Mastercard CMO Raja Rajamannar on the trends shaping global marketing leadership

Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard’s chief marketing and communications officer and chair of the judges for the WFA Global Marketer of the Year, reflects on the key issues marketers have had to address in 2021.

We have seven fantastic candidates for WFA Global Marketer of The Year. All of them have demonstrated their excellence while facing difficult conditions in the last year. When I read through the nominations, four themes stood out.

We are facing a tsunami of new technologies

Marketers no longer need to adapt to one new trend – they face tens and more at one time.

In what I call the ’fourth paradigm’ of marketing, we saw smartphones and social media change the entire industry. Succeeding in this new, ’fifth paradigm’ of marketing will require leveraging all the different technologies – both internally and in a consumer-facing way.

The marketers who manage to use and employ the right technologies – for example, using AI to provide new insights – are the most likely to win.

Marketing is not just about our eyes

Consumers see more ads than ever. Brands need to cut through the clutter in a world where some of the most valuable customers are choosing ad-free environments, such as Netflix and Spotify, for their content consumption. That means incorporating multi-sensory moments that will provide relevant space for your brand in a non-intrusive way.

Mastercard’s sonic identity is one of our attempts to make sure that the transaction process, via audio-only devices like Alexa, reminds consumers of our brand and makes it stay top of mind.

Purpose needs a back story

It’s not enough to simply announce a partnership about a cause or a purpose; it needs to be embodied in the DNA of the company and how it operates.

Consumers want to buy from purposeful brands, but they also want that purpose to be authentic. Trust is the distinguishing factor between brands that succeed with purpose and those that don’t. And if there’s no back story, consumers can quickly lose trust and start to believe that your brand isn’t serious or genuine.

As an example, Mastercard has supported the LGBTQ+ community for years. One way we’ve shown support is by being the official sponsor of World Pride for more than a decade. In 2019, we launched the True Name card, which allows a person to have their preferred name to appear on cards without the requirement of a legal name change. Our long-term support in this space has allowed us to be successful in launching a product that authentically connects with members of the community.

Real partnerships are the key to impactful work

We hire agencies to give us ideas and activations that are powerful, but they can’t do that if they don’t truly understand our businesses.

At Mastercard, our creative partners are fully embedded to ensure that together we can deliver on their powerful cultural insights.

In addition to working closely with agency partners for top creative results, it’s similarly important to partner with like-minded brands, groups and organizations to create stronger, more efficient and scalable impact.

The World Federation of Advertisers’ Planet Pledge is a great example of the collaboration needed across our industry to address the big challenges of our time.

If we can share our thinking, we can make more of a difference together.

Raja Rajamannar is chief marketing and communications officer at Mastercard and president of the WFA. You can view the finalists and vote for the Global Marketer of the Year here.