A view from Raja Rajamannar

Welcome to the age of the open-source executive

Marketers must develop their skillsets and be open to change, says Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard's marketing chief.

Welcome to the age of the open-source executive

Open-source code is no longer just for computers – it’s increasingly the code for how business gets done in a globally connected, always-on marketplace.

Today’s marketing executive needs a skillset that is freely used, freely changed and freely shared by anyone. The modern marketer must understand return on investment like a chief financial officer, technology like a chief technology officer, product integration like a chief product officer, PR like a chief commercial officer, and bring it all together like a chief executive – all the while delivering compelling, seamless and delightful consumer experiences.

Open-source executives are open to changes and ideas. He or she is sharing and discovering information about people, culture, the marketplace and business trends.

Remain true to your brand

Now, take this refreshed mindset, take all the new technologies and social platforms available to engage with consumers and take all the data and social insights to make better marketing decisions. But don’t forget to be true to your brand and inspire the world through creativity and awesome storytelling.

Marketing, and what it takes to be a marketer, is more demanding than ever. And guess what? The company is relying on us not only to build our brand but to deliver real business results.

It’s tempting to start over

When I joined Mastercard, I had the opportunity to start over, to clean the slate. Quite frankly, we were very thankful that we didn’t.

On the one hand, with all these new technologies and data to play with, it was tempting to start over and dream up the next big thing. On the other, with "Priceless", I had inherited a global campaign with a solid foundation that resonated with consumers.

We contemplated a few scenarios but in the end went back to the insight that "experiences matter more than things" that founded "Priceless" and leveraged new marketing techniques to infuse new meaning into it.

We evolved our brand promise from the "best way to pay" to "connecting people to priceless possibilities", and turned our 15-year-old advertising campaign into a holistic global marketing platform that today includes Priceless Cities, Priceless Surprises and Priceless Causes.

In the post-recession economy, the notion that people value experiences over things aligns with the insights we glean through SpendingPulse, our retail sales report.

Rebranding in a digital world

There is arguably no riskier undertaking for a chief marketing officer than redesigning an iconic logo and repositioning one of the world’s top brands. That’s exactly what we’ve done at Mastercard.

As a technology company in the global payments industry, we’ve been enabling the digital transformation through products and services such as Masterpass to checkout online, in-store or in-app; Groceries by Mastercard, where you can buy products through your refrigerator; and "selfie pay", where you can authenticate yourself while shopping online with your selfie or another form of biometrics.

The importance of the logo

While our products and services have evolved, we knew our brand identity needed to as well. We haven’t changed our logo in more than 20 years but the world has changed, and it was imperative that our brand mark works seamlessly across all digital contexts, retail channels and connected devices.

We were faced again with the opportunity to "clean the slate". But for a company such as ours, where our logo sits on more than 2.3 billion cards and at millions of merchants, it was critical that we avoided confusion. And, importantly, the hallmark of our logo – those interlocking red and yellow circles – is a mark that consumers instantly recognise.

The equity, heritage and trust our brand has built over time is an invaluable asset. We needed to preserve that while taking it into the future. It’s still early days, as our new identity is just starting to roll out, but we believe we did just that.

It sounds clichéd but there hasn’t been a more exciting time to be in marketing. There are many new technologies and resources to explore. That open-source mindset, where we can be adaptable but still hold true to our values and creativity, will be key to our continued advancement and seat at the C-suite table.

Raja Rajamannar is the chief marketing and communications officer at Mastercard. He was previously executive vice-president and chief transformation officer at US health insurance giant Anthem, where he oversaw the turnaround of a $10bn programme.