Fleet Fusion Launch Scoops the Competition
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Fleet Fusion Launch Scoops the Competition

On September 12, 2000, Fleet Credit Card Services (FCCS) introduced “Fusion,” a new, technologically advanced, Visa-branded smart card. Announcing a full day ahead of the competition, FCCS effectively “scooped” the competition in the smart card industry.

Paul Holmes

On September 12, 2000, Fleet Credit Card Services (FCCS) introduced “Fusion,” a new, technologically advanced, Visa-branded smart card.  Announcing a full day ahead of the competition, FCCS effectively “scooped” the competition in the smart card industry – and in the process, moved the smart card story to the business pages of U.S. publications in earnest for the first time.

FCCS had been working toward this launch gradually in conjunction with Visa, with the understanding that there were other issuing banks taking part in a larger strategic plan. During the planning process, FCCS learned through the “rumor mill” that another issuer was planning on going against Visa’s wishes and would scoop the smart card story.  

Once this information was known, The Weber Group worked closely with FCCS to launch Fusion in a very compressed timeframe: what was once a 12-day launch turned into a 48-hour, over-the-weekend launch. The Weber Group recommended an aggressive launch strategy out in front of competitors to maximize Fusion coverage during the narrow window of time. Despite the moving launch date, the uncertainty of the activities of key players, and the client nearly canceling the announcement after media were invited to a conference call, Weber and FCCS still managed to significantly exceed the media coverage goals identified in the first meeting on September 1. 

Launch Timeline and Tactics

Fleet and The Weber Group researched, prepared and launched the Fleet Fusion card within 12 days.  Project highlights include:

  • Development of a plan pre-empting any competitor announcement.  Fleet pre-announced the launch of the Fusion card to select high-level media with results in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and Boston Herald
  • Frequent strategic counsel on managing the Visa-FCCS relationship to meet both parties’ needs while protecting FCCS interests.

Development of all media materials including: 

  • Media pitch
  • Press Release
  • Backgrounder
  • Media Advisory
  • Internal Q&A
  • Conference Call Script
  • Media and analyst targeting prior to conducting media outreach.

Maximize Fleet coverage by conducting media and analyst conference calls on the day of announcement, coupled with continuous proactive pitching of the news and the release of a news photo on the national wire.

Aggressive media outreach in order to maximize Fleet exposure and use of B-roll in joint VNR issued by Visa. 

RESULTS

TWG was charged with obtaining 8 million impressions for the launch of the Fusion card.  To date, Fleet coverage has reached more than 378 million readers through print and online wire service articles.   Fleet has also received 11 mentions in television coverage nationwide. 

By announcing one day ahead of Visa and competitors, Fleet captured the lion's share of national smart card coverage, with placements in the following publications: 

  • The Wall Street Journal
  • The New York Times
  • Los Angeles Times
  • The Boston Globe
  • The Boston Herald

Launch coverage in local, consumer, business and trade media includes: 

  • American Banker
  • Associated Press
  • Boston Globe
  • Card Technology Management
  • CNET Radio
  • Detroit Free Press 
  • Forbes
  • Hartford Courant
  • Industry Standard - Grok
  • New York Times
  • Philadelphia Inquirer 
  • Upside
  • Fox 25 - Boston
  • WBZ-AM
  • WFXT-TV
  • WMEX- AM

Aside from the huge amounts of media coverage, by far the biggest takeaway of the Fusion launch story is the larger issue of moving the product’s technology to the forefront.  Though analysts and experts regularly cite European usage of smart cards, the U.S. market has been slow to develop options and even slower to adopt them.  With coverage like the following, we can assert that Fusion’s launch has certainly marked the dawn of a new age in the smart card industry.  

“To understand just how dramatic a reversal of fortune smart card technology is confronting in the United States, listen to what some of its big-bank adopters are saying - and consider the real-world applications they intend to bring to market. 

. . . On Friday, the FleetBoston Financial Corp. subsidiary formally made available its first smart card, Fusion, becoming the first Visa/MasterCard issuer to offer magnetic-stripe credit cards with microprocessor chips to the general public.”
- American Banker, September 20, 2000

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