Mastercard’s CMO on why storytelling is dead

Mastercard’s global chief marketing and communications officer, Raja Rajamannar, says the brand has shifted its focus from storytelling to story-making to resonate with the “expectation economy”.


How has Mastercard’s marketing vision changed to connect with a broad audience?

The velocity of technology’s evolution has created huge opportunities for brands to build more meaningful connections with consumers. We recognise this opportunity to connect with consumers in a way that turns marketing into a force multiplier for our brand and business.

We have re-engineered our efforts internally so we can provide more value to the connected consumer. We accomplish this in four ways: By understanding what matters most to consumers; positioning our brand so it aligns with what consumers are passionate about; integrating every part of our business around connecting with consumers; and building a platform that translates the brand into personal experiences. As a result our brand positioning has moved from being transactional as “The best way to pay”, to more experiential “Connecting people to priceless possibilities”.

How have you moved the Priceless approach from an advertising campaign into a scalable marketing platform?

Our ‘Priceless’ advertising campaign began 20 years’ ago with a story about a father and son. Throughout the years, we have celebrated precious moments in people’s lives through storytelling. Storytelling, which has been effective for so long, is now dead.

Today, consumers are connected 24/7 and brands are now operating in an ‘expectation economy’. Research shows that consumers value experiences more than material goods, and that shared experiences connect us deeper to other people than shared consumption.

Storytelling, which has been effective for so long, is now dead.

As the world becomes more experiential, every person alive today is a natural story-maker. The desire for amazing experiences is bottomless. It’s not enough to tell stories about priceless experiences. We need to align the stars for our consumers and help them create their own.

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

With ‘marketing 4.0’ being our strategic framework, we evolved our brand’s role from observing ‘priceless’ moments to enabling priceless experiences. Based on research we identified nine key passion categories: shopping, sports, entertainment, culinary experiences, travel, philanthropy, music, arts & culture, and environment. To provide focus and maximise the return on our efforts, we created a simple and efficient architecture comprised of four platforms: ‘Priceless Cities’, ‘Priceless Surprises’, ‘Priceless Causes’ and ‘Priceless Specials’.

How has digital changed not just the public look of Mastercard but also the internal teams that power its marketing?

For the First time in 20 years, Mastercard launched a new global rebranding and visual identity. The rebranding addresses how our brand engages in the ever-changing digital landscape while preserving the integrity and equity of the brand. The new branding now elevates the brand to a more contemporary, modern and digitally optimised brand that is easily recognisable.

Internally, we are merging the culture of classical marketers with the digital native culture to capitalise on agility by leveraging analytics and insights.

How does Mastercard demonstrate that businesses can do good and benefit their bottom line?

Giving back is a major passion area for our consumers and it’s in the DNA of the Mastercard culture. Through ‘Priceless Causes’, we use our technology and assets to make it easy for consumers to contribute to their favourite causes while doing everyday things. This enables fundraising for the cause while also driving our business objectives.

Together with Stand Up 2 Cancer (SU2C) we created ‘The Priceless Table’, a model that connects consumers around their passion for philanthropy and culinary cuisine by using technology, PR, sponsorship and SU2C partnerships. All proceeds were donated to SU2C.

READ MORE: Mastercard confident consumers will use selfies to make payments

We also partnered with the World Food Programme to raise money for school meals for hungry children. We activated a campaign whereby consumers just need to choose their Mastercard at the point-of-sale and we will make a contribution. As a result, we were able to feed over 40,000 children for a year in Rwanda.

WFAlogo resizedRaja Rajamannar is supporting the WFA’s Project Reconnect, which champions what’s good about marketing and showcases its impact. The Project intends to improve perceptions of our industry. Follow the cause at: @WFAReconnect and @WFAmarketers



There are 6 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Paul Arnold 3 Feb 2017

    Whilst I applaud the truly excellent work done by Mastercard, I think it’s extreme to suggest storytelling is dead. Having studied storytelling at a Masters level (and now train in the area) its roots are genetic. It’s been around since man first started telling stories of where food could be found and tigers avoided! We store up to 90% of information in our brains within stories. All the great religions were spread through story. It is still the most powerful source of communication. Your story stirs in me my own story (and helps me make sense of the confusing word I live in). I appreciate it’s a classic ‘headline grabbing’ statement, but it smacks of post-truth yet again rearing its ugly head.

  2. Marc Hitchens 3 Feb 2017

    Is this a parody/April Fool

  3. Steve Moran 10 Feb 2017

    I read it the first time and thought naw . . . maybe . . . interesting. Then I started to write an article on my own blog that explored this idea of experience over story in my own industry. It was impossible to in any rational sense explain the shift. Sure I get the punch line is “for all other things use Mastercard . . .” where maybe what is implied is the story was happening with out cash or credit card so all that was left to purchase was stuff.

    But lets be honest. The real message was “You should use your Mastercard to create priceless moments” . . . which all translate into experience.

    Total gobbledygook.

  4. Zena Wigram 13 Feb 2017

    Splendid multi-syllabic periods here … but boiled right down to plain English the interesting stuff is the research which led to the content categories, rather than ‘aligning the stars’ (what?) v ‘storytelling’.

  5. Jono Smith 13 Feb 2017

    No. Just no.

  6. Karen Dietz 2 Mar 2017

    Well, how incredibly misinformed this CMO is about storytelling. Mastercard’s focus on customer experiences is all about storytelling. Equating storytelling to messaging (i.e. advertising) tells me he’s in left field. As one of the originals in the field of business storytelling, best-selling author, and TEDx speaker, it would be great if he got truly educated in the neuroscience and dynamics of storytelling! Without that training there will be hit-and-miss results. Too bad.

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