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History of Marketing: How Credit Cards Convince You To Use Them

Photo courtesy of Images of Money via Flickr Creative Commons

Credit cards are a lightning rod for debate. They are heavily criticized for their billing practices and other complaints, but one thing you can’t criticize is their marketing. Credit cards have a relatively short history, only becoming widespread in our culture in the 1990’s. That doesn’t mean they haven’t had memorable campaigns.

For the longest time, it seemed like Visa and American Express were the only two in existence, at least according to Visa’s campaign in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The genius in that campaign is it pitched Visa as a “everyman” kind of card; one the mechanic down the street could get and instantly gain access to exotic locations around the world. A few years later, MasterCard came along and raised the stakes.

For most of us, MasterCard’s “Priceless” campaign sticks out as the most well known credit card campaign ever. It does so many things well; puts your life in perspective while selling you a credit card, touches on emotions that are always just beneath the surface, and shows a credit card as an every day kind of tool. The campaign is simply brilliant.

In recent years, credit cards, specifically Chase, have been turning to more comedy in their  campaigns. Currently, our favorite ad is the Chase money booth. Comparing that to Visa’s “It’s Everywhere You Want To Be”, the evolution is quite evident. In that campaign, credit cards were for everyday people who wanted access to exclusive locations around the world; more specifically, they were for vacation. In more recent years, campaigns have centered on use of credit cards in everyday life. Groceries, gas, clothes; the list goes on.

What do you think? Are credit cards doing a good job at marketing themselves?