It’s been 18 years since MasterCard launched its “Priceless” slogan and brand positioning that elevated the bank card brand to a provider of experiences that often count more than material purchases.
Lately, MasterCard, led by CMO Raja Rajamannar, has been making an equally important transition while retaining its iconic “Priceless” platform. Digital technology and connectivity are providing MasterCard with the means to evolve and optimize its value to consumer card holders as well as its financial institution customers.
“We’re able to maximize the opportunities presented by the mobile and social revolution, while driving greater loyalty and affection for our brand,” Rajamannar said in a recent press release.
brandchannel spoke with Rajamannar for more insights on “Priceless,” how the MasterCard brand has evolved and the role of digital technologies in that evolution.
bc: Can you walk us through the four “Priceless” marketing platforms that you have developed and how they apply to the connected consumer?
Raja Rajamannar: When we launched “Priceless” in 1997, the marketplace was completely different from what we have today. The platform has worked brilliantly, but consumers’ expectations have changed. Demographics have changed. And in that kind of situation, we asked how our brand should evolve to keep up with changing times.
So we came up with the concept that today’s consumer is all about the connected consumer. It gives us the unique opportunity to create priceless experiences for people as opposed to just talking about and celebrating priceless moments, as in the original program.
We came up with four experiential platforms to bring this positioning to life. “Priceless Cities” concentrates on the world’s key cities, and we’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars on experiences that are especially curated for our members in 45 of those cities.
For instance, if you want to have lunch with royalty of the Netherlands, you can’t just go do that. But when that experience is available, you can go to our website and chase it. So there are lots of experiences that money can’t buy that you can get on the MasterCard platform.
Second, we have “Priceless Surprises.” Marketers have always talked about surprising and delighting their customers, so what if we created a platform, tracking our members through social media or how they use their card, to give them positive surprises. We started this at the 2014 Grammy Awards when we gave customers everything from headsets to the opportunity to have Justin Timberlake or Gwen Stefani spend a day with them and their family.
Third is “Priceless Causes.” We’ve found that philanthropy is one of the nine main passions of consumers. So we’re trying to create opportunities on this platform for consumers to contribute credibly to a cause. As an example, we have partnered to StandUp2Cancer by making a donation every time a card holder spends $10 or more on a meal using their MasterCard card.
“Priceless Specials” are things you get only as a MasterCard member such as being able to show your card and jump the queue and go straight in at some restaurants in Brazil. So we’ve created these four platforms to truly bring our value proposition and brand promise to life.
bc: On the eve of the CES 2016 show in Las Vegas—where fintech, virtual reality, wearable tech and more will be vying for attention—what technology are you looking at to help bring MasterCard’s “Priceless” brand promise to life?
Rajamannar: We wouldn’t have been able to bring any of these experiences to life 10 years ago, economically, but now we can do it by taking advantage of social media and digital. So we are looking seriously at virtual reality, to give immersive previews of what priceless experiences could be like.
Each individual has a unique heartbeat—as unique as your fingerprint. So when you wear this, if someone else takes it from you and wears it, their heartbeat won’t match and the MasterCard transaction won’t go through.
bc: How are you communicating to your financial customers as well as consumers that the idea of MasterCard as a “credit card company” is outdated and that it’s actually a provider and enabler of experiences?
Rajamannar: We’ve got to be very careful because MasterCard is such a recognized brand and a symbol of trust for the consumer, and we don’t want to tell them that we’re not what they think we are. We’re letting the story unroll gradually and naturally, so that they start associating MasterCard more with technology than with being a credit card company. We are a tech company, but the brand itself is a lifestyle brand and an experiential brand. That’s how we bring technology to life and make it relevant for consumers.
bc: How do you balance the B2B and B2C aspects of the MasterCard brand to drive demand and awareness among consumers and institutions?
Rajamannar: It’s basically creating pull from consumers and doing push through our customers. How do we differentiate ourself to our customers? One, by creating pull from their consumers. Also equally important is to be able to bring value to our customers, such as curating many of these experiences on behalf of our co-branded customers.
For example, we created “Priceless Milan,” which was an unforgettable dining experience on top of the historic Palazzo Beltrami, the museum center of our customer Intesa Sanpaolo, which hosted the project. It overlooks the Piazza della Scala with breathtaking views of the Duomo. The location was open for six months this year.
And in India, with our big bank customer HDFC, we have run a couple of “Priceless Surprises” campaigns that literally broke all records not only in India but for other parts of Asia. When you create those kinds of unbelievable experiences, our customers are going to gain a lot.
bc: Your own title has evolved, adding healthcare this year. What does that mean?
Rajamannar: I have experience and background in the health industry, and I see a lot of opportunity for us to help in the health industry. We’re trying to see if there is a good confluence of expertise and opportunity between the payment space and the health space, and I’m trying to focus on that.
It’s a very recent appointment, and we’re at the beginning of the journey. But I personally believe that the health space is a nice opportunity for us to think through, and with my background in healthcare I think we can do something interesting there.