Noelle McElhatton
Noelle McElhatton

Editor's Comment: MasterCard's fight for relevance

In these straitened times, our purses may not be bulging with cash, but they are still brimming with plastic. Debit, credit, store and loyalty cards, and goodness knows what other rectangles of consumer magic.

So there is a continuing battle for this different 'share of wallet'. After all, how many credit cards do we really need? If it is only one or two, then there is serious competition to be the one at the top of the pack.

Hence MasterCard is reviving its 'Priceless' campaign - this time, however, on a promotional platform. From 'Priceless moments' it has moved on to what it claims will be 'Priceless experiences'. If you haven't already guessed, we're talking about a rewards programme.

All the usual suspects are here: partnerships with hotels, restaurants, museums and theatres - everything that the outgoing, affluent, metropolitan consumer needs.

MasterCard's rewards are from the same urbanite agenda as American Express, even with the latter's more 'youthful' slant and the argument that MasterCard's real tussle is with Visa.

This begs the question: can the consumer be made to care which logo appears on their globally accepted credit card? Years ago, it was all such a big deal - but where is Diners Club now?

In an attempt to put some clear red-and-yellow water between itself and the Visa tricolour, MasterCard is badging its rewards 'Priceless London', New York, Sydney and so on. Whether the fancy wrapping will make much difference to the travelling cognoscenti remains to be seen.

In a world where card-issuers are 10 a penny and plastic form follows transactional function, old brands like MasterCard certainly have their work cut out to remain relevant to consumers.

Noelle.McElhatton@haymarket.com

Sector Insight, page 38.