Within the payments industry, Braintree was a well-known technology provider even before it became a unit of PayPal in 2013. But as the company expands, it finds that its reach has its limits.

This is, in part, the nature of the business Braintree operates in. "There's a perception of payments as plumbing or infrastructure that doesn't yield much value to a business," said Kasia Leyden, senior group marketing director at Braintree and Venmo, another PayPal unit.

Braintree is experimenting with a new marketing campaign, which is mostly produced internally, to explain its technology in relation to the business needs that are likely to be more front-of-mind for small merchants. An initial spot is relatively simple, showing a woman against a blank screen assuring viewers that whatever their need, "There's an API for that."

Braintree's offices
Employees work on computers inside Braintree Payment Solutions LLC headquarters in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015. Bloomberg News

APIs, or application programming interfaces, are widely used to allow small businesses to add services such as payment acceptance to a website. But Leyden argues APIs can serve businesses in a variety of ways, an argument that's picking up steam among merchant technology providers who want to sell open digital payments tools as a way to improve targeted cross selling, research and development, inventory management, and sales tracking.

But the larger public has still not caught on, Leyden said

"There's a disconnect between the value that we see and speak to businesses about in terms of what payments technology can actually add to a business and the perception," Leyden said.

One of the themes behind the campaign is "rethink payments," and is running on television, the internet, transit systems and other areas with high levels of business traffic. The ads also tie in related products, including PayPal and Venmo. Venmo used Braintree's technology before it became a Braintree unit (both companies came under PayPal's umbrella after its 2013 acquisition of Braintree).

The Braintree acquisition initially helped PayPal improve its ability to reach third party developers in e-commerce and other emerging businesses. Since then, Braintree has become a major part of PayPal's corporate strategy, driving a trend toward cross-channel commerce. PayPal also hopes to expand Venmo for in-store use.

Part of the ad campaign involves making both consumers and merchants aware of the tight relationship between the PayPal, Braintree and Venmo brands.

Since consumers who use mobile wallets are known and contactable by the businesses that control those applications, making merchants aware of the ability to combine mobile payments with other functions is valuable, according to Rick Oglesby, founder and president of AZ Payments Group.

"The companies that can facilitate these relationships are in a position to deliver very valuable customer experiences while enhancing the merchant's’ ability to grow," Oglesby said. "So yes, those that are thinking the mobile payments are about completion a transaction are missing something."

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