Blink and It's Gone: Chase Drops Contactless Brand from Cards

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Can using multiple branding terms to describe a payment process help an issuer to achieve its own brand loyalty and clarify its product message, or would doing so confuse customers?

Chase Card Services, a unit of JPMorgan Chase & Co., contends the use of multiple brands to describe contactless payments can work both in its favor and help to clear up customer confusion at the point of sale.

The New York-based issuer is dropping the Blink contactless-payment brand from new and renewed cards and instead is using the contactless brands supported by the major card networks — Visa Inc.'s payWave and MasterCard Worldwide's PayPass. However, Chase will continue to use Blink when describing contactless payments in statements, brochures and other customer correspondence, says Tom O'Donnell, Chase Card Services senior vice president.

The branding change on cards helps cardholders to identify better where the contactless function is usable, O'Donnell says.

"We decided to put on the back of the card what most closely resembles what the customers see at the point of sale," he says. "That would be the wave symbol (signifying contactless acceptance) and PayPass and payWave" logos shown on merchant terminals.

Using the Blink brand provides one name Chase can use to describe contactless payments and a customer's use of the function more clearly on statements and other materials. It also avoids having to note both PayPass and payWave each time Chase has discussions about contactless payments, O'Donnell says.

"[Blink] has become part of the naming and conversation process for customers and to use across both Visa and MasterCard" contactless offerings, he says. "Blink for us has a reputation as being that first major step in making customers think a certain way."

As other payment forms emerge, such as mobile payments, Chase will produce new ways to describe contactless so customers understand the process, O'Donnell says.

Todd Ablowitz, president of Double Diamond Group, contends the devil is in the details regarding Chase's branding strategy. "It's all about how they position it," he says.

Acceptance marks at least partly drive consumer behavior at the point of sale, so branding that does not involve the acceptance marks-either on the door or at the point of sale, causes confusion, he says.

As for continuing to use the Blink brand in customer correspondence, Ablowitz offered a diplomatic view.

"It's hard to distill Chase's overall strategy," he says. "If Chase is planning to execute on this in ways that are understandable to the consumer, that is great. It's got to be clear and understandable to the consumer, and it's got to reduce the confusion."

Ablowitz suggests that any brand seeking success at the point of sale learn from the initial contactless rollouts. Too many clerks did not know their stores accepted it, and too many consumers did not know their cards supported it.

"All the NFC-based mobile-payments rollouts are trying to tackle this consumer and clerk awareness issue that was so pervasive with the initial contactless rollouts," Ablowitz says. "The issue of being clear and direct with the consumer is very important to having success with this new and not-well-understood payment type in the consumer world."

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