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Q&A with Raja Rajamannar, CMO, MasterCard

How has MasterCard‘s marketing and brand strategy evolved to maintain legacy customers and attract new (and potentially younger) ones?

Firstly, I’m extremely fortunate to have inherited such a world-class brand. As MasterCard’s Chief Marketing Officer, it’s my responsibility to make sure we don’t mess it up. So, I have been very mindful in terms of how we advance the Priceless campaign, take it forward, without losing its rich heritage. After 18 years, Priceless continues to run strong in 112 countries and 53 languages. It’s an incredible feat, so I am quite proud to be in this position at MasterCard. That said, thanks to technology, the world has changed dramatically since 1997. Consumers today are “connected,” they interact on multiple screens, and they’re always on. In addition, social platforms and digital technologies enable brands to engage with consumers like never before.

So, when I came on board, my team, collectively with our agency partners, did a bit of soul searching to evolve our strategy and the result is two-fold. We moved our brand positioning from the “best way to pay for everything that matters,” to “connecting people to Priceless possibilities.” We also evolved Priceless from a singular advertising campaign to a holistic marketing platform that today includes Priceless Cities, Priceless Causes, and Priceless Surprises. These changes enabled us to move from celebrating moments in people’s lives to co-creating experiences with them. The evolution overall has invigorated Priceless, and the health of our brand has never been stronger.

Mobile has changed everything, from banking via apps to the Apple Watch. What is MasterCard doing to stay ahead of the curve?

I would actually change your statement to reflect that digital changes everything. As mentioned, we are in the midst of a digital transformation, the era of the connected consumer, and a seamless brand experience is expected, no matter what screen you are on, or what the time (or place) may be.

The digital transformation that enabled mobile is one of the biggest changes in payments since the introduction of plastic. As a technology company, this move to a more digital, mobile world is very natural for us, and we are indeed leading this shift. Digital connectivity is driving MasterCard to deliver the “what’s next” for payments and commerce.

On one hand, we believe that every connected device has the opportunity to become a payments device, and, on the other hand, a hugely effective marketing medium for marketers. Toward these ends, we are working with technology leaders such as Apple and Samsung—not to mention the fact that our own MasterCard Labs’ sole purpose is to always be thinking about what’s next. It’s a very exciting and dynamic time for us all.

Security is another huge challenge in this age of data breaches, cybersecurity issues, and identity theft. How is MasterCard communicating confidence to ensure customers know that their privacy is top of mind?

Safety and security is core to everything we do.

Every day, we’re focused on delivering the peace of mind that our cardholders assume is baked into our products. No one wakes up in the morning thinking about the payment or purchase they’re going to make. They simply expect that their card will work wherever and whenever they want. And that includes protecting our cardholders from those who might try to fraudulently access their accounts.

Electronic payments are the safest way to pay, and with technologies like EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa, the global standard for cards equipped with computer chips) being implemented in the U.S., along with newer innovations around biometrics and tokenization, they’re becoming even more secure. For a marketer, our role in the process is communication and education. It’s about ensuring that MasterCard cardholders understand the core benefits that are baked into their card, like Zero Liability and ID Theft Resolution, and helping them understand how to use the latest technologies, like EMV.

How is MasterCard using its brand to attract top talent, as increasingly many of the best and brightest aspire to work at the Googles of the world?

MasterCard competes for top talent both within the financial services industry, as well as among top technology brands. To help us differentiate, we must now align the strength of our storied Priceless consumer brand with our employer brand in the marketplace.

When recruiting, we want prospective candidates to be aware that MasterCard is a place where you can do well and do good at the same time. Through our technology and global footprint, we have the ability to make a difference in people’s lives—the ability to create priceless possibilities through enabling financial inclusion. And I believe this resonates with people’s values, aspirations, backgrounds, and desires to contribute, whether they are at the beginning of their careers or more experienced candidates.

As for retention, the value proposition that we offer to our employees is about the possibility of something truly fantastic happening for them as a result of them being with us—whether that is through the flexibility we offer for work-life balance, opportunities we have as a global company to connect with the bigger world, make a difference to unbanked citizens, participate in delighting and amazing consumers, or even because of unique benefits we offer like pet insurance. It’s our hope that the possibility of feeling that something is priceless for them is greater at MasterCard than anywhere else. It’s a future-oriented, optimistic way of thinking about how great things can be because I am an employee of MasterCard.

Loving your job and being loved by your employer, now that’s Priceless.

How has the skill set required for modern-day marketers changed? What are the new requirements and what’s to come?

Indeed, we are living in an era of constant change, and our skill set as marketers must evolve to better meet the needs and demands of today’s connected consumer and our respective businesses. Marketing today is about both brand building and business building. The marketing department is in the spotlight today like never before—and the data and insight that can drive our programs is right at our fingertips. Like it or not, this equals an even stronger tie to business objectives and, as a result, the C-suite views us more like a revenue driver versus a support function.

Today’s skill set has changed from classic attributes around good sales and marketing experience, to those traits plus a healthy dose of more contemporary skills like digital marketing, data analytics, and business acumen. And again, the end result is assessed on the basis of metrics and ROI like never before.

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