Discover = Marketing Genius

by JT McGee

So in a recent post about how I’d create a new US coin called the zinckel, I posted up a few pictures of money in or around my wallet. You might have noticed that I have way too many credit/debit cards (something I’ll address later), but no one wanted to chat it up about the coolest little observation about my wallet: the super-duper Discover advertising.

Discover is a pretty aggressive advertiser—they send me mail 24/7!—but nothing compares to the advertising it does every day in my wallet. Check it out:

Don't really want to sit on $1 coins

That orange rimmed card? That’s my Discover card, and besides the odd sparkle of the broken-in-two American Express card next to it, it is the only card that I know immediately to be a credit card. The rest could be any one of the following:

Student ID
Pre-21 ID
Debit card
ATM card
Student ID from two years ago
Health insurance card
Other credit cards
Card for hair cut appointment
Student ID from three years ago
Stupid HigherOne Card that Universities use to financially plunder their students
Post-21 ID

Yeah, okay, so I need to clean out my wallet. But I’m sure I’m not the only one, and the marketing geniuses at Discover understand that by making the rim of their card a different color that consumers are more likely to use their card. That is the truth!

You know, I actually hate using this particular card because I’m floating 0% purchases on it right now, and…well, I hate having to calculate my monthly 0% interest payment plus recent purchases at the end of each month. However, I continue to use this card all the time. Usually it’s when I need a card right now, and not a second later…

These scenarios are the most common:

  • When I realize I don’t have enough cash at a drive-thru, retail store, or when I have to beat Amazon Prime’s get it by (day 2-days away) countdown timer. That thing eats my anxiety alive.
  • When out at a restaurant and the person who works there that carries food and drinks to and from my table (I’m tired of people telling me waitress/waiter isn’t PC, so enjoy the literary difficulty) shows up with my bill, and I want to leave them with my card before they take off.
  • When some other pre-identified debit/credit card doesn’t come out because I’ve stuffed them so tightly into my wallet.

How much does Discover make because the rims of its cards are orange? I have no idea. All I know is that I use my Discover card way more than I plan to due to the fact that it is orange, and that’s a net positive increase in transaction fees at the cost of lost revenues to its competitors. Inking the rim of a card isn’t really all that expensive when you compare it to the average investment of $1,569.91 in marketing costs the industry spent to open a new student credit card account in 2009, according to a Federal Reserve study.

Simple marketing is the best marketing, and Discover definitely understands that their marketing department has to earn your business on every swipe, not just the first one. Others would be quick to realize this easy marketing trick. You listening, Visa, Citi, BofA, etc?

Seems like this is the best ROI in the business.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Evan March 18, 2011 at 14:25

The moment that the other guys listen is when your wallet becomes a rainbow and the first one to go back to black or silver will win for a while lol


JT McGee March 18, 2011 at 16:00

LOL. Yeah probably. In a year from now I’ll write a post about how they should make the rim white again to stand out.

Really though, Discover is definitely doing some damage right now with that tiny little design element. I realize it isn’t the biggest piece of marketing in the world, but I can attest that it is highly effective.


Barb Friedberg March 27, 2011 at 15:28

Very interesting. Never thought about it. I think of fees and rewards, not colors wrt to credit cards.


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