In the world of quantitative and qualitative marketing, quantum marketing is the way forward: Raja Rajamannar

Having forayed Mastercard's legacy program, Priceless, in India, the payment processing corporation's Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Raja Rajamannar, spoke to about the brand's core philosophy, the transition from advertising-led marketing to experiences-led marketing, the importance of quantum marketing, the challenge of getting the right talent and much more

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In the world of quantitative and qualitative marketing, quantum marketing is the way forward: Raja Rajamannar

Raja Rajamannar

Known for its multisensory quantum marketing approach which stems from the insight that the brain processes information from different senses, quite differently, Mastercard has got it all covered right from removing “Mastercard” from its Red and Yellow Circle logo, having a sonic brand identity for itself, to setting up its own restaurants and even launching its own scent.

That being said, Mastercard, has time and again proved that it doesn’t shy away from taking things head-on, as every decision that the brand takes is backed by data and research, which is visible not only in the brand’s visual identity but also in the entirely content-led approach, the brand has been doubling down on via transforming its tagline ‘Priceless’ into an experiential platform, for the past ten years.

After running the ‘priceless’-based advertising campaigns across the globe for over two-and-a-half decades, including India, Mastercard has evolved the concept of ‘Priceless’ from not only observing the priceless moments in people’s lives but actually celebrating them by tapping into emotions which money cannot buy and creating exclusive experiences for users.

Building upon the experiential strategy, Mastercard launched its in India an extension of Mastercard’s global priceless platform that offers over 2,000+ curated experiences across a spectrum of passion points for Mastercard cardholders in 40+ countries.

Since 2015, Mastercard, as Rajamannar puts it, was plugging India into the rest of the world's Priceless, but what has happened this time around is that the brand will be curating content and experiences in India and making them accessible to people around the globe which will eventually drive in inbound tourism in the country but across ten passion points spanning across Culinary, Movies, Sports, Music, Travel, Philanthropy, Social causes, Health and Fitness, Shopping, etc.

To delve further into the ‘Priceless India’ scheme of things, caught up with Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Mastercard, who further shared his views on a slew of topics such as the brand's philosophy and its transition from advertising-led marketing to experiences-led marketing,’s marketing strategy, the challenge of getting the right talent in the field of marketing, etc.

Read below to know more.

Being at the heart of Mastercard, how has the ‘Priceless’ philosophy and ‘’ proposition helped the brand become what it is today in India?

There is no other platform which is as robust, as diversified, and as priceless as this platform. It provides people with an opportunity to look at all the experiences around the world and book their preference right from through their Mastercard, starting next week.

Our ‘Priceless’ philosophy is based on the fact that there is not much of a functional differentiation between one brand’s product to the other’s. What really comes out as a differentiator is the emotion, which is precisely what Priceless is all about- tapping into that emotion which money cannot buy. has benefited the brand in three dimensions- It has strengthened our brand in an attributable fashion owing to the proprietary methodologies with which we measure how our brand is doing on attributes that we care about and what is driving that perception towards the brand.

The second dimension is that it has helped us in not only driving but also winning business from both banks and customers.

Thirdly, it also gives us a competitive advantage because when a consumer looks at various options in front of him or her and finds out that there is no other competitor who has been able to replicate what we have done, the choice becomes easy.

While the brand awareness and preference for Mastercard is high in urban areas, how do you intend to achieve the same beyond the metros?

Mastercard’s ‘’ is our attempt to try and change just that in India. It’s not going to be an overnight thing but a long journey because for us it will only be through the ‘very out of the ordinary’ and ‘privileged’ experiences to certain places that we curate exclusively for our users which will make people’s perception change towards the brand and create a preference.

While the awareness will happen through advertising, content marketing, influencer marketing and partnership marketing, it is going to be the word-of-mouth through which the goal will be achieved, rather than us as Mastercard saying it. Many of our experiences are actually in Tier III and IV markets and even in the wilderness. As a result, while the platform’s primary language in India will initially be English, eventually we’ll bring in multiple languages onto our platform.

How can CFOs and CMOs collaborate better for the growth of business?

Typically, for many companies, the CMO and the CFO are seen to be adversaries. But at Mastercard, we track our ROI metrics like maniacs and measure the funnel as a whole to ensure that this proposition is making a true difference to our business, to our brand, and to our competitive advantage.

There is always objectivity, neutrality, and proper credibility to what we are measuring, be it in terms of methodologies, data or even the output.

There is an increased focus on performance marketing in the industry to the extent that some brands invest most of their budget in performance and only a little is left for brand building. But for you, how important is brand-building-based marketing in comparison to performance-led marketing?

Performance marketing is like running on the treadmill. One can keep running on the treadmill to survive and stay in the game. The moment one stops running, he/she can get thrown off by the treadmill. On the other hand, brand marketing elevates the brand beyond the rat race on a daily basis. It is based on more emotional, long-term and soft aspects of marketing. Brand building helps one get off the treadmill.

A lot of brands create ad films that help them connect with consumers at an emotional level. How has adding the experiential layer of marketing elevated consumer behaviour towards Mastercard?

Emotion can be purposeful, but as a brand marketer, your objective is not to just make the consumer feel good.  It is essential, but there has to be a lot more to it because it eventually has to create positive brand love or even brand affection, eventually leading up to brand preference.

In lieu of this core ‘Priceless’ philosophy, Mastercard has been gaining its value quite significantly and has been rated as one of the ‘high risers’ amongst the fastest growing brands in the world for the last three years and has now become one of the top 10 brands in the world in terms of the most valuable brands as per Kantar BrandZ study.

How much of a believer are you in the power of content-led marketing?

Content by itself does not drive everything. We believe that experiential marketing helps us back the content that we provide with actual real-life experiences. Our entire shift from advertising-led marketing to experiences-led marketing has been owing to the fact that even when one reads about content, the objectives can’t be met unless there is actual experience of what the content talks about.

Content provision is only the first step towards experiential marketing. At the end of the day, it is all about experiences that make something truly priceless and getting that experience through Mastercard makes the brand become a permanent part of the consumer’s goodwill.

As the Global CMCO of Mastercard, what is it that you find a daunting task in today’s marketing ecosystem and what are you doing at Mastercard to solve the same? 

The one thing that keeps me anxious is the issue of getting the right talent on board. Today’s marketing ecosystem is very different from what it was in the earlier days. Earlier marketing was all about creating beautiful ads which were aesthetically superior with nice storylines or had good visuals and fantastic music.

Earlier, nobody would ask about what we got out of a certain campaign as the success metric for campaigns was awards and if the business was growing, one would attribute it to their campaign. If not, the blame was often put on budgets being less, competition being intense, government regulations or even prices soaring high. Earlier, it was all about qualitative marketing which focused on psychology, anthropology, sociology, design, brand, and all other softer aspects.

Since the late 1990s, marketing has become very quantitative owing to people expecting ROI out of everything and has become very technology-driven with a high focus on automation.

Hence, there are two breeds of marketers- marketers who are qualitative and classical and the other set of marketers who are totally quantitative and technology-driven. Having just one set of these is bad because today, what you need is somebody who is good at both and can use their right brain for the qualitative and classical approach. Whereas, use their left brain for the quantitative and logical technology-driven scheme of things.

While such people are available, they don’t want to take up a marketing job. Instead, they want to join a Silicon Valley company, investment bank, consulting or even run their own startups. So, that's the biggest thing which keeps me concerned.

In such cases, when one cannot have individuals who are like Leonardo Da Vinci (good with both sides of the brain), one tries to get people with as many talents as possible and then consciously look for the needful. The other option is to build a Leonardo Da Vinci team which includes people who are qualitative and quantitative geniuses and then bring together the power of these two to create magic.

This brings us to the question that is marketing programs at MBA schools outdated?

The curriculum of MBA schools these days has become extremely obsolete and archaic. Marketing needs to be reinvented and reimagined today. For this, quantum marketing is the way to go. Quantum marketing leverages all the five senses of people to communicate, engage, and really influence their choices. The purpose of an MBA should be to expose you to the practicalities and not just stick to a theoretical course, which is why, we not only share our case studies with universities but actively encourage our team members to go to their Alma Maters and give guest lectures there.

Apart from this, at Mastercard, we have a program where marketing professors come and shadow me in real life. It is only when professors see a CMO in real action that they understand how marketing has evolved in today’s world.

We also onboard marketing interns who are assigned to a senior person on the team. That senior person then spends time educating, teaching and training them. Also, interns are asked to work on actual projects which get launched at the end of their internship. After proper evaluation of interns, we offer jobs to a few of them as by the end of the internship they imbibe the qualities of a good marketer.

How has Mastercard been leveraging AI to build on both quantitative and qualitative aspects of marketing?

Six years back, we launched our AI-powered Mastercard digital marketing engine in Singapore. Considered to be the most cutting-edge digital marketing engines in the world, this engine first predicts micro-trends in the social sphere via artificial intelligence and then tells us what is going to be the most appropriate offer or promotion or communication from Mastercard that we should put against the particular forecasted micro trend.

And then once the most appropriate offer comes in, for example, people are talking about a movie, the most appropriate offering is predicted in terms of the movie ticket discounts or pre-sale of movies or a premiere via AI. It is post this that the engine uses generative AI to get an advertisement created from the trend and offers by itself and constantly A-B tests it to refine and optimise.

Post this, a media strategy is devised, ad inventories are bought and ROI is measured, all through automation. This entire process is done without any kind of human intervention.

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