During a WHOSAY event at the ANA Masters of Marketing in Orlando, Florida, Rajamannar elaborated on that with Erin Andrews, the world’s most famous female sportscaster. Digital is at the heart of everything MasterCard does because he’s aware that the world is continuously moving in that direction. And with that in mind, he declares storytelling, a core tenet of advertising, to be “on its deathbed.”
“I think the advertising model is obsolete,” he says. “For me, the way to reach consumers and engage them is through experiences. When consumers have experiences, they talk about them on their social channels and their friends listen,” he explains. “It’s hugely beneficial for us to engage consumers and make them our brand ambassadors. That’s what we call ‘storymaking,’ which the future is all about.”
Look at Netflix. People collectively watch 1 billion(!) hours of video content each week, all without ads. Rajamannar interprets that as the consumer saying loudly and clearly, ‘I don’t want your stupid ads! I care about my experience!’”
And MasterCard is all about experiences. It’s the centerpiece of the 20-year-old “Priceless” campaign, which has since evolved to include an entire website that works as an experience engine. Consumers can book a private tour of the Chichen Itza pyramids in Mexico or a candlelit trip to the Louvre after hours, among others.
And that’s just one way MasterCard is bridging the gap between physical and digital, while some other financial services brands are only just becoming customer-centric.
Every year, MasterCard sponsors the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament in Orlando, Florida. In 2016, the brand debuted a virtual reality experience that involved a tour of the 17th hole with Northern Irish golf legend Graeme McDowell. The twist: It was shoppable.
“If you focused on Graeme’s shirt for more than two seconds, something popped up that tells you the brand, price, materials, colors, whatever,” says Rajamannar. “You can make choices about each of those by looking at them and pay right there in the experience. That’s clinching the deal during the moment of truth.”
The VR commerce wasn’t just a one-time stunt. In September, MasterCard launched a similar experience with Swarovski chandeliers. Rajamannar points out that it benefits the brand immensely, eliminating the need for inventory that’s as large as it is fragile.
The moment of truth
It ultimately comes down to the conversion of digital and physical Rajamannar thinks represents the industry’s future.
“If you see the statistics, 7% of the households in the U.S. already have either a Google Home or an Alexa,” he says. “How many times are you going to make your purchase simply by telling the device, which is a smart speaker at the end of the day, what to buy? As a marketer, how do I get into that stream and impact consumers’ choice at the moment of truth? That’s what we’re so excited about.”
Also recently, MasterCard created a real-time marketing engine that engages consumers on social media. It tries to affect their perception or influence their behavior in favor of MasterCard. From there, the brand does what it always does: Helps create experiences.