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A successful brand campaign: Priceless

Building a brand

The head of worldwide marketing for Mastercard gives his view on why the Priceless campaign has resonated so strongly with customers.

The first MasterCard Priceless ad ran during the 1997 World Series: "Two tickets: $28. Two hot dogs, two popcorns, two sodas: $18. One autographed baseball: $45. Real conversation with your 11 year old son: Priceless." The campaign that was so successful that it helped MasterCard move from a distant second to near parity with Visa.

The question is why. Like any successful brand-building effort, the Priceless ads touch on a fundamental human truth, which is that some things in life simply are priceless. From the start, the campaign has respected—and reflected—peoples’ priorities in life. When you base your brand strategy on a very core human truth, it will always evoke emotion.

The second thing that has made the campaign so successful is that the concept translates globally. It is the most translated campaign in corporate history, having appeared in over 130 markets. It’s been running for nearly two decades now, and regardless of the language, the notion that the things that really matter are priceless appears to be a near-universal truth.

"Like any successful brand-building effort, the ads touch on a fundamental human truth."

- Milos Vranesevic, head of marketing at MasterCard Worldwide


The third reason for the campaign’s success is that there is just so much creative territory to work with, which has allowed us to leverage creative content from around the world: we’ve picked up creative for North America from Asian markets, and from Australia. You can do that when you’re working with a global human truth. 

While the campaign has maintained consistent messaging, the delivery has evolved with the times. With the advancement of digital and social marketing, our stance has shifted from observing priceless moments to enabling priceless moments. The Priceless Cities program is an example of this. We’re celebrating some of the world’s greatest cities and what they have to offer – not just for our cardholders, but for consumers in general. It’s about curating experiences for people via exclusive partnerships with companies like Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the PGA Tour and Mario Batali’s Eataly in New York City.

We made the shift in part because the landscape had shifted so much. Marketing has become much more dynamic than ever before. It’s no longer just about print ads and limited forums for feedback. As a result, a lot of brands are moving into the experiential space. Of course, there are a number of brands that have done this well, such NikeAdidas and other athletic brands.

Enabling priceless moments allows us to get even closer to the consumer and have a dialogue with them. Our social media team and our public relations group have done a great job of helping build those channels of communications with our cardholders, and it’s starting to reach more deeply into our overall marketing strategy.

- Milos Vranesevic is Head of Marketing at MasterCard Worldwide, Canada, based in Toronto.  Prior to joining MasterCard in 2008, he oversaw brand marketing for the AIR MILES Reward Program.

Read the full article in Rotman Management magazine.

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