Cannes Interview Corner: Mastercard’s Raja Rajamannar

Cannes Interview Corner: Mastercard’s Raja Rajamannar

Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer at Mastercard, will be speaking at the Brand Innovators Marketing Leadership Summit at Cannes next week. His session will take place on the Brand Innovators Beach Stage Monday morning. We caught up with him before we head to the Crossiette to discuss some of the big issues facing the advertising business today.

How are you thinking about AI going into Cannes?

Constantly! The fate of advertising is inextricably linked with that of AI. I believe it will be the biggest disruptor of traditional marketing. There is so much untapped potential with how we can use AI in marketing – from content creation to personalization and media buying, search and targeting – the list goes on.

Every year, Cannes Lions highlights best practices and inspires marketers to lean into areas they haven’t yet explored. I’m interested to see how brands are leaning into AI and how it will be revolutionizing our craft. 

How are you thinking about marketing to Gen Z?

Gen Z is all about heart. They are the first generation I’ve seen that so closely associates their personal identity with the brands, activities and entertainment they partake in. There is a direct link with how they spend their time and money to how they want the world to see them and how they view themselves.

Marketers need to take note of this and understand that how we communicate and connect with Gen Z should be aligned with their values. On the other hand, Gen Z grew up with social media, with technology in their hands and an unlimited number of digital resources at their fingertips. To cut through the clutter and reach these consumers, we need to communicate with them in a way that is personalized, direct and purposeful. The speed and precision of AI means that it will help us gather and digest real-time insights on what’s important to them and identify hyper-relevant messages and channels to engage with them.

How is the economy impacting your marketing strategy for the rest of the year?

No matter what’s thrown at us – whether a global pandemic or today’s economic uncertainty – it’s essential that we remember two things. First, it’s important that our marketing strategies and goals stay consistent as we focus on long-term brand value. Second, agility is essential as we assess and reassess our tactics for the current environment. That’s how we can deliver short-term impact.

As marketers and corporate citizens, it’s important we make our dollar stretch and work harder for us. I partner closely with our finance team to prioritize investments that accelerate business growth, which allows us to reach our joint goals. 

How are you thinking about sustainability this year?

Conscious consumers have created a demanding marketplace where brand trust is critical to business success. To earn and keep that trust, we must be mindful of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. That includes our work to build a more equitable, resilient and sustainable world.

Several years ago, we launched the Priceless Planet Coalition, which brings together private and public partners with the shared goal of restoring 100 million trees by 2025. And more recently, we announced our plan to remove first-use PVC plastic from payments cards on our network by 2028. Within our marketing efforts, we’re also looking at sustainability in our media buying and sponsorship activations.