B&T was a recent guest at the extraordinarily swanky Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley all courtesy of MasterCard’s Priceless program. We took time out from overeating and excessive drinking to chat with Sarah Pike, MasterCard’s head of marketing at MasterCard Australasia…
Data and credit cards; surely, nobody knows more about me than my credit card holder?
MasterCard processes transactions, we don’t know who’s making the transaction. We know where it was made and what the money was spent on but we don’t who the person is; that data is held by banks. The way we target customers is more through the brand campaigns like Priceless and working with our issuer partners like the banks. We provide them with the content and the assets and they target the consumer directly.
Data can be used for good, but it can quickly veer into that creepy, murky side?
From a MasterCard perspective we know where the transactions are being made but we don’t know who’s making them. The way we use data is to find out where consumer passion points are…
…forgive my ignorance, what’s a consumer passion point?
It’s the things that people get really passionate about. Take MasterCard’s Priceless program, it’s all built around nine different consumer passion points and that would be sports, arts and culture, philanthropy, diving, music, culinary experiences, shopping and the environment, and we know they’re the most relevant passion points. And the core thing about Priceless is that experiences matter more than things.
Is this based on any customer research or insights?
We know that resonates with consumers and it has done for over 20 years. It’s still a very strong pillar and territory for MasterCard. And it enables our consumers to engage and build a trust with the MasterCard brand across a number of different activities.
How loyal are people to their credit cards? Isn’t just about who’s got the best rate?
That’s probably more a question for the banks. What Priceless gives MasterCard customers is that unique differentiation that helps drive both acquisition and loyalty. And that’s also about us working very closely with the banks, too. They use a lot of our assets to drive a really strong value proposition in addition to things like interest-free periods which everybody does anyway.
How hard is it to give a credit card a personality? Is it about chucking a lot of money at the problem?
It’s about having a strong differentiator. We have a number of sponsorships around the world, we’ve got about 75 assets in total. We’ve just announced we’re sponsoring the Australian Open this year, as an example.
That approach sounds very high-end, very AB?
I think it’s about having a mix. In the US we sponsor major league baseball, in the UK we sponsor the (music awards) The Brits, we sponsor The Grammies. It’s a really broad mix because our customer is clearly very diverse. For our younger card members it’s all about debit cards, it’s not until your 30s or 40s that you start to think about a credit card.
Is it all about “getting them young”? Get ’em young and they’ll be a customer for life?
The major passion point for the Millennial is music and MasterCard has a really great heritage in music. We do a lot of work with Gwen Stefani, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams, Mark Ronson, and we’ve had campaigns in the past that have rewarded MasterCard holders with their own small concerts and create unique and different events.
Is it about loyalty or conversion?
We focus heavily on both. Obvioulsy it’s about conversion and getting our card holders to use their cards more. It’s about bringing customers to the brand.
You’re a necessary evil, but, you’d have to admit, we can hate our credit card company, can’t we? Not hate, but definitely tetchy?
We prefer to focus on the benefits of interacting with your credit card. It’s though the differentiation that you build the brand loyalty. Again, it’s the banks that set things like rates. MasterCard is merely the network that allows the transactions. I think MasterCard has always worked hard to have a very different acquisition proposition and that’s because anyone can give you ‘X’ amount of frequent flyers or an ‘X’ amount of interest-free period.
It’s content marketing, it’s brands telling stories, but it’s also such a ‘noisy market’. How do you get heard above the din?
How do we get cut-through? There’s two key elements. The Priceless brand platform is unique in the market and it’s heavily based around consumer insights and it has that direct appeal about its uniqueness. We’re not about ‘free stuff’, we’re about connecting you to experiences. And number two we harness the power of digital and mobile and we do a lot across social.
B&T just ran a report that found Australian financial institutions are increasingly going off traditional media – newspapers and TV – as their preferred advertising vehicle…
No, they still work. It depends on the campaign. We just used TV and OOH very successfully for one of our recent campaigns. Those medias really give you the reach and then you can use social for a highly targeted reach.
How much would you agree that customers’ expectations these days are limitless, yet marketers’ budgets are limited? What still works?
There’s never a one size fits all response and it depends on the campaign and the objectives of the campaign. We’re very clear on the segment of audience we’re trying to reach, so what we do is we select the media on driving the right reach for that audience. If you want a broad message with a broad reach then TV is still the strongest media to reach a broad awareness. But TV doesn’t work every time. For example, if you want to hone in on a very definite set of consumers who you want to target with a relevant message then you use the media that will drive the best outcomes. That’s why you can never say, “I’d use digital over traditional” because they all work in the right scenarios.
Why do brands need to be loved these days?
You want to be loved because you want to be the brand that resonates the strongest and be the brand that drives the best cut-through and you want to be the brand that delivers the best experience to the consumer. It’s all about driving the emotional connection, the human connection with people.
Lastly, in terms of disruption, how do you see that affecting the Australian financial markets into the future?
I think peer-to-peer lending will be the next big thing. Rather than you having a line of credit with a bank, you’ll be able to go to a variety of other brands and get a lower rate loan. That will appeal to some people and what the banks are trying to do is create the emotional connection with their brand over the other brand and, equally, if they can serve up offers to their customers that are rich and offer genuine value then I am far more likely to be enticed. If the banks just offer vanilla offerings and go on function they will find it harder to retain and grow their customers.