In 2014, Chase decided that they needed to inject some life into their credit card business by going after a group that has defied how traditional products have been bought, sold, and paid for.
Yup, you guessed it: Millennials.
Like most legacy brands that have had to go back to the drawing board to reach this target, Chase realized that to create a successful credit card with this group, they would need new leadership and a new approach. They hired Pam Codispoti, a veteran executive to head the effort.
Codispoti understood that Millennials were not looking for a card that offered just travel points or cash back. She and her team knew that the only way to crack the code would be to talk directly with Millennials, learn about their spending preferences and habits, and use these insights to create a whole different type of premium credit card.
First step: Use focus groups to learn from Millennials
The team at Chase embarked on a “listening tour” – informal focus groups, where they sat with Millennials in coffee shops and living rooms. Through these conversations, several insights emerged, which were pivotal in how the new Chase card would work:
- The card had to focus on flexible rewards
- The main categories Millennials cared about were dining and travel
- It needed to apply to services they used frequently – such as Uber, and provide rewards
The Sapphire Reserve was the result. You may remember seeing headlines when it came out – the card was so popular, that Chase ran out of the metal used to mint it, and a waiting list quickly developed.
However, what’s even more remarkable is that instead of devoting their typical marketing budget to a new product like the Sapphire Reserve, Chase didn’t market the card. Previously, Chase had spent $2.5 billion a year in new product marketing, but, using the insights from the focus groups, Codispoti’s team realized that if they positioned the card as a “lifestyle” card and hired key influencers (ever heard of Chrissy Teigen?), the card would sell itself.
And sell itself it has.
The Sapphire Reserve has redefined credit cards for the whole industry. Since its release, major players like AmEx and Citigroup have been scrambling to offer better rewards and court the coveted Millennial group with a card that fits their lifestyles and carries cachet.
Perhaps the other credit card players should have began where Chase did: By talking and listening to their target customers. It’s amazing what happens when companies take the time to have conversations with the people they’re trying to sell to, and from these talks, create products.