Rising up the BrandZ Rankings: MasterCard

National History Museum

In the name of maintaining MasterCard’s ‘Priceless’ brand strategy, Paul Trueman, the company’s head of marketing in the UK and Ireland, has impersonated a tree in front of a select number of cardholders at London’s Natural History Museum.

The after-hours event at the Natural History Museum, allowing 150 of its customers to roam the museum free of other visitors and with a glass of bubbly in hand, is just one of many experiences on offer to its cardholders.

As part of the “education and entertainment” package at the museum, members are treated to talks, one of which Trueman gamely took part in.

He explains how he became part of the exhibition during one of these talks: “I got pulled out of the crowd to be Benjamin Franklin’s tree to help explain to the audience how electricity came about,” he says with a smile.

Developing experiences like these is a challenge, admits Trueman, but after 15 years of running with this strategy, the results speak for themselves. “Priceless is our greatest asset but it makes us work really hard because as soon as you say we’re going to make your experience priceless, you set yourself a high bar.

“It is focused around consumer passions – so it involves theatres and restaurants, sport and music. We try to find something we can add that is different for everything we do, [including] engaging consumers and getting memories and experiences,” he adds.

It is this attention to the brand that has helped MasterCard storm up the Millward Brown BrandZ rankings, up 31 places to number 29 – just ahead of American Express. Its brand makes a significant contribution to its overall brand value, rated four out of a possible five. Meanwhile its brand ‘momentum’ measure, which indicates a brand’s short-term growth rate, is eight out of 10, meaning that its ‘Priceless’ brand strategy is integral to its success.

The company’s healthy first-quarter results also demonstrate that the business is riding high. Total revenue was $1.72bn, up 20%, beating analysts’ predictions for seven quarters in a row.

Millward Brown’s BrandZ director Peter Walshe says the business is still benefiting from the “halo effect” of the IPO five years ago, and Trueman agrees that the flotation has enabled the company to “be a nimble business”.

Walshe adds that it is the “smart technology” that the business offers which is allowing the brand to punch above the other brands in its category. While the financial sector remains flat overall in the BrandZ index, MasterCard has a healthy brand value, increasing 53% to $20.8bn.

Trueman adds that there is a massive growth opportunity. “Behind it all, we are still a business, so we want people to have more affinity with the card and to use it more. At the moment, 15% of transactions happen on card and 85% of transactions still happen in cash,” he says.

One way in which MasterCard is hoping to take a greater percentage of transactions is by introducing technology to make payments easier. It recently launched a digital payment tool, Paypass Wallet, that it says will connect digital wallets from other brands to “simplify” the shopping experience and accelerate the take-up of digital payments.

“We think of ourselves as a technology company. It comes down to being simple, convenient and secure, and asking how we can make things easy for consumers.”

And it’s this desire that is driving the business forward, with its ‘Priceless’ strategy keeping customers loyal.

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