MasterCard is making a major marketing move this weekend on music’s biggest night for the Grammys to further create consumer and fan awareness for its digital payment solution in Masterpass.

The New York-based global financial institution is currently front-and-center in Los Angeles with a one-of-a-kind experiential record store at the now-defunct Tower Records building excitement for Sunday night’s Grammy Awards. The interactive music experience activation aims at thanking its fans with exclusive performances with artists like Anderson Paak (tonight) as well as the opportunity to purchase rare vinyl records for $10.

The weekend proceedings, which officially started Wednesday, will culminate Sunday when MasterCard will unlock special offers for those tuned in to the live broadcast that can be taken advantage of with Masterpass for just $1.

With such a huge undertaking comes an even larger marketing strategy.

Raja Rajamannar, MasterCard’s chief marketing and communications officer responsible for building the MasterCard brand, driving business for MasterCard products and services, took a brief break from the Masterpass #ThankTheFans House to join [a]listdaily and dish details on how they’re reaching digital-first consumers.

MasterCard CMO Raja Rajamannar

Why was it critical for MasterCard to move forward with this experiential marketing move?

The move is critical because consumers have changed. They are more connected than ever to their digital devices and to each other; they are moving faster than ever across multiple devices and multiple channels; and their attention span is only becoming shorter and shorter. They are not willing to waste even a few seconds of their time on irrelevant content. As a brand it’s getting harder to reach your audience. Today you earn their attention by creating experiences that are truly engaging.

What is the brand trying to accomplish with this campaign?

Now core to our Priceless marketing strategy is the idea that we value our experiences over our possessions. This isn’t a fad—it’s a deep, human truth that first struck a chord with consumers two decades ago, and today has become even more relevant. When we considered all of this cultural change, and the increasing importance of experiences, we realized that Priceless is an idea that cannot—and should not—be contained in traditional advertising. We need to go way beyond showing priceless experiences in commercials—we need to give our cardholders the tools to create their own. And through our sponsorships, and with global platforms like Priceless Cities and Priceless Surprises, we’re doing exactly that—evolving our brand’s role from observing priceless moments to enabling priceless experiences. Our goal is to create an emotional bond with consumers and to deliver to them one-of-a-kind experiences they can only get with MasterCard.

Why are the Grammy’s the ideal partner to leverage your brand equity?

MasterCard has long celebrated music as a passion that transcends geographic and demographic boundaries. This year, we’re celebrating the music fan in all of us by delivering something truly unique with the Masterpass #ThankTheFans initiative. When you look at music events, what’s bigger or more celebrated than the Grammy Awards? We’ve been fortunate to partner with The Recording Academy as sponsor of the Grammy Awards for nine years now and thought it the perfect venue to introduce #ThankTheFans.

Why are you trying to tap into the renewed interest in vinyl records?

Consumers are shifting their spend away from items to experiences, and those retailers that can deliver both an experiential in-store environment, as well as an engaging digital environment are thriving. At the same time, digital payment capabilities are making the point-of-sale experience seamless and secure. The Masterpass #ThankTheFans House brings this to life by providing an environment where visitors can explore their passion for music and have access to purchase rare and unique vinyl. Vinyl has seen a significant resurgence over the past few years and it was the perfect way to showcase how a ‘new school’ technology like Masterpass can now provide consumers access into the ‘old school’ pursuit of collecting vinyl.

Is the purchase-to-participation program something you’ve previously tested?

We do hope the #ThankTheFans campaign drives awareness for and adoption of Masterpass. Through it, we will be able to demonstrate the simplicity Masterpass provides users for everyday purchases but also highlight the experiential access it can open doors to—like attending the Grammy Awards themselves. You have a highly engaged audience during the Grammys that is actively seeking a way to participate in the excitement of the evening, and with #ThankTheFans and Masterpass, we are providing that opportunity.

Is it essentially designed to drive adoption of Masterpass?

Consumers also value the relationship they have with their bank, and with this insight, the go-to-market strategy for Masterpass is to deliver a simple secure payment option that’s seamlessly integrated with our issuer partners. This allows them to provide the utility of Masterpass in conjunction with other benefits they offer, like account balances, purchase history and more. It’s about taking the utility and familiarity of the plastic card in your wallet and bringing it into the digital sphere because that’s how consumers today are increasingly preferring to pay.

What is the Masterpass strategy on communicating with digital-first consumers? How do you reach them?

Masterpass is a digital solution, so it’s inherent in the platform to look to digital as an opportunity to engage with consumers. But there are several important things to remember. You need to communicate like a friend. The consumer needs to think that that message is made exclusively for them, and not for the masses. You need to customize. Consumers don’t want to look or feel like everybody else. They want a unique experience. You need digital so consumers can pay however they want; the journey needs to be frictionless and seamless. You need social buzz around your brand that no marketing agency, that no media company can replicate. The power of the consumer voice is stronger than multi-millions of dollars in a marketing contract. You need to provide something safe and secure. MasterCard brings safety and security to our partners in a way that allows for the personal, the custom, the digital and the social to exist. For us, that is paramount.


What is the integrated social media strategy for #ThankTheFans? What platforms do you plan on testing?

#ThankTheFans is inherently social. Social is a platform for dedicated music fans to connect more efficiently and deeply with artists as well as a tool to show their devotion in ways big and small. It’s the home of fan armies, the hub of participation during awards shows and the platform for endless exchange of artist news and information among fans. Social is the perfect place to target and reward the unsung heroes of Grammys night—the fans. #ThankTheFans is a social ecosystem. Fans engage most heavily on Twitter during The Grammys. Eighty-one percent of Twitter users are on the platform while watching award shows, so this will be our primary channel of focus. Secondarily, we will use Facebook for its immersive storytelling and leverage and its scale. We’ll use Instagram stories as a way to connect influencers with Masterpass signups. We’ll also use Snapchat as an influencer tool for its intimate storytelling capabilities and personal point of view. We’ll drive excitement ahead of The Grammys by leveraging Facebook and Twitter video to communicate the program through superfan outtakes, like fan devotion moments. With Twitter’s alarm clock-like feature called Retweet for Reminder, we’ll get fans closer to prizes on Grammy’s night by encouraging them to sign up for Masterpass using Facebook Canvas. And finally, we’ll tweet directly at fans incentivizing them with bonus offers if they can get their favorite artists to #ThankTheFans.

On the ground, we’ll be inviting local fans in Los Angeles to our #ThankTheFans House. There, fans can meet MasterCard’s own devoted influencer fans who will be using Snapchat Stories and Instagram Live to share their experiences. Additionally, anyone that Snapchats inside the house will receive a unique Snapchat geofilter to add to the content they are creating. During the Grammys, fans should look out for a tweet unlocking nine deals—one will be unlocked as each acceptance speech begins. If an artist thanks the fans, MasterCard will release additional bonus offers.

What else can fans expect?

We have two messaging goals with our social program. First is awareness of the program, and explaining how it works and get fans excited about the exclusive prizes they can buy for just $1 on Grammys night. The second is sharing and showcasing #ThankTheFan stories with human stories and content that remind loyal fans that it is their own devotion that has given artists the success they enjoy today.

Tom Petty

Is cause marketing a trend marketers should be zeroing in on?

We absolutely believe so. First, MasterCard as an organization is one that believes in doing well by doing good. In this sense it’s about leveraging our technology and expertise to bring products and services into the world that will enable new consumers and new markets to more broadly participate in the world’s connected economy—this is not philanthropic, per se, and more about leveraging our tech for good, while still growing the bottom line. This is an important point to understand as it speaks to the essence of who we are as a company. For everyday consumers, I already mentioned the way how interactions and transactions have changed. Where and how people spend their time is up to them, and thanks to digital technologies and social platforms they literally have the power to make or break a brand at their fingertips. That said, we know today that consumers value brands, retailers and even employers that believe in and enable giving—and so much so that they would switch brands to one associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality. These insights, coupled with the numerous studies that show that giving money to others and to charity makes people happier than spending on themselves, are the underpinning of our Priceless Causes platform, where we use our technology to make it easy for consumers to contribute to some of their favorite causes while doing everyday things. This enables fundraising for the cause while also driving our business objectives.

In the US, a great example is our work with Stand Up to Cancer. We hold an annual campaign every summer, whereby just by using your MasterCard when dining out we contribute a small portion to Stand Up. To date we have raised over $35 million for cancer research. It’s an effort that both we and our cardholders feel very good about. This point is confirmed as we can see how our brand moves to the top of their wallet and for ongoing usage.

For our Grammys #ThankTheFans campaign, we have integrated our Priceless Causes concept. Masterpass users will have the exclusive opportunity to purchase hard-to-find vinyl for just $10 at our experiential record until Saturday, and all proceeds from the record sales will be donated to MusiCares. #ThankTheFans continues on music’s biggest night on Sunday—when Masterpass will unlock special offers for $1. Every time an award is presented during the broadcast, consumers can Masterpass $1 and receive special offers such as movie tickets, designer fashions or even a trip to next year’s Grammys. Again, the proceeds from this campaign will be donated to MusiCares. Again, it’s about creating experiences consumers will value, and that emotional connection point of using a brand or product that people feel good about and allows them to easily give back.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan