Mastercard surprises ANA marketers with 'Priceless' golf experience

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A three-time Masters winner blended in among the crowd until he was called onstage.

Since taking the marketing reins at Mastercard, Raja Rajamannar has shifted the focus from talking at consumers to conversing with them through "Priceless" experiences. Research shows consumers to value experiences over things; they're buying vacations instead of Rolexes, for example, and going to inventive restaurants.

"It's not just about telling stories because there is no audience to tell the stories to," the chief marketing and communications officer said. "Because they're [ad] blocking you, they're fragmented, they're listening to somebody else."

The solution is not storytelling, but storymaking, with your audience, bringing them into your narrative. That's why Rajamannar simplified Mastercard's 168 marketing platforms into just four—Priceless Cities, Priceless Surprises, Priceless Causes and Priceless Specials. Rajamannar brought one of those platforms to life during his talk "Storytelling is dead—long live storymaking" at the ANA Masters of Marketing conference.

After 30 minutes, Rajamannar asked attendees to stand. They thought they were simply stretching their legs, and then he asked for golf fans to keep standing. Next, he asked those with a handicap of 20 or below to remain standing, and eventually, the CMO narrowed it down to "those of you who have won Masters for three times." Only one man was left standing: Sir Nick Faldo. The former No. 1 ranked golfer in the world represents Mastercard as a brand ambassador, and he took to the podium to discuss how he creates "Priceless" experiences for his fans—once going so far as to call one man's boss to get him off work for the day, so they could play golf. Faldo then announced that two audience members were invited to play in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March 2017, a "Priceless" experience.

Rajamannar concluded his speech by driving home the fact that Mastercard is devoted to understanding the human psyche, so it can better connect with its consumers. Campaign US caught up with the CMO afterward, and he explained that Mastercard has a complex process when choosing its ambassadors for Priceless Surprises.

"The most important thing is the brand fit," he said. "When we select somebody like Sir Nick Faldo or Tom Watson, they have such a fantastic stature in that field. People worship them if you're a golfer, right? Very clean image. They are charming when dealing with consumers. They're active [on Twitter with fans]."

Mastercard intends these Priceless Surprises to be a global force—500,000 have already occurred—and Rajamannar admits that the "celebrity surprises his/her fans" scenario has been done before (see Undercover Lyft).

"The key thing is, is a company or a brand committed enough to make it their main platform?" Rajamannar asked Campaign US. "If you're committed, you'll own it eventually."

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