Visa kicked off a year-long, global experiential program in January that supports female entrepreneurs as they build and advance their own businesses. The campaign, She’s Next, Empowered by Visa, features a series of activations at tentpole events—the Super Bowl, New York Fashion Week and the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France this summer—anchored around workshops that tackle challenges faced by women-owned businesses. The brand also just launched phase two of its Money is Changing marketing campaign, which continues to focus on millennial women, their finances and the personal stories of building a business. Here EM chats with Mary Ann Reilly, svp-North America marketing at Visa, about the components of She’s Next, marketing to women entrepreneurs and the role experiential marketing plays in the campaign.
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Event Marketer: What’s the inspiration behind Visa’s She’s Next program?
Mary Ann Reilly: In many ways, 2018 was the year of the woman. There was a lot of focus on women and the women’s movement, but there wasn’t a lot of focus on women and money—attitudes towards money, their sense of empowerment and confidence. Overall, women control 80 percent of the household purchases and 40 percent of women are now primary breadwinners. Yet there tends to be a lack of confidence both from women in general and women entrepreneurs when it comes to finances, money and thinking about investing.
The She’s Next campaign was based on the fact that over the past four years women are opening small businesses globally at a much higher rate versus men—163 million women started their own business since 2014. Yet, when we speak to a lot of these women, they tend to have less confidence and get less access to funding. Unfortunately, only two percent of all VC funding out there is going to women-owned businesses. We wanted to shine a spotlight on that and also give women the tools and confidence to figure out how to grow their businesses.
She’s Next, Empowered by Visa, provides this platform and workshops to help women get the tools that they need, such as help with social media, which was one of their top needs. We brought in partners like Facebook and Instagram, specifically, to help them to build Instagram Stories around their businesses. We helped them figure out how to increase where they fall in Yelp and get better reviews. We partnered with Intuit. We also partnered with Rebecca Minkoff and the Female Founder Collective, led by women to support women, to draw attention to women-owned small businesses.
EM: What are the strategic marketing goals of the campaign?
MAR: We know that women are more skeptical of advertisers. They don’t think they’re speaking to them in a way that resonates with them. Women are not looking to be spoken to in a way that [implies] they are frivolous when it comes to money—particularly millennial women, who are just the opposite. They are very concerned about their future and investing and saving. They are attracted to brands that have a purpose and are looking to change the taboos that are out there. We want to give them a voice and let them know that we understand the power that women have, the future of finances, of business, of entrepreneurship. And that we’re creating the tools to help them to build their finances and their businesses and therefore have a greater brand affiliation with Visa.
EM: How is the She’s Next program playing out through event activations?
MAR: Our sponsorships are focused on bringing the innovation of our brand to life. It’s not about just putting our logo up. It’s really about the activation for our customers, for our clients.
The She’s Next campaign kicked off in Atlanta at the Super Bowl with the workshops. Also, we were the preferred payment method within the NFL shops on premise. We had tap-to-pay-only lines. We had Eli Manning and Saquon Barkley behind the register checking people out, which was a big surprise. At Fashion Week we took over a space at Spring Studios and put our manifesto for the Money is Changing campaign on the wall, which focused on women empowerment and building confidence and equality, particularly around money. It gave us the opportunity to highlight women-owned small businesses.
We offered one-of-a-kind products from three female designers through contactless vending machines to connect to the fact that the U.S. is finally catching up to the rest of the world in tap-to-pay technology. It was to drive awareness of tap to pay as well as to provide products from the designers who each have their own affiliation with a different charity. All of the proceeds from those three vending machines went to Girls, Inc., Girls Who Code and Dress for Success.
I also moderated a panel with some amazing women, including the founder of Dry Bar, the woman who started Reformation, a sustainable clothing company in New York City; Michelle Smith, the founder and designer of Milly; and a corporate partner from Wells Fargo. It was a discussion about the challenges they’ve experienced in building new businesses, particularly around getting financing, as well as just being a woman in the corporate world.
We have a marketing campaign around the [Women’s] FIFA World Cup and we will do similar activations focused on tap to pay. A lot of the advertising will be about women empowerment. We’re going to kick it off with some fun events at Hudson Yards.
EM: How important is the role of experiential in this campaign?
MAR: One of the key needs of women, especially small business owners, is networking. I think connecting them to other women, hearing that other women are experiencing the same challenges and issues, is something that they are looking for. It helps to build them up and get them to hear about other women’s challenges and how they overcame it. That face-to-face is as important as the online tools and other support that we’ll be providing in the future.
Look out for more monthly executive Q&As with brand-side leaders in the event space as part of our series, The Event Exchange: EM Executive Chats.