Discover, the only major U.S. card brand not connected to Apple Pay, is thus one of the few major credit card issuers not shoehorning Apple into its ads. But Discover has never been one to ignore a marketing opportunity.
Discover is filling the Apple Pay void by subtly emphasizing other forms of mobile technology. Its Super Bowl ad the company's first in 30 years depicts a customer service call that began when a customer viewed his FICO score on a digital bill delivered to his smartphone.
"Customers are focused on security at the mass level and service over the phone, Web and mobile devices," said Julie Loeger, senior vice president of brand and acquisition for Discover. "We want to make sure we have the right thing at the right time and make sure our customers are aware of it."
Discover is working to participate in Apple Pay, and "hopefully sometime in the near future we will be able to give a formal announcement on that," Loeger said.
The reality is that, despite the huge marketing push by Apple and the commitment of roughly 750 U.S. banks and credit unions, Apple Pay is still rolling out slowly. The banks featuring Apple Pay in their marketing are rushing to do so because Apple chooses the first card enrolled as the default payment option for future Apple Pay purchases.
Even so, Discover is not being hurt by its lack of involvement, said Michael Taiano, who monitors Discover's business trends as a senior research analyst with Burke & Quick Partners LLC.
Apple Pay is still limited to the newest iPhones, and Discover has time to monitor adoption and track customer demand for the new mobile payment system. "Discover is not concerned about Apple Pay at this point because there won't be a lot of meaningful [transaction] volume the first year," he added.
Discover's preferred marketing message emphasizing its customer service still has meaning for consumers even as payments migrate to self-service channels like mobile.
Notably, the company's 2010 "Peggy" campaign was famous for mocking the experiences consumers face at companies that handle their customer service through overseas call centers. Peggy, a bearded man handling customer service calls from a snowbound shack in an unspecified foreign country, grew so popular that fans created a Facebook page for the character before Discover could properly kick off its own social media campaign.
One consumer even wanted Peggy to help him propose to his girlfriend. Discover accommodated this by making a 30-second proposal video featuring Peggy, who later received an invitation to the couple's wedding.
"They don't offshore their customer service like a lot of other companies do," Taiano said. "And there is some credibility to that."
Discover's latest ads, including the one that aired during this year's Super Bowl, depict the more modern environment of its own call centers. J.D. Power last year ranked American Express and Discover as the top card brands in customer satisfaction.
Even without Apple on board, Discover has many other high-tech projects in the works.
These include Discover's tests of biometric security at its headquarters. These tests, with the French vendor Natural Security, are meant to determine whether a biometric payment system could be used in place of cards.
Discover is also involved in a partnership with PayPal, which began two years ago as a way to bring PayPal into physical stores. Loeger could not address the status of this project, which Discover had earlier characterized as a long-term initiative that would build volume gradually.
PayPal's Don Kingsborough, the retail manager who spearheaded the company's push into retail stores, left his job last month citing frustration with the project's progress.
Ultimately, Discover is more concerned about its current offerings and customer service than whether its payments are made through a plastic card, a fingerprint or an iPhone, Loeger said.
"I can tell you that we have a competitive product and competitive service behind it, supported by some of the best customer service out there," Loeger added.