On the sidelines of the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, Brand Equity met with one of the key marketers present at the world’s largest ad and marketing industry gathering — Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer and president, healthcare business for Mastercard. Edited excerpts from an exclusive interview with Amit Bapna:

What’s your view on the Indian market’s potential and Mastercard’s brand play here?

The opportunity is huge here in India, but we are at the beginning.

We are extremely committed to make it a success. We recently got into tier-2 towns for the first time with our brand campaign with MS Dhoni. We have identified 10 areas of passion points that people care about. We are trying to identify what kind of passion points work most in India and we will get deeper into each of them. Cricket, Bollywood and music would be the three identified points in India.

One of the brand’s biggest assets, the logo, was dramatically altered earlier this year. What convinced you that it was the right decision?

It was a well-considered decision, I had thought about it for two years.

Our research in more than 26 countries showed that 80% of people recognised the brand without the name but just the logo.

That gave us the confidence. The other reason is that we want to be a lifestyle brand and not a credit card brand. Removing the logo helps in that direction too. We have launched our first restaurant called Bistro by Mastercard at Rome airport.

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We are launching the second restaurant at upscale Manhattan (New York City). We are curating experiences that money can’t buy. Two months ago, we launched sonic branding across the globe. We have created 20 different versions and by the end of year we will have 200 versions.

At Mastercard you’ve created new roles in brand safety and risk management that sit within the marketing function. How well is this strategy working, and can this be the way forward across categories?

There are countless factors which are emerging that influence the reputation of a brand.

One ill worded tweet or a wrongly timed campaign could have a long-lasting impact to the image.

Marketers have to be always on a lookout for any possible risk to their brands. This is not only about making sure that the brand is not seen at an undesired place. It is a more holistic approach regarding identifying and addressing any threat before it becomes a real challenge. We can completely ban a platform or pay a premium to leverage it, just to safeguard image.

We don’t view risk as a four-letter word. We’re embracing it and bringing the risk discipline to the forefront of all decision making, planning, resource allocation and execution. The new roles and responsibilities around risk management go beyond brand safety to also include brand health and visibility, brand reputation, data privacy and protection, compliance and organisational training in these areas. The approach has helped the brand make informed decisions. This is the way forward for future forward marketing organisations.

How important is the protection of consumers’ data and privacy in brand building today?

Every marketer must remember that he is a consumer himself. Think about your own preferences and how you want to be treated. The core tenets of GDPR: accountability, transparency, consent and individual rights are principles every marketer should be aligned with and think through as they develop and activate programs.

With the rise in the number of connected devices, there is an imperative and opportunity to protect the digital ecosystem. We recognise that earning and maintaining the trust of our customers, cardholders and consumers is critical for our future.

That’s why we have incorporated privacy and security in the design of everything we do.



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