MasterCard Believes That Experiences Are Better for Business Than Storytelling

Getting consumers with surprises

Headshot of Kristina Monllos

During his session at the ANA Masters of Marketing Conference in Orlando, Fla., MasterCard CMO Raja Rajamannar asked audience members today to stand up if they played golf.

He then asked a series of questions about how well they play golf so that he could whittle down the number of people standing to serious golf pros. The point was to bring out golf champ Sir Nick Faldo, much to the delight of the audience—and to demonstrate the power of surprises.

"Marketers have always talked about surprising and delighting your consumer, but isn't it ironic that there is not a single brand which owns the platform of surprises," said Rajamannar.

"We said let's create a platform, whether we own it or not, let's create something to celebrate that consumers want to get surprised and delighted, [so they] start liking your brand more."

For MasterCard that platform is called Priceless Surprises and it kicked off two years ago during the Grammys with Justin Timberlake, with the brand surprising consumers via social media.

"We had an unbelievable response and so now we have extended Priceless Surprises to almost 60 countries around the world and we have given away more than half a million surprises," said Rajamannar before introducing a video documenting how the company surprised two Ellie Goulding fans with an appearance by the star herself. 

The Priceless Surprises platform is one way the brand shifted from pumping out messages that told consumers about its 168 different platforms to just four (logic, emotions, data and connections). In doing so the company has been able to build better relationships with its consumers, boosted its brand perception and amped up its business.  

The brand aims to find out what consumers really want and how it can provide that for them because it believes that creates a more sustainable relationship with consumers than storytelling. Noting that 198 million people use adblockers, Rajamannar explained, "You want to tell your story but they don't want to hear your story, they're blocking it." 

Another notable data point: 74 percent of brands could disappear and consumers wouldn't care, according to MasterCard data. 

"We are digging into the consumers' psyche like never before, trying to get to the human truth," said Rajamannar.

@KristinaMonllos Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.