MANASI NARASIMHAN, VP, Marketing & Communications, South Asia, Mastercard, is upbeat about achieving the right balance between the brand and the business that operate in slightly different spaces, as well as the newly launched ‘Priceless India’ programme.
Tell us about the key marketing lessons learnt over your 18-year career spanning fintech, FMCG, media and corporate brands.
One, embrace technology as an enabler in marketing, both in terms of how you connect with your audiences right now through social media, digital targeting, new content streams like podcasts and so on, and how you understand your audiences. For any marketer, especially those of us who started our marketing careers before the Internet became what it is today, that's an important lesson.
Two, marketing is fundamentally about people - it's about your consumers. It could be distributors in an FMCG scenario, it is banks and fintechs in a Mastercard scenario, but at the end of the day, it's about people who have aspirations and dreams, people who have fears, and that's what marketing at its core should look to address.
Three, no marketer can survive without being a businessperson. As our global CMO Raja Rajamannar says, “You have to be a marketer; you also have to be a general manager. You have to be able to stand up to your CEO and your CFO and explain how marketing adds to the topline and the bottomline, while being the custodian of the brand and the customer experience.”
How did Brand Mastercard traverse the lockdown, and did your own approach to marketing change?
Lockdown forced people to adopt digital payments. Our aim was to handhold people through the transition - as a brand, cater to that first time user, educate them about digital payments, contactless cards, etc… we worked with our partner banks to deliver the right messages to the consumer.
Though Mastercard is a very strong consumer brand, our business model is B2B2C. We operate to banks and fintech partners. So, the brand and the business operate in slightly different spaces. It's been a challenge for me, personally, to learn how to manage the two without over-pivoting one or the other. As Mastercard in India has evolved, we've been able to get a balance, and I'm quite proud of that.
What is the story behind the ‘Priceless’ programme, recently launched in India? What has been the response to it so far?
Payments touch our lives every single day, in everything that we do. But what do we pay for the human experience behind the payment? Mastercard has this motto – ‘There are some things that money can't buy, for everything else, there’s Mastercard’. So over the years, the brand has created and built the ‘Priceless’ platform, to give people once-in-a-lifetime experiences - literally something that money can’t buy, no matter how affluent you are. For example, if your son or daughter is a soccer fan, they can actually walk out holding Lionel Messi’s hand at an UEFA Champions League match. Or, if you're an art aficionado, you can visit the Louvre in Paris after it is shut to the public. Earlier this year, we launched ‘Priceless’ digitally in India. In time, we hope to bring more of this country both to Indians and visitors from abroad. Increasing inbound tourism is a big mission for the Government, so we hope to partner them in it. That was, in fact, the genesis of the Priceless India programme.
So far, our experiences are only digital. They include 16 forts, palaces of Jaipur, Agra beyond the Taj Mahal, behind-the-scenes tour of the Mumbai Opera House and so on… In course of time, when the pandemic passes, the idea is for Mastercard holders to physically have some of these experiences.
What will be your priorities over the next one year to chart the brand’s growth? What can we expect next from Mastercard?
Marketing is and will always be an enabler for business; so we will continue to drive business priorities - promote the safety and efficacy of digital payments, heavy use of e-commerce and contactless cards, etc. We will continue to work with banks to realize their goals. We will also build up the Priceless India programme.
Lastly, what is the one thing that motivates you when you wake up each day?
Well, I have two boys aged 9 and 4, so they ensure I'm out of bed and running about each morning! But seriously, the Holy Grail for every person is to have that ideal work-life balance - fulfilment professionally and personally. I just try and seek that balance, on a day-to-day basis. I don't think anybody succeeds in it all the time, but we are here because we make the effort. That's my motivation.