Nov 28, 2006

A very early failed example (1993) of using smart cards to “replicate the wallet”

In 1993, a company called Sinfonia Marketing Technologies, a predecessor to Welcome which I also founded, launched a smart card coupon wallet in hypermarkets in France. The product was called Promocarte.

We signed up lots of major consumer goods brands, Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, Colgate and dozens of others. We signed up large hypermarkets across France. And we got more cards out than any of the US e-cash trials that were to happen five or six years later, and which were much better funded than Promocarte.

I wrote a few days ago about how payment product launches have often failed because they were based on the mental image of trying to replicate things like cash or wallets (see A failed mobile payments initiative: how the words you use can cause you to fail). Looking at the Promocarte brochures from 1993, I am surprised at having fallen into exactly the same mental trap that I criticized in last week’s post on replicating cash and wallets. Notice how the main graphic on this consumer application form shows exactly the idea of replicating a wallet. The chip on the smart card is positioned in the old French way, in the upper left hand corner, as the cards were issued prior to the current ISO standard which requires that the chip be placed a little lower.

Today, we would not focus on the gadget angle of replicating a coupon wallet. That's not a very exciting and meaningful consumer message. Today we would focus on "more", the added benefits a consumer wouldn't have gotten using their boring old, traditional credit or debit card.

Greg Legg-Bag of Momentum Worldwide, in Sydney, talks of coming up with exciting marketing attributes for the word more: "We fell upon the notion that if a card gave you more, perhaps it was ‘hotter’ than the rest, in a spicy, zesty way."

Which leads to the creation of new card products branded with words like "Spiced", "Chilli", or "Saffron", all designed to evoke the notion of "more" in a spicy new way. All in all, a much more powerful marketing message than "replicating the wallet".

Why in the world does it take me so many years to learn this stuff?

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