Mastercard’s Raja Rajamannar on the value of having a multisensory strategy

In addition to launching a Mastercard sound and taste, the brand has now unveiled a Mastercard smell, all of which is helping it to elevate the brand’s status, says Raja Rajamannar.

Cultural change and a “tsunami” of technological innovations will render the “classical” way of doing marketing redundant, according to Mastercard’s chief marketer, who urges brands to innovate to avoid being swept away.

Speaking at the Festival of Marketing: The Year Ahead this week, Mastercard chief marketing and communications officer Raja Rajamannar highlighted the brand’s expansion of its multisensory strategy to include smell as an example of such innovation.

As well as having clear visual and audio cues for the brand, Mastercard has introduced a brand ‘taste’ and just last week launched two scents – Passion and Optimism – as part of its long-running ‘Priceless’ campaign.

Rajamannar said there is science in how smell can “evoke powerful emotions” and the brand is aiming to provide an “immersive and unforgettable experience to consumers”.

The brand did its own “original and fundamental” research for its perfume activation and found smell can affect “perceptions, emotions and memories”, he said, much like radio and TV did when they revolutionised marketing and entertainment in the early 1900s.

Embracing the other four senses is something Marketing Week columnist and Mini MBA founder Mark Ritson has urged marketers to do.

“Most good marketing teams have a list of codes or distinctive assets that they consider essential to ensuring their brand comes to mind as quickly and as frequently as possible. But most of these lists are exclusively visual and are possibly missing quite a few sensorial tricks as a result,” he said.

He described Rajamannar as “the only senior marketer who seems to grasp this point and its significant implications”.

Mark Ritson: If your distinctive brand assets are exclusively visual it’s time to come to your (other) senses

Rajamannar said taking a multisensory approach is one way brands can look to capture shrinking consumer attention in a world full of obstructive advertising clutter.

“I hate the advertisements that are thrown at me mindlessly, repeatedly and frequently. I hate them. Now as a marketer, that’s my own nightmare. If I am thinking this way as a marketer, that keeps me awake – thinking how do we then communicate to consumers,” said Rajamannar.

The chief marketer also pointed out how new consumer technologies such as voice assistants are taking eyes away from screens, and said there is a willingness to pay for subscriptions services to get away from advertising, making marketing in the traditional way more difficult.

“People are being bombarded by up to 5,000 messages every single day. Their span of attention is now less than that of a goldfish,” he added.

Dropping the logo

Mastercard began its multisensory strategy in 2019 by dropping its name from its logo to become part of an exclusive club of brands that are recognised without its name being mentioned.

It then launched its sonic brand identity in the same year, a melody that plays wherever the Mastercard brand is present in advertising, sponsorships and card readers.

I hate the advertisements that are thrown at me mindlessly, repeatedly and frequently. I hate them.

Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard

Rajamannar claimed the sonic branding has been a success as it has elevated the brand’s reputation and ranking. Mastercard went a step further by launching music, including a single in collaboration with artist Nadine Randle called ‘Merry Go Round’ which samples the sonic brand.

“We started creating some crazy things like music albums and one of the songs we just released a few months back in Latin America has now become the number one single in Latin America. In four countries it’s number one, in two countries it’s number two, and by and large in the top 10 or 20 across the rest of the region. Brand and popular culture are getting integrated in a beautiful way,” said Rajamannar.

In late 2019, the brand progressed the strategy through to taste by launching two macaron flavours – again called Passion and Optimism – in partnership with French luxury sweet maker Ladurée.

Change is coming

The Mastercard marketer also highlighted how there will be “unprecedented” disruption as technology advances such as augmented reality, VR, blockchain, the Internet of Things, wearables, 5G, 3D printing and driverless cars prevail.

“It is absolutely going to be mind-blowing. Each one of these individual technologies by itself is going to be disruptive. Now imagine where these are coming together. The conference of these technologies is going to be super disruptive in a good way, but there are also other implications that we have to be very careful about,” warned Rajamannar.

Data is going to be the next area to “revolutionise marketing”, he claimed due to the Internet of Things, in which more everyday devices are fitted with sensors to expand their capabilities. An example is a coffee machine controlled by a smartphone to start brewing.

But this he admitted brings “risk” and questions surrounding consumer privacy, which will be an upcoming challenge for marketers to navigate and stay on trend with.

“When I put on the hat of a marketer, I have to respect the consumer and do things exactly the way you would want to be treated as a consumer, so data is going to be incredibly powerful,” said Rajamannar.