We’re exploring formats like podcasts & blogger outreach to amplify our messaging during IPL: Manasi Narasimhan, Mastercard

Manasi Narasimhan, VP, Marketing & Communications, South Asia, Mastercard

Manasi Narasimhan, Mastercard sheds light on the impact of the pandemic on the brand and how digital has helped them enhance brand salience and connect with the audience during challenging times.

Manasi Narasimhan, VP, Marketing & Communications, South Asia, Mastercard, shares how digital media paved the way for communication and engagement during the difficult days of COVID-19. She further throws light on the brand’s marketing plans this festive season, especially in the background of increased digital payment and awareness.

Edited Excerpts

What is the insight & rationale behind the latest initiative of the brand? The idea behind roping in MS Dhoni as the brand ambassador?

Our recent campaign #ThankYouVyapaariyo led by MS Dhoni was developed to especially thank small merchants and an extension of Team Cashless India. This campaign was in alignment with our strategic goal of enabling merchants with digital payments acceptance infrastructure and financial literacy by the end of 2020.

The idea behind roping in MS Dhoni is his representation of a progressive ‘Bharat’.  Having been brought up in a small town, he could relate to the challenges due to the lack of digital infrastructure.

How did you tweak your marketing strategy to meet the needs of the consumers during the pandemic? How has social media been helpful in engaging with your consumers?

Our marketing strategy can be broadly split into two parts.

Firstly, we believe that tier 2 and 3 cities will lead the next wave of digital payments adoption in India.

Our key focus is on driving acceptance and last-mile visibility to unlock the potential for digital payments in such markets. Apart from this, we are exploring snackable content like listicles, videos, and webinars. We are also organizing regional media roundtables and local collaborations with policymakers & more.

Secondly, we are evolving from a B2B brand to a lifestyle brand. In fact, we have identified 10 areas of passion points that people care about and we are trying to identify what kind of passion points work most in India and we will get deeper into each of them. Cricket, Bollywood, and music would be the three identified points in India.

Lastly, our research in more than 26 countries showed that 80% of people recognized the brand without the name but just the logo. That gave us the confidence in removing the logo. In another step towards deepening trust around digital payments in India, Mastercard embedded its sonic brand melody into Android-based point-of-sale (PoS) devices.

With the festivals here, what will be the festive marketing strategy like?

With the festive season coming up, the platform aims to drive relevant, contextual, automated, near real-time offer communications to the end-users, and leverages all digital channels of the bank. It brings in way more efficiency to all marketing campaigns of the banks.

The entire process right from onboarding of merchants to offer delivery to end-user is digital, and that also optimizes and creates significant efficiencies to the marketing spends of the banks and merchants.  It is important to note that it does not require any personal information to be shared by the bank, and the entire analysis is done with – non-personally identifiable information data.

What is the insight behind your association with IPL 2020? What does the overall marketing plan for the season look like?

IPL is an exciting format and it delivers edge-of-the-seat entertainment almost through the match. Mastercard’s approach this year will be to associate with ‘Priceless moments’ during the tournament.

Leveraging these moments which resonates with our brand proposition of ‘Kyoon Ki Kuch Kushiyan hai Priceless’ will be the mainstay of the campaign. We want to ensure we build confidence amongst our consumers to use contactless cards.

With IPL followed by Diwali this year, we will see a significant increase in gifting due to the ongoing pandemic. Online shopping will be a good tool for consumers to be safe and at the same celebrate the festivities.

While TV and digital have been the mainstay of our campaign, we are also exploring other formats like podcasts, bloggers, partnerships with issuers, and merchants to amplify our messaging and offering during IPL.  

Also read: In current situation it is important for brands to improve their NP Score: Gulbahar Taurani, Philips India

In terms of ad spends, what does your marketing plan for this quarter look like? Please take us through your media mix.

Our focus continues to be Digital & TV. With any campaign that we undertake, the objective is always to first create awareness, comprehension, and then behavioral change. Television has the best track record of behavior change, of salience, and brand recall. Digital is also something that is part of the mix especially seeing its growth and reach during the lockdown.

We are also open to using influencers to spread our message. I always say that the media mix really depends on the objective. We are open to anything as long as it works for the audience, works for our message, and delivers ROI.

To cite an example, recently for the HDFC millennia card, we collaborated with millennial icons to cater to the audience. Additionally, we also identified influencers based on their passion points who conveyed how the card has been an enabler to follow their passion. This ended up resulting in a higher engagement rate, above the benchmark.

What is the impact of COVID-19 on the BFSI industry? The top 3 challenges mitigated by the brand during this time.

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic forces consumers to opt for digital payments, there has been a rapid rise in cybercrimes. On average we experience 200 fraud attempts per minute.

To ensure secured contactless payments, Mastercard has been using AI-driven tools and an advanced network-level fraud defense layer which focuses on warding off any large scale fraud attacks on the network and is equipped with sophisticated ML tools to ensure secured transactions.

Secondly, to solve a pain point that banks currently grapple with – sending multiple communications to cardholders for offers and benefits.

We, recently partnered with Goals101, for their platform ‘Alpha’. This enables merchants to reach out to specific consumers who they want to target without cannibalizing their existing user base. For such targeted consumers, merchants are willing to give their best offers, and that results in significant uptake of offers.

Additionally, we have also undertaken various initiatives to engage with our consumers. For us collaboration is key, and we are working closely with all our stakeholders including banks and merchants to promote the safety of using cards to shop online.

Also, we intend to relentlessly work towards merchant and consumer education to start their digital onboarding. We are also assisting small businesses to offer them free tools that will help them better track and manage expenses and help them digitize which will be a requirement in the new normal.

What have been the top consumer trends observed during these times?

Companies today are converting their customer’s journey from physical channels to end to end contactless operations and this is one trend that I see picking up. In fact, a report by local circles mentions that 42% of Indians have increased digital payments during the lockdown, bringing a lot of first-time users, who were not tech-savvy, closer to the digital payment’s ecosystem. Furthermore, retailers are also adapting techniques that will upend the way people shop and prefer contactless methods of payment.

According to recent research conducted by Mastercard, as COVID-19 alters our daily lives, consumers in India and across the APAC are rapidly going digital with purchases of everything from groceries to movies in a shift that looks set to become a permanent habit after the pandemic passes.

Shopping in India has also shifted to online as 86% of people feel that hygiene concerns are here to stay.

Some other interesting insights for India include a rapid shift in preferences towards e-commerce as the data shows that 49% of Indians are planning to make more purchases online and at the same time, 77% consumers in India believe the shift to contactless payments is here to stay.

Today, we are witnessing the highest standards for the safety and security of digital payments.

Top 3 marketing tips for the brands in the sector industry to deal with a crisis situation?

A consistent communication with a humane approach is the need of the hour. Customers can see through opportunistic communication that only seeks to sell.

During these times, every action you take could be good or detrimental to your brand. However, by using empathy to craft an informative social media campaign or internal communication campaign, you could reach your audience in an authentic way and build trust.

Secondly, one needs to always be vigilant about protecting their brand reputation and more so during times of crisis. While everyone is adjusting to the new normal there are many risks that can arise. This includes brand reputation risks, brand safety risks, privacy risk, cybersecurity risks, financial risk, all within the context of marketing.

I also feel that intelligent brands will realize that they need to activate their purpose now. If brands start communicating authentically, they will be perceived as trustworthy and this will help them gain in the long term. Consumers will have less patience for brands that are looking for immediate gains. Brands that understand their customers in a crisis and stand by them will significantly increase affinity for themselves.

Lastly, educating customers through social media campaigns and leveraging various celebrities and influencers definitely helps in reaching a wider audience.