Perception Don't Pay the Bill

July 21st, 2008

Lease Payment on Car You’ll Never Own: $ 485/mo
Wardrobe Bought with Store Credit Cards: $ 2,000
Mortgage on Condo in City You Can’t Afford: $ 250,000
Putting Yourself on a Path to Bankruptcy
in less than 3 years? Priceless.

Okay, so the “Priceless” device is a little contrived and a lot clichéd, but it’s one that could headline any of the countless sob stories about foreclosures and bankruptcies on Main Street, Anytown, USA, in the media every day.
While there are so many factors that caused the collapse of consumer credit, all changes in behavior start with a change in mindset. Consumers had to start thinking it was okay to spend away, and campaigns like Mastercard’s “Priceless” campaign helped do just that. The campaign doesn’t just encourage foolish spending behavior, it actually tells consumers to use the card for things they can’t afford — “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard.”

According to the Federal Reserve Board, we Americans carry $2.56 trillion in consumer debt — a number that’s up roughly 22 percent since 2000. Another startling increase is 15 percent rise in the average household’s credit card debt in the past eight years to $8,565. Although retail spending has dipped amid doomsday press coverage, many credit card companies still promote the Era of Remorseless Spending through slogans and images that combat logic and say it’s cool to spend what you don’t have. But is the tide changing?

Perhaps fearing backlash from the blame credit card companies have gotten for their rising interest rates’ contribution to the credit crisis, Citicard, whose slogan was once “Live Richly,” attempted a somewhat more reassuring position to entice consumers last year. The company’s “A deal is a deal” slogan came with a guarantee that it wouldn’t raise interest rates “at any time for any reason.” Corporate struggles, however, have forced the company to reconsider its guarantee.

Visa, which has built its brand on its position of widespread acceptance, opts for a more subtle slogan “Visa – it’s everywhere you want to be.” It too, has evolved its message from one more focused on possessions than lifestyle – the company’s slogan used to be “Could be cheap. Could be expensive. Visa. All you need.”

There’s also a formal movement to change American thinking spearheaded by the Institute for American Values and called the “Initiative for a New Thrift.” The initiative consists of research, a commission and a formal denouncement of credit card slogans, among other elements.

Posted Under: Advertising, Branding
Blog Archive:

Add A Comment:

Required *

© 2010 Braithwaite Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved | (215) 564 3200 | | Philadelphia, PA
Agency Marketing Expertise: Public Relations | Branding | Social Media | Internal Communications | Advertising