Nikki Wicks
Jun 26, 2015

How MasterCard combines emotion and analytics to drive ecommerce

ASIA-PACIFIC - MasterCard's Sam Ahmed gave Campaign a breakdown of his company's digital and ecommerce infrastructure and explained how marketing has moved to the centre of the business.

Sam Ahmed: marketing has to be all about business
Sam Ahmed: marketing has to be all about business
“How do we as marketing drive business and drive e-commerce transactions? That has been the critical ethos of this project,” says Sam Ahmed, SVP head of marketing at MasterCard Asia-Pacific.

The project he’s referring to is MasterCard’s ‘Digital and E-commerce Engine.’ Launched in 2014, the company now has its first results from the initial campaigns using its new social media and digital monitor tool. But before we dive into the statistics, Ahmed wants to set one thing straight. “I've got to be really clear: this is not about advertising. This is not digital advertising; this is digital business.”

With the arguement that marketing and business don’t quite understand each other continuing to rumble on, Ahmed believes MasterCard’s engine has made significant progress in bridging the gap. 

Originally called the ‘Priceless Engine’, MasterCard has since renamed it to better emphasise its place in ecommerce. The concept for the engine evolved from a desire to use the mass of data available to MasterCard through digital channels more intelligently and effectively than it had been in the past, with an ambition to providing more relevant, timely offers to consumers.

The vision is critical, explains Ahmed, and it's fairly simple. “Provide the right consumer with the right content, the right offer, at the right time.”

Pointing to some of the flaws the current model of marketing and e-commerice, Ahmed says: “Typically what's happening is you're going away on holiday to Bali and a week later you're getting an offer to Bali.

“We're still advertising and it’s not great at driving transactions. What we wanted to do at MasterCard is really be the leading player in this ecom digital world. Everything that we do is focused on the transaction.”

One of the first key activations for MasterCard’s engine came last year in Hong Kong during Mother’s Day—a time of year when lots of people are spending money and buying gifts. Rather than launching a ‘buy a gift for your mum and get 20 per cent off’ campaign, which is “how ecom marketing is happening at the moment,” Ahmed says, MasterCard tapped into its social listening tools and found that many people in Hong Kong were talking about gratitude for their parents.

So MasterCard created an emotional video around Mother's Day that aimed to engage consumers. The video had no mention of deals or discounts, but at the end viewers could be directed to a Hong Kong gifting site, which carried all of MasterCard’s Mother’s Day offers. The results? MasterCard gained over 618,000 video views and drove more than 300,000 people to purchase online in Hong Kong over the period.

But critical to all of this, Ahmed says, is not only the technology of the digital ecommerce engine, but the emotional engagement with consumers.

“We have a saying internally that’s we're putting the ‘E’ back into e-commerce. And that ‘E’ is emotion, because ecommerce, if you look at it from a marketing perspective, is still very dry. It’s 10 per cent off; buy one get one free; it's just very numbers driven.”

In another case study for a regional New Year's Eve campaign, featuring movie star Hugh Jackman, MasterCard again tapped into emotion, this time focussing on the connection of consumers and mentorship, to offer a ‘Priceless Surprise’ (see full case study below).

Run across six markets in Asia-Pacific, the results of the six-week campaign were equally impressive. In total, with three campaigns across the region, MasterCard claims it has reached 152 million consumers across six markets, serving 1.7 billion ads. The company says that tradionally, this would have cost US$17.5 million, “however the shareability of our content allowed us to reach these numbers by spending only $3.8 million.”

With four more major campaigns planned in the next 12 months and with plans to roll out the project in other markets, MasterCard’s engine is showing no signs of slowing down. Ahmed is clearly excited to be behind the wheel of the company’s latest innovation. He believes it’s formed a much-sought-after bridge between the marketing and business. “Marketing—instead of just taking care of the brand—is really taking care of the brand, but driving business at the same time,” he says.

Case Study:  New Year’s Eve – Hugh Jackman Mentor Reunion

Markets: India, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia. China, Singapore

Execution: MasterCard identified that the holiday season is a time for reflection on the people who mean the most to you, and who have made you who you are. As an emotional spark to connect with consumers, MasterCard created a Priceless Surprise for Hugh Jackman’s (MasterCard’s regional ambassador) mentor with an emotional reunion and a new scholarship in his name to help future students who want to pursue acting. MasterCard then invited consumers to share stories of loved ones they would like to reunite with, for a chance to win a priceless reunion.

Results: In 39 days (28 Nov 2014 – 5 Jan 2015 ) MasterCard achieved the following:

Reach: 267 million consumers in the six campaign markets

Brand awareness: 65 per cent increase driven among Facebook and Weibo

Traffic to merchants: 3 million qualified leads driven to merchant partners

Sales lift: 200 per cent sales lift across 242 offer posts for 39 merchants

Merchant volume: $42 million during campaign period


For a more in-depth look at MasterCard's Digital and E-commerce Engine, check out the next issue of Campaign Asia-Pacific magazine. 

This article is part of the Campaign Innovate series, a collection of articles that examine the way innovation, startups and technology are affecting the advertising and marketing industry.

Campaign Asia-Pacific has also launched the Campaign Innovate competition, an event that aims to provide a platform for Asia-Pacific's startups to pitch to some of the world's biggest brands. 

Sam Ahmed will also be speaking at the Marketing Innovation Summit Asia that will take place in Singapore, in November this year. 


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