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In an exclusive interview at the World Federation of Advertisers’ Global Marketer Week, MasterCard’s chief marketing & communications officer shared his vision for the future of the industry – one where marketing unites people around the world.

In our increasingly polarized world, marketers face the daunting task of connecting with diverse and often divided consumer bases.

During an exclusive interview at the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA)’s 2024 Global Marketer Week in Toronto, Raja Rajamannar, MasterCard’s chief marketing and communications officer, offers up his approach for addressing the issue. “As a brand, the challenge now, is how you navigate this field in the best possible way – not through political correctness, but through authenticity,” he says.

“We have to be transparent with consumers. Respect them. Treat them like you as an individual want to be treated … There should be transparency; there should be decency.”

MasterCard’s ‘Touch Card’ & ‘Where to Settle’ platform

Rajamannar highlights two recent initiatives that underscore MasterCard’s commitment to using marketing for good. The first, which centers on an ethos of inclusivity and accessibility, is the ‘Touch Card.’

Designed to help the visually impaired make financial transactions on their own, the Touch Card has rapidly expanded since its global launch in 2022, now available in 50 markets worldwide.

The second initiative, the ‘Where to Settle’ platform, demonstrates how companies can effectively address humanitarian crises. This AI-based app supports Ukrainian refugees in rebuilding their lives in Poland by providing tailored information about job opportunities and apartment listings in different cities.

“Everyone comes to Warsaw because they don’t know about the other cities in Poland,” Rajamannar says. “This app asks you, ‘What are your circumstances, like what is your experience level and what are you looking for?’ And it recommends to you, ‘Instead of Warsaw, maybe you can go to Krakow or Poznań.’”

‘Where to Settle’ gained so much traction that eventually, the Polish government adopted the platform it as its official tool for addressing the Ukrainian refugee crisis.

By aligning marketing strategies with a greater purpose, like ‘Where to Settle’ has accomplished, for example, brands can create more meaningful connections with consumers, Rajamannar suggests.

“We want to be truly purpose-driven, not as a lip service or a soundbite, but truly in our campaigns, we want to be purpose-driven,” he says. “We need to have a North Star. Our North Star is doing good, and thereby doing well [from a business perspective].”

Once an ethos of social good is established, Rajamannar advocates for more engaging brand messaging. He suggests that consumer-facing brands lean into experiential marketing as opposed to more traditional channels — a strategy that deepens connections with consumers and enhances consumer loyalty.

“Don’t just talk at [consumers]; engage them,” he says. “Engagement is not going to happen only through advertisers; in fact, it happens through experiences.”

Finally, Rajamannar acknowledges the challenge of finding great talent today, for which he suggests investing in continuous learning and development programs. Ongoing education and training programs, he says, can also help brand marketing teams stay abreast of emergent tech trends across the AI and VR and AR landscapes.

“We are in a circumstance where marketers have to be tech-savvy, data savvy, financially savvy and marketing savvy in the traditional sense,” he says. “To find someone like this, you need to find Leonardo DaVinci — not very easy to find.”

For more insights from top marketers, check out Nissan CMO Allyson Witherspoon’s perspectives on automotive marketing in the age of connectivity and automation and IBM’s senior VP of marketing Jonathan Adashek on the company’s tech-driven future.

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