Campaign Trail: Discover looks toward brighter days in ad showcasing financial tools

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While it can feel like a chore to “look on the bright side” amid a never-ending cycle of dismal news, Discover encourages people to take the message behind the well-known idiom literally in a new messaging platform from the credit card company.

In a new advertisement out this week, a guy explains to his friend how the sketchy website he bought a turtle from may have stolen all his personal information. The friend asks if he has “looked on the bright side” and flips the turtle to reveal a glowing message from Discover that pledges to never hold cardholders responsible for unauthorized purchases, immediately comforting the turtle’s new parent.

The 15-second spot, entitled “That’s My Turtle,” is the first creative work within a broader campaign to introduce Discover’s new brand positioning that highlights how the company has evolved to offer a broad range of financial services, including matching cash-back rewards, free FICO credit score checks, more online calculators to track savings, loans and debt as well as college planning advice.

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Espousing the same jovial tone Discover has woven into ads over the past decade, “That’s My Turtle” depicts Discover’s fraud-protection feature as a “glow,” conceptualizing the card and company as the optimistic bright side when facing an otherwise cloudy situation, according to Discover’s Chief Marketing Officer Kate Manfred.

“Financial anxiety continues to become more common amongst consumers. Discover’s brand is built on the belief that everyone is capable of achieving a brighter financial future with the right products, tools and support to make smart financial decisions every day,” Manfred said in an email. “Our new ‘Something Brighter’ positioning reminds consumers of the simple optimism in this truth — small changes today can make for a brighter tomorrow.”

Laying the groundwork

The concept of the campaign is the brainchild of Discover’s internal marketing team and creative agency Grey New York. This is one of the first big projects for the brand since it signed on Grey as its creative agency of record in early 2020, ending Discover’s 13-year partnership with The Martin Agency. “That’s My Turtle” debuted this week and will air as ads on traditional TV, connected TV and online video, followed by additional chapters to the “Something Brighter” platform down the road.

Thematically, the 15-second ad is meant to lay the groundwork for Discover’s advertising for the year ahead, introducing consumers to the glowing visuals and familiarizing them with how the brand is evolving.

“The ‘Something Brighter’ positioning will serve as a cornerstone to Discover’s messaging and creative campaigns going forward,” Manfred said.

“Our new ‘Something Brighter’ positioning reminds consumers of the simple optimism in this truth — small changes today can make for a brighter tomorrow.”

Kate Manfred

Chief marketing officer, Discover

Though the company is now repositioning its brand to spotlight additional offerings that turn Discover into a broader financial services business, it still looks to build on its advertising from years past through humor and simplicity. Both this campaign and its turtle ad fit neatly into the company’s overarching strategy of embracing straightforward creative themes.

Discover last year designed its Super Bowl LIV approach around the relationship of a “Yes” and “No” dynamic. It split its ad buy into two clips that highlighted Discover card’s appealing traits: it is accepted almost everywhere and doesn’t charge an annual fee. Both ads showed snippets of characters from quotable movies like “Mean Girls,” “Ted,” “Old School” and “Clueless” responding to the questions “Do you take Discover?” and “Does Discover charge annual fees?” either in the affirmative or negative. Discover will not be in this year’s Super Bowl, the company confirmed to Marketing Dive.

Flurry of brand refreshes

Discover is the latest in a wave of brands updating their messaging or visual identity with the broad goal of remaining relevant to consumers, who are increasingly looking to support businesses that are convenient and share their values. In some cases, these brand refreshes are designed to emphasize new business goals, as seen in Kia’s logo that emphasizes the car maker’s goal of selling more electric vehicles and providing mobility services. General Motors has taken a similar approach with a revamped logo designed to evoke a vision of clear skies with emission-free vehicles.

These brand refreshes arrive as marketers continue to grapple with shorter planning and production schedules brought on by the pandemic. By identifying a few key priorities — such as a fresh logo to emphasize new business goals — brands like Discover can lay the groundwork for their marketing in the months or years ahead, letting them build on their longer-term brand equity while providing flexibility to nimbly produce campaigns that match the moment and align with consumers’ rapidly shifting attitudes.

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