Interview with: 

Raja Rajamannar, CMO Mastercard

Advice to marketers—Recognize the fundamental shifts in marketing.

“If you look at the field of marketing right now, it is not simply evolving, but it is rapidly getting transformed and I'm not using this term loosely. The rate of change is absolutely mind blowing.”

  • Technology changes

“The new technologies which are coming, artificial intelligence,  augmented reality, virtual reality, autonomous cars, blockchains. A whole bunch of these are coming at us like a tsunami.

  • Cultural changes.

There are also tectonic changes happening in the cultural landscape. These have a direct impact on marketing which has to be plugged into culture and in a way that stands out in consumer's minds. Marketers must connect products and services to the changing culture

  • The 5th paradigm of marketing

We are at a huge inflection point. As Raja says in his book Quantum Marketing, in the “5th paradigm” of marketing, the world of marketing is going to be disrupted substantially. The way we are doing marketing in the 4th Paradigm today will no longer apply.

  • Be prepared.

 Have strategies and thinking ready to be able to tackle this brave new future.

  • Start testing these concepts.

A great time to get into marketing.

You couldn’t get into the field at a better time than this, because this is one time in the entire history of marketing where you can operate at the speed of thought. You can do the things that you always wanted to do as a marketer without the traditional and the historical constraints that we have had. You can bring things to life in real time and see the results of your actions in real time. It's absolutely inspiring to be in marketing now.

Importance of educating yourself

Because there is so much that is changing, marketers must educate themselves.

  • How he does it
    • “You know, at this stage in my career and at this age in my life, I still spend about 5 1/2 hours every single week educating myself over the weekends and I find sometimes even that is not adequate because there is so much that's happening and you need to be able to connect the dots across various areas and technologies back to your business, back to the craft of marketing. That's something which is very, daunting at one level. But if you start grasping the concepts, this is empowering and so unbelievably exciting. This is the best time to be. In marketing. Ever.”
    • The first thing he does to try to keep himself up to date is whenever he meets a peer or an industry expert, “I ask what are they observing? What are they reading? What are they learning? Can they give me any links or suggestions for books, etc.”?
    • He also reaches out to subject matter experts proactively, for example, when he wanted to understand in depth what artificial intelligence is, how is it different from other terms like machine learning, deep learning, neural networks, he reached out to the head of artificial Intelligence at MasterCard., who gave him some mentoring sessions. And then he did a few courses online, many free. And took out subscriptions to newsletters.
  • Importance of depth and need to test new things.

It is important for us to grasp these technologies and methodologies deeply, there is nothing like trying it out in your own organization. He reserves a certain percentage of his marketing budget for what he calls innovations. These may come from outside the company. For example, when excitement around artificial intelligence started 5-6 years back, they started investing in buying artificial intelligence companies and from the marketing and communications side, started deploying AI all the way from detecting micro trends in the environment to creating campaigns, to AB testing in real time, campaign optimization, ROI measurement. This partly AI powered engine was the bread and butter for all their digital marketing even before the original. way of doing digital marketing was threatened. It pays back in dividends, and you can y do it very effectively and efficiently.

How to prioritize

  • Use your partners, advertising agencies, media agencies, ad tech partners, who constantly bring new technologies and new things that are happening to your attention.
  • He personally goes to places like the CES or Mobile World Congress, and his team members do that too to identify what is new and has potential.
  • Consciously evaluate. They do scenario planning to think through each new concept and see if it has promise and whether it is worth testing and if so, how big the test should be: a single market, product, or multi factor.
  • Everything is evaluated across 3 dimensions.
    • Will it advance and build the brand?
      It might not do anything to the business today, but it might do something to the brand image which is very important.
    • Is going to drive the business?
      If it is not scalable it doesn't matter.
    • Does it give me a sustainable competitive advantage?
      Is there a first mover advantage which we should scale before competition even wakes up.

How consumer needs are changing

  • Blended needs
    • Consumers do not compartmentalize their needs; the way classical marketers think. So, if you are a soap manufacturer, your focus on the cleaning needs of the consumer: Is it smooth on my hands? gentle on my hands? Does it lather well? How good is the cleaning? Does it brighten?
    • What's happening is that the needs of the consumers are getting blended, so they don't mind 10 completely different needs being met by one brand or company or product. For example, the iPhone is now your camera, your phone, the way you are communicating, your texting device. iPhone has become something else and satisfies many of your needs, whether it is your healthcare needs, communication needs or financial needs.
    • Consumers are gravitating more and more to blended products because as life gets more complex, they want simplification. They don't want to deal with 10,000 different things if they can get them in just 10 devices or 10 things.
  • Experiences
    • As a payments company, Mastercard historically has pushed offers and rewards: miles back, extra cash back, safe, and secure, instant transactions, clear statements, stuff like that.
    • “But what we realized is consumers don't care about most of this.
      What they really want is great experiences in my life. They don't care whether it is their credit card company or cereal company, they will gravitate to whomever is willing to give them extraordinary experiences.”
    • “So, we said: what are the areas in people's lives that they truly care about? We looked at 10 that were relevant to us: movies, sports, music, shopping, travel, philanthropy, food, and vibrant sustainability etc. For each of these ten passion points, we curate experiences that money cannot buy but you can get only if you have a Mastercard. Differentiated curated brand experiences available only with a Mastercard.
    • For example, the culinary experience: they launched their first restaurants in Brazil middle of last year. It's been rated as the best restaurant in all of Brazil. It's a Mastercard restaurant. It's got Mastercard branding; the name of the restaurant is Priceless. You can go there only if you have a Mastercard. It has become an absolutely must go kind of an experience. people are queuing up and then they say, oh, it's only for Mastercard’s. Can I get a Mastercard? it's creating a pull and from an area which normally you would not expect. We are trying to involve ourselves in different passion points of consumers, curate and provide these experiences and create a brand differentiation.
    • Raja believes his multisensory marketing approach to engage all the five senses has differentiated Mastercard a great deal. “Though my marketing budgets are relatively modest compared to my competitors, we are actually one of the top growing brands in the world, now the 12th most valuable brand coming all the way up from #89”.

What are the five things that companies must do to be successful in marketing in the future? (My question!)

  1. Get the right marketing leader for the company. Marketing is not just common sense, not just having an opinion about something and then trying to implement it. There is science. There is technology, there is art, there is finance. Literally, the top marketer is like a Leonardo da Vinci using right side and left side and bringing everything together. So, companies must bring in absolutely top-notch people as their CMOS.
  2. They must empower the CMO and let him or her be. Everyone has an opinion on marketing, and everyone wants to give their opinion on an ad, when they don't even know what the objective that the ad is trying to accomplish. Leave the CMO alone and allow them to experiment.
  3. The company must be educated about the value that marketing can bring to the table. As technology becomes more and more pervasive, the competitive field is leveled. Small companies and large companies have access to the same technology. Technology is democratized. Competition therefore becomes democratized. Differentiation only happens through creativity and innovation.
  4. Tolerance of risk taking. Differentiation requires risk taking because some ideas look completely outlandish. The CMO has both to earn credibility and evangelize marketing and communications throughout the system. The company should know and expect there will be failures and it is OK to fail so long as we are learning. Most companies look at marketing as an enabling function, which is, I think last opportunity. Marketing is a function that drives the business, that drives the brand that drives the competitive advantage for the company. It enables profitable growth but it's also an engine for societal good.
  5. The CMO must be a senior executive position. Some companies do not even have the CMO reporting to the CEO. structurally marketing must be pitched at the same level as other C-Suite executives A smart CEO uses the CMO as his or her right hand because these are the people who are in touch with the market, what's going to happen in culture. Marketing is all important, about understanding people and driving behavioral change, whether it is internal or external.

Raja Rajamanner, Allen Adamson and Joanna Seddon

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