Mastercard CMO: Digital and business skills are a rare combination

Mobile World Congress: Mastercard has unveiled a raft of digital payment innovations, but is warning of the challenge it faces to find digital talent.

Mastercard is making a big push into digital payment services, but admits that finding the right talent to ensure it can meet its aim of building a “cashless society” can be difficult.

Speaking to Marketing Week at Mobile World Congress, Mastercard’s chief marketing and communications officer Raja Rajamannar says finding the right talent is a “huge challenge”, particularly with the pressure on marketers to understand all aspects of digital marketing and meet business objectives.

Rajamannar says he sees two types of marketers – the classical and the contemporary. He puts consumer behaviour, market research, insights, packaging and positioning experts such as Unilever and Procter & Gamble on one side and digital, ROI and data-driven brands on the other.

He claims finding “somebody who is good at both is one big challenge”.

READ MORE: Do marketing experts need a qualification in marketing?

Mastercard sees itself at the “intersection” between classical and contemporary because it is a technology company that is consumer-orientated. It therefore offers digital training modules for classical marketers.

Rajamannar says: “That cross pollination is something we are serious about. We are retraining our own people because [they] understand the company, products and industry so equipping them is easier than finding a well-rounded person from outside and hoping he or she succeeds.”

We are retraining our own people because [they] understand the company, products and industry so equipping them is easier than finding a well-rounded person from outside.

Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard

He also says that today’s marketers have to take on more of a role as a general manager, as CFOs and CEOs demand ROI.

He explains: “If you tell them marketing KPIs like brand awareness, that doesn’t excite or convince them. You need to give clear linkages between marketing metrics and business metrics and if you have to give those you need to understand business – you have to be a business manager yourself.”

The focus on digital payments

His comments come as Mastercard expands its Qkr! app, which offers mobile order-ahead and payment services, to six new markets and adds new functionality that aims to eliminate the “traditional bar tab”. Mastercard also revealed a global partnership with Oracle to deliver a “streamlined digital payment experiences to the retail and hospitality industries”.

Alongside changes to its own offering, Mastercard is partnering with charity Change Please, a social enterprise that allows formerly homeless people to train as specialist baristas, at Mobile World Congress today (28 February).

Through the Qkr! app the baristas at Change Please can use digital tablets provided by Mastercard to accept mobile payments.

Pushing digital innovation

Aside from payments, Mastercard is making “significant advances” in other digital enabled products and services, although they are yet to come to the UK.

Mastercard launched an AI bot that will allow consumers to transact and manage their finances via messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger and has partnered with Samsung on connected devices to order groceries from kitchen appliances in the US. The company is also in the process of expanding its payments system, MasterPass, to New York’s subway.

READ MORE: As Mastercard launches AI, research suggests consumers prefer human interactions

Although Rajamannar says the technology will come to the UK, he cannot give a precise date because the technologies are developing so fast that five-year plans for expanding are not an option.

Mastercard is also deploying pilots for using VR and augmented reality in commerce, where consumers can complete transactions in the VR environment without leaving the experience.

He explains: “The more pervasive digital gets, with the Internet of Things and wearables, we have an ample opportunity for marketing to be there because every connected device for us is not only a device of commerce it’s a device of marketing.”

Mastercard brings ‘real-time marketing engine’ to the UK

On the marketing side of the business, Rajamannar says the company has more than tripled its digital spend, although he can’t give exact figures. As part of that push it is bringing a real-time marketing engine to London that has been trialled in Asia-Pacific.

It enables the brand to look at micro trends that are happening on any given day – trends that typically last less than three days, to then find a commercial opportunity and run a campaign.

READ MORE: Mastercard on how it plans to make marketing a revenue generator

Rajamannar explains: “From concept to execution, from looking at what the social trend is and having the promotion in the market, it takes us less than 12 hours. That is at the cutting edge of digital marketing.”

But that doesn’t mean the marketing teams can run riot and leave their judgement “at the door” to be more real-time in campaigns. Processes are streamlined and there are defined “boundaries and guidelines so they are pre-approved”. But it does mean that the teams don’t have to “run to legal, procurement or somebody else and get approvals”.

He says: “It’s exciting, it’s empowering to the teams on the ground and it’s not just doing what comes to your mind it has to be done thoughtfully – just because you are cutting short the time doesn’t mean you leave your judgement at the door.”

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