Chief Marketer or Technologist? Lessons From MasterCard


Director of Operations

raja2Does today’s CMO need to be a technologist too? That’s the argument Raja Rajamannar made, in a recent interview with AdAge.

Rajamannar is MasterCard Worldwide’s chief marketer, and his seriously ambitious goal is to turn MasterCard into a company that is known for much more than payments.

First, when our CEO, Ajay Banga, joined MasterCard in 2009, he began an effort to transform our image from a payments company to a technology company, and part of that is changing consumers’ perception.

Mastercard is doing that by seamlessly integrating technology up and down the suite of MasterCard offerings. There’s something for everyone. Yankees fans out there, you might have noticed their Qkr payment system, which allows you to pay for your hotdog and beer with your phone and a QR code. And the company has also been expanding Masterpass, a way to simplify shopping for in-store, mobile and desktop purchases.

Of course, mobile devices are going to radically transform how people pay for things. Rajamannar says: “unlike for most other companies trying to leverage mobility as a marketing platform, for us at MasterCard, the product itself — mobile payments, is core to our business.” In this respect the product itself as well as the messaging about it must by synchronized.

But despite the tendency for the digital and physical world to converge, Rajamannar argues that markets and standards continue to be fragmented.

Each market has a unique ecosystem, and what we are focused on is creating that unique and seamless experience for consumers no matter where they are. One way we do this is by pulling out those common passion themes like music and sports, and then delivering experiences around them in a meaningful way. That could be via wearables, mobile, gaming, tablet, PC — without losing sight of the uniqueness of the market, and of course, making sure that the economics of the business case work, too.

One way MasterCard is connecting, especially with younger demographics and early adopters, it by integrating itself in the electronic dance music scene. They’ve started a sponsorship with SFX, an event-based EDM company that puts on festivals such as  Tomorrow World and NYC’s Electric Zoo.

But it’s not just integrating MasterCard services into subcultures that makes MasterCard’s branding work, it’s their focus on experiential campaigns like Priceless Cities, Priceless Surprises, and Priceless Causes.

It’s also an unflinching commitment to local that makes it really succeed. Despite being a global company, Rajamannar and Mastercard understand that every locale and sub-culture is unique. For a marketer to really succeed, they should understand what makes those communities tick.

Read the full interview at AdAge.