CMO Spotlight: Raja Rajamannar, CMO, Master Card  


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“If it’s Priceless, don’t mess it up!”

When worldwide CMO of MasterCard, Raja Rajamannar joined the company in July 2009, he faced the question that many senior executives in a similar position have to answer—“How do you decide what stays, what goes out?” “Fortunately”, says Raja, he “took over a well-oiled machine” rather than one that was broken. So his task was to preserve and protect it rather than find ways to fix and mend it. This “machine” he talks of is the company’s iconic, “Priceless” campaign that has been running successfully for 17 years. Aware of the common temptation to be the new broom that sweeps clean, Raja consciously stayed away from becoming one. He cautioned himself, “If it’s Priceless, don’t mess it up!” If a campaign is still delivering the right results, you don’t need to change it completely, he advises. All you have to do is evolve it in keeping with the times and to give customers the experiences they seek.

In past editions of this CMO Spotlight Series, we have learnt valuable lessons from CMOs who speak about innovation, digital marketing, social media, the confluence of technology and marketing, and so on. The reason I find Raja Rajamannar’s thoughts very interesting is because he reminds us marketers to find the value in tried and tested methods and tools and to make them better. I have harped on this point many times in context of the new breed of marketers wanting to throw out traditional approaches just because they think the new ones will work better.

Priceless Moments = Unforgettable Experiences

—It’s What People Love and Crave

Not that MasterCard’s Priceless campaign needs any introduction, but here’s a quick snapshot to refresh your memory. Of course, you can’t forget the famous line, “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else there’s MasterCard.” The campaign started 17 years ago with the concept of celebrating priceless moments in people’s lives. The first stage of evolution of the campaign came about 4 years ago with the brand looking at ways to not only celebrate but create priceless moments or experiences. The goal was to transform the brand image from a payment services company to a technology company that connects people. Under this umbrella campaign, there is “Priceless Surprises” that was launched at the Grammy Awards in partnership with Justin Timberlake, there is “Priceless Causes” to bring people together and fund-raise or donate to a cause, “Priceless Cities” running across 40 cities of the world. Each of these campaigns is aimed at creating unforgettable experiences for MasterCard customers.

Understand the Marketing Ecosystem and Find the Passion Points

How does a global company operating in so many geographies and diverse socio-cultural regions use the same campaign worldwide and achieve astounding success…for 17 years and counting? It can’t be easy! Rajamannar speaks about the concept of a marketing ecosystem that every geography has, no matter where you are in the world. While each ecosystem will have its distinctive features and characteristics, there will be some universal truths that emerge and which resonate with people everywhere. A brand must find a way to connect people to their passions. He calls these “passion points” and reveals a few that MasterCard is currently using in the Priceless campaign—Music, Sports, Charitable Causes, Travel and Food. The passion points are what keeps the campaign alive and fresh.  The campaign looks at the complete buyer journey—before, during and after interacting with the brand—ensuring that the experience is seamless and memorable each time.

The Social Tsunami Can Make Or Break Your Brand

Raja summarizes the evolution of marketing into 4 stages as follows:

  • Marketing 1.0: Logic—These were the early days when rational thinking was dominant. Buyers made a rational, logical choice if they were convinced your product was the best and it offered value for money.
  • Marketing 2.0: Emotion—With increasing commercialization and fierce competition for products and services, buyers started to make purchasing decisions driven by the emotional draw they felt towards a brand.
  • Marketing 3.0: Data—As the need to measure ROI became more prominent, data analytics tools got more advanced and sophisticated. Not only were companies using data to predict buyer behaviour, but they also started influencing buyers with real-time data analysis. Raja gives us the example of online shopping when a site alerts you with, “People who bought ABC product also looked at ABB, BCC and CAB”.
  • Marketing 4.0: Connections—This is where we are currently and it is changing very rapidly. Computing power has grown exponentially. The sizes of computing devices are shrinking, cost is coming down and power continues to grow. User interfaces have evolved to become extremely intuitive and simplified. With all these technological changes, social media is a tsunami that has exploded the power of connections between people. User Generated Content is highly powerful and influential; people form opinions very quickly based on what they see and hear from others. Brands are often relegated to being spectators to the social conversations between buyers. You can jump in directly but only sometimes, and only on certain brand-specific social channels. There is a world of social conversations outside your brand control. Your best bet to be seen in a positive light is by ensuring you are offering priceless, unforgettable experiences to your customers, all the time, everywhere. It’s no longer enough to reach your audiences, you have to engage them.

The 10 Imperatives of Marketing 4.0

In conclusion, let’s look at what Rajamannar calls the imperatives of Marketing 4.0:

  1. Buyer insights are not enough—you need human understanding. Great point! You build relationships with human beings and they react to experiences in the way humans do.
  2. Look at your purchase funnel—start remodeling buyer behaviour
  3. Harness the power of data and analytics
  4. Mere R&D and Testing won’t help—apply innovative methods
  5. Rapid speed to market is the need of the hour—with everything: product, brand message, defense/response, and so on
  6. Reach out and stay relevant but more importantly, adopt an omni-channel strategy to achieve meaningful engagement
  7. Rethink your campaign frameworks in light of media proliferation and fragmentation
  8. Ensure you have the right metrics and measurement mechanisms—only then can you drive accountability
  9. Facilitate and adapt to the confluence of essential business functions:
  • Marketing and Technology
  • Marketing and Innovation
  • Marketing and Products
  • Marketing and PR
  1. Attract and retain multi-faceted talent within your organization—you do need specialists but you also need the individuals that are highly creative and can take on various roles and responsibilities to impact the success of your brand marketing campaigns

What are some of the most successful campaigns your organization has run over the years? Are you still running them? How can you replicate that success by evolving rather than completely changing those campaigns?

I would love to discuss this on my blog. Leave me a comment.

If you enjoy reading this CMO Spotlight series, please share with your friends. You can also email or call me, Louis Foong, at (905) 709-3827.   

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Louis Foong
Louis Foong is the founder and CEO of The ALEA Group Inc., one of North America's most innovative B2B demand generation specialists. With more than three decades of experience in the field, Louis is a thought leader on trends, best practices and issues concerning marketing and lead generation. Louis' astute sense of marketing and sales along with a clear vision of the evolving lead generation landscape has proved beneficial to numerous organizations, both small and large.


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