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Isis’ Softcard rebranding leaves strategic woes unaddressed

September 4, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 2_optIsis Wallet has changed its name to Softcard, following the mobile wallet platform’s announcement in July that it would rebrand to avoid any association with the Islamic militant group whose English name forms the acronym ISIS.

The new name, accompanied by a new logo, reflects the company’s endeavor to leverage mobile to help consumers find a safer and better way to shop, pay and save, while conveying the platform’s power, flexibility and simplicity, according to CEO Michael Abbott. The move underscores Softcard’s willingness to absorb rebranding-related costs to avoid being connected with a group the United Nations, the United States and other countries have designated as a terrorist organization.

“This rebranding exercise is an important step in Isis’ evolution, though the real problem is not so much with the vendor’s brand as it is its strategy,” said Jordan McKee, senior analyst, mobile marketing and  commerce strategies, with Boston-based Yankee Group. “This is simply a new coat of paint on a car that’s not running very well; more is needed to get at the crux of the problem.

“Renting space on the secure element of the handset continues to resonate poorly with issuers and merchants alike,” he said. “Softcard will need to reevaluate its approach to the market and the overall value proposition it is touting to merchants and consumers to become successful. To see adoption, the vendor’s evolution cannot stop simply at the brand level.”

Updating app
When the company launches its updated mobile application in a few weeks, Isis Wallet will become Softcard. The current Isis Wallet will continue to work as it always has.

Traces of Isis will remain visible for a short time because the company has chosen to work swiftly, it said.

While there is near universal agreement on the significant potential for mobile payments, adoption has proceeded slowly over the past couple of years. This is in part because numerous stakeholders have been jockeying to grab as big a piece of the pie as possible while blocking others potential growth.

As a result, the reach of mobile payments has been limited, with consumers and retailers seeing little reason to jump on board.

AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile have been betting on driving adoption of Isis, the NFC-enabled mobile wallet they created in partnership. However, the service has failed to gain widespread use.

Isis got off to a good start when it was launched early last year. Active users were using it five or more times a week. Users who engaged with the loyalty and offers portion of the wallet were visiting merchants twice as frequently.

To help drive adoption during pilot programs in Austin, TX, and Salt Lake City, UT, Isis loaded a $10 card for each consumer who signed up. Those who decided to link the wallet to a funding source received another $15 on the card from Isis.

New Softcard logo.

New Softcard logo.

When users opened the wallet, they could find approximately 10,000 locations across the two cities where they could use it.

Isis also used Salt Lake City transit authority vehicles as an advertising platform to drive awareness and adoption by promoting the ability to use the wallet on the ride. It introduced a free promotion that enabled early adopters to ride the transit system for free.

Consumer experience
In June, pointing to how near field communication mobile payments continue to grow, a Toys “R” Us executive said the toy retailer had seen 23,000 individual transactions in the first three months since becoming an Isis merchant.

An executive at Toys “R” Us who spoke at the 2014 NFC Solutions Summit in Austin, said the retail chain was very happy with Isis. He said it was time to focus on the consumer experience for mobile payments so that consumers feel these payments are better than the options they currently have.

“It can be expected that the costs associated with this rebranding process will be significant,” Mr. McKee said. “Walk into any AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile store today and take note of the Isis branding, then multiply that across all locations. It will be no small cost to transition to a new brand.

“Since overall adoption of the Isis wallet has been negligible to date, I don’t expect any significant issues with brand engagement. If we were talking about a more established vendor like PayPal, it’d be a different story.”

 Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York.

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