A better approach is to be cautious with the data and collect what is absolutely necessary

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

Raja Rajamannar CMO Mastercard

A better approach is to be cautious with the data and collect what is absolutely necessary

Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of Mastercard tells us how he, as a decision maker is balancing social impact and profit, and why a cautious data approach to marketing makes sense. Edited excerpts:

Q. As a marketeer, what have been your hits and misses over the last couple of years?
In terms of the hits, we were fortunate to execute many initiatives. One amongst them was a card that we created for blind and partially sighted people. We call it as the Touch Card. This was a passion project for me. We launched this card in 28 countries around the world, and I feel extremely proud about it.

We launched another product called True Name card across more than 39 countries targeting the transgender and non-binary people. This was a big hit for us.

We also launched our first music album called Priceless featuring 10 songs by 10 artists from around the globe. So, in terms of the hits, it has been an exciting year with lots of tangible outcomes.

The misses were not many. We were keen to hire some external talent, and while we got some great people on board, we were unable to get all of them.

Q. It is great to know that you are focusing on social issues to build emotional connection with customers., and in a way impacting their lives. Milton Friedman famously said, “The business of business is business.” Do you think that by focusing on societal issues, there is a greater risk?
Ok, so I will be put it this way. Firstly, does it make business sense to focus on societal good. The answer is a big yes. And I am not being philosophical because I have numbers to prove it.

Research after research have found that more than 80% of the consumers have said that they would want brand/companies to do something good for the society, beyond just selling their products. Consumers are willing to pay a premium for a product to a brand who they believe does some social good. It is hard to ignore such findings. Everything else being equal, they would go for a brand that is socially conscious and socially committed. The millennials and the Gen Z are more socially conscious than baby boomers.

Also, you cannot be seen as doing only social good as you must generate value for the business and its stakeholders. From this perspective, one needs to connect the dots between a social impact or imperative project with the business objective and its outcome. If you can do this successfully, you can produce good results in both the areas.

Take the example of Touch Card that I shared earlier. This is a new plastic card has notch on its side. If you close your eyes and touch the card you can feel the notch. If the notch is to the right side just below the centre, it means you are holding the card in the right way. The orientation is perfect. The shape of the notch tells you what type of card you are using (credit, debit, or prepaid card).

This card is meant to service the visually impaired community. Does it do good to the business? We launched this card in 28 countries because of the demand. Unfortunately, there are 2 billion people in the world who are visually impaired. Here True Card would a great service to those people but at the same time it will generate revenue for the company.

Q. What does data mean to you and your business?
Data means a lot. It means a lot of good and lot of caution.

It is imperative that data needs to drive marketing today. No question about it.

If analysed well, data can provide the ability to get insights that can make a huge difference in terms of your strategy and how you can bring those strategies to life. Used well it can prove powerful for new product development, targeting the right set of audience or measuring the RoI for your marketing dollars.

The cautionary side is that consumers are already spooked. This is because they are being constantly tagged or followed. I as a consumer would not want to be tracked, so why would I as a marketeer track my customers. I can’t have separate measures here.

The question is how you use data without compromising either the privacy of the consumer or the security of the data pertaining to the consumers.

For example, I underwent a minor operation at a hospital a few years back. I received a note from this hospital which read, “We are sorry. We had a data breach and we have lost your social security number, your address, your date of birth, etc.” I was furious. What was the need for them to collect so much of information on me to carry out a simple procedure.

Don’t be data greedy. Take what is necessary. Secondly, if you cannot protect my data, you have no business to collect my data.

Collect data with explicit permission and understanding of the consumer. And take minimal data that is necessary to make your product/service offerings and protect this data with your life.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members