Faaez Samadi
Jul 20, 2016

Access to opportunity: PayPal's optimistic APAC marketing strategy

Leanne Sheraton, PayPal's APAC marketing head, explains the brand's 'New money' marketing strategy and how it varies to reflect the realities of the region's diverse markets.

Leanne Sheraton
Leanne Sheraton

Moving to Singapore from Australia to become PayPal’s vice president of APAC marketing was a no-brainer for Leanne Sheraton.

As a marketer whose career has focused on joining brands that are at the tipping point of change driven by technology and innovation, the opportunity to lead marketing strategy in such a rapidly developing APAC technology market was too good to miss.

“Australia is a very developed e-commerce market; it’s the most highly penetrated e-commerce market in the world and PayPal is the number one payments brand, so it’s a very strong position,” she told Campaign Asia-Pacific. “But the thing that excites me about APAC is the diversity of the region, the growth being experienced. This is where new consumers are going to come from, new business models, and if you think about our ‘new money’ campaign, it’s really about inspiring the possibilities of this new global economy.”

PayPal’s research makes for intriguing reading. By 2030, 60 percent of the world’s middle-class will be living in APAC, a huge shift from today’s demographics. The number of smartphone users will break 2 billion in APAC by 2020, over double what it was in 2014.

As such, Sheraton said PayPal estimates that 55 percent of the brand’s cross-border e-commerce will come out of APAC by 2021. This outlook of optimism, access and growing wealth in the region, Sheraton said, has created the “perfect storm” for PayPal to tap into with its ‘new money’ campaign.

“It’s about inspiring people about these new possibilities, but communicating that PayPal has their backs in doing this in a safe, secure and protected way,” she explained.

Local activations have taken different shapes in different markets, with PayPal enlisting the services of various agencies such as creative shops Isobar, Digital Matrix and Tonic, Edelman and Tate Anzur for PR, and iProspect for media.

More broadly, the company is seeking to engage consumers and businesses through its overarching services in APAC.

These include buyer and seller protection, and free return shipping for consumers. Seller protection has also been extended to intangibles so people can safely sell services—a huge step forward for APAC’s burgeoning digital economy, Sheraton said, thanks to its role in supporting freelancers.

“Freelancers are 20 percent of the workforce in India, so we’ve developed unique strategies that enable them to grow their business and reach a global audience,” Sheraton says.

“If you think about this new global economy, freelancers absolutely epitomise it. I think it’s one of the most exciting things about Southeast Asia and India within the APAC region.”

Unsurprisingly, then, PayPal’s marketing activation in India has been focused on showcasing freelancers’ stories. But this also feeds into the wider core target of ‘new money’: cross-border transactions, be it shopping or selling.


  • 2011 Paypal: Vice president, APAC marketing (current title)
  • 2007 a-Ha! Marketing: Director
  • 2004 Qantas: General manager, marketing and business development
  • 2000 Yahoo: Marketing and sales director
  • 1992 Nestle: Group category development manager, confectionary

Competition in the APAC payments sector has intensified over the past few years, and Sheraton knows it is the explosion in cross-border transactions that has led to it. Positioning PayPal effectively in the region is extremely important, hence the ‘new money’ campaign’s focus on optimism, opportunity and security.

“The execution we came up with was ‘new money = no borders’,” she explained. “This campaign really taps into the mindset of millennials. You’ve got people who never had access to this global connectivity before—now one in three millennials in Asia are shopping cross-border. They’re really excited about access and opportunity, and a lot of them are also buyers and sellers.”

The main bulk of the marketing strategy is digital, with a strong social-led activation in Singapore using influencers and targeting what Sheraton calls the “family movers” audience.

In China, young families are the biggest cross-border consumers, particularly mothers buying for babies. So PayPal has deployed digital storytelling campaigns and lots of video to illustrate its ease and, most importantly in China, its safety.

It’s not just all for consumers. Sheraton said ‘new money’ has helped numerous businesses get access to the global economy. The freelancers of India are just one example. In China, sellers are a big chunk of PayPal’s business, and merchants are engaging with the company’s access and security message to reach more consumers overseas, especially in the UK and US.

“That’s leveraged through our own digital assets and some paid digital assets as well,” Sheraton said.

“In Asia, it’s not just about producing a banner ad. The storytelling videos we’re doing in China and the activation with influencers in Singapore, creating freelancer communities in India—it’s really about that one-to-one engagement in the marketing dollars we’re spending.”

Judicious use of data is also key to PayPal’s marketing strategy, Sheraton said, and is something all marketers must now be capable of. Being able to leverage data, and understand what decisions you’re going to make as a result, are critical skills.

“Really it’s about the right message for the right customer, at the right time, in the right way," she said. "That’s very easy to say, but difficult to execute. So for us its continually talking to customers, analysing our proprietary data, leveraging industry data, and putting notes together on what a customer needs and how we talk to them.”

With ‘new money’ ploughing ahead at full steam, and more business coming PayPal’s way across APAC with as more people join the new digital economy, Sheraton’s glass is very much half full.

“For PayPal, all eyes really are on APAC, with that movement of the future middle class, and the growth in mobile that is enabling financial and digital connectivity for the first time," she said. "It’s creating enormous growth opportunities.” 

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