Have you also received solicitation in your mailbox for a new Visa BLACK CARD credit card?  It sounds fancy and exclusive right?  But it sounds more like a cheap knock off to me and a desperate copy.

Visa is now offering a “BLACK CARD” and touting its “Exclusive Benefits.”  See blackcard.com for details.  They have applied to register the BLACK CARD brand name as a trademark, see USPTO record here.  Is this a good attempt to create a new brand for Visa?  I think not.

The original “Black Card” belongs to American Express. And it is essentially the opposite of the Visa offer – it is actually exclusive and not publicized or advertised.  It is not promoted in hundreds of thousands of mailings asking anyone to apply for it.

American Express does not seem to own a registration for “Black Card” or for a design of a black credit card (isn’t Diners Club a black card?).  But it is arguably a famous brand nonetheless.  The black American Express card is technically called a Centurion card. According to this website, some 17,000 people have black American Express cards.

American Express Centurion card (popularly known as the “black card”): exclusive, limited audience, invitation only, benefits and privileges not available to general cardholders

Visa “Black Card”: many invitations, not very exclusive, limited benefits, NOT ORIGINAL.  And even worse, the name and concept – for a brand touted as exclusive and glamorous (“Black Card is your ultimate buying tool and delivers exclusive rewards for your luxury lifestyle”) –  clearly attempts to piggyback off the fame of the American Express Centurion version.  But by their very nature actual exclusive and glamorous offers  do not need to mass market their availability. And to be successful they should be unique offerings.

For all these reasons, the Visa BLACK CARD fails miserably as a brand.  I would gladly leave home with out it!

Lesson: Marketers cannot simple create an aura of exclusivity and uniqueness for a new brand or product.  An exclusive and unique brand will make itself and build a reputation without interference from marketers.  And borrowing directly from your competition makes a brand look unoriginal, uncreative, and desperate.

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