Change on the cards

Barclaycard, the UK’s oldest credit card brand, is investing a large amount of money in its nine offerings to give them a modern image and maximum consumer appeal. Catherine Turner reports

Barclaycard’s decision to retain the Goldfish brand, six months after acquiring the business and following strong indications it would be scrapped, highlights a change in strategy for the credit card company.

The decision to rebrand the card as Barclaycard Goldfish comes as the Barclays-owned card business returns to the loyalty points market two years after ending its association with Nectar.

At the time it said the Nectar scheme, run by Loyalty Management Group and with partners including supermarket Sainsbury’s, did not meet with its plans. Instead, it offered cardholders “added” benefits such as free travel insurance.

As part of the £35m acquisition of Goldfish parent Discover Financial Services, it has also acquired the upmarket i24 card, which will be kept as Barclaycard i24, and the Morgan Stanley brand, which will be scrapped.

“This is a return for Barclaycard to rewards, which we’d moved away from when we left Nectar,” says Barclaycard chief marketing officer for UK cards Gary Twelvetree.

“However, the market has changed in that time and customers are expecting more from their credit cards, not just 0% offers. That’s a good thing for the market.”

It means that Barclaycard will now have nine card programmes under the masterbrand, including the Barclaycard Football card, the UK’s first “green” card Barclaycard Breathe, and Barclaycard OnePulse, the three-in-one Oyster travel and contactless payment offering.

One observer says: “Over the past two years we have seen Barclaycard defining and strengthening its portfolio, but off the back of the iconic Barclaycard brand.”

Breathe was launched last year to appeal to customers interested in environmental issues (MW April 19, 2007), while Barclaycard Premiership was rebranded Barclaycard Football in order to appeal to a wider group of football fans.

The observer says that Barclaycard – which launched the UK’s first credit card in 1966 – has been criticised in the recent past for being too unresponsive to change, particularly when brands such as Egg and Cahoot were tempting customers with modern, fresh approaches and 0% offers, but it is now trying to resolve that.

“It rested too much on its past laurels,” he says, pointing to its 40-plus years in the market. That attitude was also seen in its advertising, which after the “classic” comic ads Rowan Atkinson and Alan Whicker, relied on a “tried and tested celebrity formula”, which he says made it look tired.

TV show Friends star Jennifer Aniston, comic Jennifer Saunders and the current “Green Wing” pairing of Julian Rhind-Tutt and Stephen Mangan have been drafted in, each lasting just a year or two.

Barclaycard is reviewing its advertising strategy and is expected to drop the current campaign, with suggestions that it is moving to a more serious message that reflects its growing international ambitions.

Another source close to Barclaycard says that it has gone to “a lot of effort” to rid itself of its “expensive” image and is looking to target outside of its core market with the launch of “niche” products such as Breathe, OnePulse and Goldfish.

Barclaycard is also staking its claim on the future, with chief executive Antony Jenkins suggesting that plastic cards, much like cheques, will become virtually obsolete as customers take up mobile and biometric systems to pay for purchases.

Jenkins believes that contactless chips, such as those used in its OnePulse card, have untapped potential but that the plastic around the chip limits its potential.

“Take the plastic away and the possibilities are endless, allowing the customer to pay by using something that they are already carrying, be it a mobile, key fob or even via biometrics,” Jenkins said last week following the results of a six-month payment trial with mobile operator O2, Nokia, Visa and Oyster operator TranSys.

In the short term, however, the brand is focused on integrating the 1.7 million Discover customers onto its portfolio of nine cards, with marketing activity around Barclaycard Goldfish expected in the New Year.

Twelvetree says: “This is an exceptionally large and complex operation to move an amount of customers onto nine products. We will take the rest of the year looking at our portfolio and how customers respond to it.”

Later this year, the advertising of Barclaycard’s masterbrand will have a makeover, with a new campaign and marketing strategy brought in to reflect the depth of the company and potentially fit its international strategy better.

Meanwhile, Twelvetree is keen to stress that “Barclaycard is about making and taking transactions, not just credit cards”.

The source expects this will lead to a renewed focus on its business-to-business communications with merchants and retailers as well as more investment and partnerships following its O2 trial. Barclaycard must hope that so much investment on so many fronts will bring it rich rewards. vData supplied by/Facts and figuresBarclaycard v Barclays introduces Barclaycard, the UK’s first credit card brand, in 1966 v It was the first to launch a loyalty scheme, Profile Points, in 1986, and was a launch member of the Nectar reward scheme in 2002, ending its association in 2005 v Barclaycard was the first UK credit card to provide online banking, in 1995 v It launched the UK’s first ‘green’ credit card, Breathe, in 2007, and relaunched its Premiership card as Barclaycard Football the same year. A three-in-one contactless payment and Oyster travel card, One Pulse, followed in 2008 v It paid £35m in February this year for Discover Financial Services, the parent company of Goldfish, i24 and Morgan Stanley brands. The com- pany has 1.7 million cardholders v Barclaycard is due to launch a new advertising strategy later this year. Previous ads have starred Alan Whicker, Rowan Atkinson and the current pairing of Julian Rhind-Tutt and Stephen Mangan.

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