Japan’s Shinsei Bank has studied one million of its
customers, and found that of the 32 colours it offers for its cash
card, blue is the most popular choice. Colour has long been a core
marketing tool for all financial services companies, especially
when it comes to cards marketing and the overall branding of a

Top five most popular card colours for PowerFlex account holders
Blue is the most popular colour for a card, says Japan’s Shinsei
Bank, the country’s 14th-largest banking group by assets.

The bank, which has just acquired GE Money’s Japanese franchise
for $5.4 billion in a move that significantly expands its business
(see Transformative M&A deals
stir Japan, Germany, UK
), has been offering its one
million PowerFlex account customers a free choice of 32 colours for
their cash cards since June 2005. With three years of data to
digest, Shinsei Bank has just published a list of the most popular

‘Big Sky’, which the bank describes as a vibrant shade of blue,
proved the most popular colour, accounting for over 15 percent of
all cards surveyed. More than 30 percent of men aged 30 or older
selected this colour. ‘Big Sky’ was also among the top three
choices across all female age groups (see table

A jet-black colour called ‘Midnight’ was the choice of almost a
third of men in their 20’s, and ranked second overall. ‘Baby Pink,’
the favourite of female customers, rounded off the top three.

Making cards more attractive

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Shinsei, one of the more marketing savvy of Japan’s banks, says
the aim of the campaign is to simply make its cards more attractive
to customers old and new, and the latest data was conducted as part
of an ongoing customer research programme.

It has helped boost customers, says the bank, with the total
number of PowerFlex account holders rising to 2.2 million as of
April 2008, an increase of over 202,000 since March 2007.

Card design and card marketing has been a growth area over the
past decade, not just from the likes of Shinsei but from many banks
around the world, with banks exploiting colours and, increasingly,
personalised images to attract customers.

The strategic use of ‘gold’ credit cards or ‘platinum’ ones is
tried-and-tested. American Express offers the exclusive black
Centurion card while UK private bank Coutts & Co has chosen the
colour purple for its premier card.

And colour remains a very important branding tool for banks
world over: ING Direct makes bold use of orange; Thailand’s Siam
Commercial Bank has opted for purple; Bank of America stresses the
red, white and blue; while Commerzbank, Maybank and Commonwealth
Bank of Australia all use yellow. When Regions Financial, a top 15
US player, rebranded in February, it centred its campaign around
the colour green.

In Japan, the Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ red, Sumitomo Mitsui’s green
and Mizuho’s blue-and-red now make easily recognised landmarks on
main streets in the country.

Another is Tokyo Star Bank, a Tokyo-based but nationally focused
bank with around $17 billion in assets: the organisation has
focused its branding on bright orange.

Mizuho, Japan’s second-largest banking group, states: “Cosmic
blue, as used in the logotype, symbolizes reliability, integrity,
world scale and quality. Horizon red, used for the arc, represents
the warm relationships between the Mizuho Financial Group and its
customers, as well as humanity and passion.”

Card personalisation also sky-rocketing

Worldwide, card personalisation (also referred to as card
customisation) has also become a mainstream marketing tool, with
many bank customers offered the option to put specific photographs,
images or designs onto their debit and credit cards.

UK-based Serverside Group, a leading card personalisation
supplier which boasts the likes of Capital One, ANZ, Fortis, ING
and KBC as clients, says the six most popular images people put on
their cards are: a single person, generally the card holder or
loved one; couples; children and babies; pets (dogs are currently
more popular than cats); then pictures of holidays and scenery;
followed by pictures of cars.