A Masterclass With Mastercard’s CMO on Values, Loyalty, and Rethinking Brand

A Masterclass With Mastercard’s CMO on Values, Loyalty, and Rethinking Brand
Last updated on June 29, 2021

Global events have not only accelerated business transformation and change, they’ve upended consumer perception of what brands must do and stand for in challenging times. 

It’s down to values and building the capabilities to show, not tell, according to a recent report from data intelligence firm Morning Consult.* The findings reveal that more than 8 in 10 US adults are inclined to purchase products from companies that they feel help people and treat their employees well. “It’s no longer about talking about values,” the report concludes.”It’s about demonstrating them.” 

Put another way, marketers should focus efforts to offer consumers helpful advice rather than a hard sell.

 

It’s a bold statement echoed in Quantum Marketing, the best-selling book by Mastercard Chief Marketing Officer Raja Rajamannar. In it, he shares the forward-thinking ways all businesses must reevaluate their entire marketing landscape to remain relevant and successful. 

In his view, it’s no longer enough to declare a set of values. Marketers need to earn loyalty by making consumers experience what a brand stands for and demonstrating its ability to solve their problems and positively impact their communities and society as a whole. In short, he says, brands need to serve first and sell second. 

On a new episode of CleverTap Engage — our podcast and video interview series where we shine a light on leading CMOs achieving meaningful and memorable customer engagement, hosts Peggy Anne Salz and John Koetsier recently sat down with Rajamannar to discuss the dramatic paradigm shift in marketing and approaches that allow marketers (with the right skill sets and mindsets) to deliver experiential marketing that drives results.

Key Takeaways

Experiences are Everything

“When people hate ads, you have to recognize that,” Rajamannar says. The popularity of ad-free environments like Netflix and Amazon Prime has eroded the share of attention available to conventional marketing. But he does get our attention with the purposely provocative statement that advertising is dead. 

Now, he says, the pressure is on marketers to create and deliver priceless experiences.  It’s not just good advice, it’s best practice at Mastercard where his team has “moved a lot of money away from traditional advertising into experiential marketing where you’re not telling stories, but you are helping consumers make stories by giving them experiences that money cannot buy.”

The Creative Renaissance

Marketing must fuse the art of creativity with the science of analytics. It’s a huge opportunity for marketers who master the tasks and talent we attribute to the right and left hemispheres of the brain.* (The right is associated with critical thinking, while the left side is associated with creative thinking.) But right now, Rajamannar observes, the marketing profession is dominated by creative experts, not data scientists. 

This is the biggest challenge facing the industry. “Today, without analytics, without technology, you cannot do marketing. You cannot survive.” To complicate matters, marketers must brace themselves for “almost two dozen new kinds of technologies that are coming at us,” ranging from AI to blockchain. “They can totally enable marketing, or they can totally render marketers obsolete.” 

Success belongs to the marketers that combine right-brain thinking with left-brain creative. “It’s kind of a ‘back to the future,’” Rajamannar says. These “da Vinci marketers” are the answer. “But they don’t grow on trees.” Marketing teams that can’t find and hire this talent have to cultivate it. “Everything has to be taken into account to make sure that you are leveraging both sides of the brain collectively.”

Loyalty Needs a Reboot

Marketers must understand that the fundamental concept of brand loyalty is thought of entirely backwards, Rajamannar says. “It is the brands which should be loyal to the consumers, not the other way around.” 

First marketers have to accept that they “got loyalty wrong,” he says. Then they have to reexamine the value exchange. If we look at the way most loyalty programs are run today, it’s obvious that the perks and incentives are part of the pricing equation. So, Rajamannar reasons, a loyalty program is a misnomer. “Loyalty has to be redefined completely,” and this rethink starts with the hard truth that marketers can’t buy love — and shouldn’t try. 

Put another way, marketers shouldn’t rely on plastic cards or prizes to cement relationships and drive customer loyalty. Instead, they should focus on architecting relevant experiences and adapt those experiences to individual needs.

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