Advertising Week 2019: MasterCard’s take on ‘Marketing 5.0′

How the brand's CMO has been building a multi-sensory strategy for the future.

Speaking at Advertising Week in New York, Mastercard’s Raja Rajamannar told an audience that he believes there have been four great marketing eras, before setting the stage for a new, incoming phase.

The CMO explained that “marketing 1.0″ was focused on the product; 2.0 was when advertisers figured out how to tap into consumer emotions to sell those products; 3.0 was when data emerged as a way to influence purchases; and 4.0 has been about using technology to create connections. The fifth era, or 5.0, is what he calls “sense and sensibility,” where marketers begin to take a multi-sensory approach and develop their brands around the pillars of sight, sound, taste and touch.

When Rajamannar joined the brand seven years ago, he didn’t want to fall victim to the “new bride syndrome” (a cultural term in India, his home country, that refers to when a new bride arrives in her new home and her instinct is to change everything).

“‘Priceless’ was a gift my predecessors had given me,” he said, referring to the brand’s long-running brand platform and tagline. Instead of leaving his mark on the organization as its new CMO back in 2012 by changing the long-running concept, he decided to make it more tangible by offering members experiences ranging from dining to travel. It was a simple, subtle evolution that set the brand up for its current marketing strategy, one that would still allow Rajamannar to leave his own legacy.

Two years ago, Rajamannar’s team began to move “Priceless” from being an advertising platform to being something more holistic. Through a multi-sensory approach, MasterCard has tapped into three of the four senses. Because the company wanted to be seen as more than the “card” in “MasterCard,” it recently dropped its name from its logo, relying on its recognizable red and yellow circles to visually represent the brand as having a much broader appeal beyond traditional payments.

The second phase  this time focused on sound  was a little involved and entailed 24 months of research and collaborations with musicologists, musicians and composers. The thinking was that if the brand could have a comprehensive visual architecture that would be applied to every touchpoint, then the same should be done for audio.

Rajamannar says the team looked far and wide for examples of past sonic branding to use as a playbook, but they came up short. There were catchy jingles, of course, and brands like Intel that had created memorable melodies to sign off their commercials, but nothing that had versatility and could be customized. He wanted to create subsets of a melody that could be used within different contexts, environments and even genres.

So the brand went to work to create a sonic signature that could be a three-second addition at the end of a spot; a 30-second track that could be rendered into different musical styles, from opera to western, and for different geographies and cultures; and, finally, a 1.3-second long “acceptance sound” that could be used at different retail payment terminals. The point-of-sale sounds are personalized down to the type of store they’re in, with Tiffany’s having a slightly different melody than Toys “R” Us, for instance.

Now, as the company steps further into experiential marketing, the brand is embedding “taste experiences” in its DNA.

While not entirely new for the company (MasterCard has been creating epicurean events through its “Priceless Table” program), Rajamannar is showing consumers what “Priceless” actually tastes like by partnering with the New York Times Food Festival this October and creating red and orange macaroons with the help of bakery brand Ladurée. Next, he says the company will invest more in the restaurant extension of its brand. It already has four pop-up restos in New York, which were opened in the last couple months and plans are in the works to replicate those “to the nth degree” in markets around the world, says Rajamannar.

“With the manifestation of technologies, there is a lot of dehumanization that’s going to happen,” he says. “There is a lot of dislocation and displacement of human interactions, even more than what we have witnessed in the last five years. So the next phase is all about bringing that human back. Understanding the sensibilities of human beings and moving your brand into territories that are uncomfortable. Because that’s the only way you can really connect with the consumers in a compelling and impactful way.”