Lara Hood Balazs leads North America marketing for Visa, where she is responsible for building the brand and business in the U.S. and Canada, launching digital products, such as Visa Checkout and Apple Pay, and leading sponsorships, such as with the Olympics, NFL, and NHL.
She also played an integral role developing the brand’s first global brand positioning and campaign as the company prepared to go public in 2008.
Balazs, who before joining Visa in 2006 held marketing leadership roles at Gap and Nike, recently participated in our “4 Questions for Marketing Innovators” series.
1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
As a marketer, I’m always looking at what’s next and trying to innovate not for the sake of innovation, but for the sake of helping the consumer interact with a product, service, or brand. Right now I’m focused on how technology is driving the convergence of the physical and digital worlds. Payments have become an extension of any consumer experience in both the real and digital worlds, offering marketers exciting challenges and opportunities.
2. Why is this so important?
This is being driven by smaller, faster, and more affordable mobile technology. The proliferation of smartphones is driving the blurring of owned, earned, and paid media. Consumers don’t discern between these different media types when ingesting information on a mobile device. The best brands and marketers embrace this and are often leading campaigns with earned media. When we launched Visa Checkout, our easier way to pay online, we invited technology and financial influencers to be some of the first to try our new service and use their social channels to highlight their experiences. Only after we received credibility via social and digital did we launch paid media. Even then, we started with 15-second digital videos that showcased the ease and convenience of Visa Checkout.
3. How will this improve the customer experience?
The physical and digital convergence means faster, easier, more secure experiences in our lives. A great example of this is how we now watch and consumer media. Online streaming services have put extensive libraries of digital entertainment at our fingertips–giving consumers the ability to choose not only what they watch, but when and how they watch it. And it’s not just at home or on the go.
And it’s not just about digitizing the physical experience. Technology is helping transform real-world experiences, like a night on the town or even dating. From the palm of your hand, consumers can find a date on Tinder, purchase movie tickets on their mobile, get a cab through Uber or Lyft, and order dinner for two on GrubHub. In many of these instances, the act of paying is ubiquitous. Payment used to be a bolt-on to the experience, and now it’s a key component. Today, you can make a safe, seamless payment that is imbued into the shopping experience, whether in a store, online, on your mobile, or, in the future, even through a connected car.
4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
Technology and smartphones are forcing marketers to up their game. On a mobile device, you have a small screen and only a few seconds to capture your consumers’ attention, as well as the ability to track your effectiveness. Your messages need to be compelling and relevant. As a marketer, the bar is higher than ever, but that makes our jobs more challenging and exciting.
Bonus: What is your favorite activity outside of work?
Skiing with my two boys, ages 8 and 11. My husband and I met skiing in Whistler, Canada. Our kids learned to ski at Squaw Valley in Tahoe when they were three, and now we all enjoy it together.
Read related article, "The CMO.com Interview: Chris Curtin, Chief Brand & Innovation Officer, Visa."