absolutely need a product. With the opening of its 1,000th store in 2017, and a goal of opening 100 stores each year, Ulta Beauty has successfully developed relationships with more than 500 brand partners to develop its loyalty base.

The P2P experience is another branding opportunity. When a customer wants to send money to their friend who is a customer of a ‘big bank’, is your card P2P compatible? Is it frictionless? Is it accessible from your mobile app like their friend’s is? When it comes to branding, the customer might not remember the placement of the logo, but he/she will remember that they had to shop with their parent or pay with cash when all their friends had access to a digital P2P app.

Branding opportunities are not limited to digital payments. There are several elements to using plastic that equally reflect the importance of branding. A balance left on a gift card is a major branding consideration, in fact, a very negative one. And, like other negative experiences, one that will be remembered long after the customer forgets the many great things they have purchased from you. When a customer who was unable to easily spend the balance on their gift card calls into the number on the back of the card, how that customer is greeted, what questions are asked, and how the issue is resolved, is an equally, if not more, important element of branding, which should be the purview of marketing, even though these aspects of customer interaction are usually left up to customer care or operations.

Unfortunately, oftentimes, it is when something goes wrong, like a remaining balance or a lost gift card, that a customer most associates their experience with your company – that is branding. But the flipside is also true, when everything is working perfectly; making mobile payments with your company-branded debit card and getting a reward, and making  P2P payments from your mobile app – that is also branding. Branding is at every customer touchpoint, it is not just a visual element, it is an experience that is a part of every action and interaction.

Put some thought into how you want your next customer to experience your brand. Make them feel like their business and loyalty is appreciated. Like in any relationship, each consumer wants to feel unique and wanted. It’s your responsibility to encapsulate that experience to have them coming back for more.

Need some help in taking advantage of branding opportunities throughout the payments experience? Contact the experts at Jib Technologies.

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