PSFK visited Mastercard's new NYC restaurant and spoke to the brand's CMO about cultivating accessible brand loyalty for over-saturated consumers through immersive experiences

In Brief:

  • Mastercard's Priceless is a consumer loyalty program that offers unforgettable experiences and food to its customers. Most recently, this has activated as PRICELESS, a multicultural restaurant experience in NYC, open to the brand's cardholders.
  • With its ongoing program, Mastercard is democratizing exclusivity by giving its customers unique perks, but doing so with a low bar of entry—all Mastercard customers have the ability to visit PRICELESS.
  • PSFK sat down with Raja Rajamannar, the brand's chief marketing and communications officer, to find out more about the much-hyped program's role in Mastercard's greater strategy, rethinking loyalty in a climate of consumer ad-saturation, and instead focusing on connecting with customers' passions through immersive experiences.

How does the launch of PRICELESS fit into Mastercard's bigger vision?

Today’s consumers are bombarded with thousands of brand messages every day, and they are responding by deploying ad blockers and signing up for ad-free subscriptions. This—along with our shortened attention spans—is telling us to rethink the traditional advertising models. At Mastercard, we have been focused on story-making over storytelling. We’ve been steadily building our playbook and testing against traditional advertising methods, and today experiential marketing dominates our marketing spend.

To be a meaningful brand in people’s lives, we need to connect with them on things that matter to them. We are doing this by focusing on the things that they enjoy—we call them passions—like music, sports and food, with the goal of creating such amazing, unique experiences that then move them to share our story and organically become our brand ambassadors. The response from consumers has been very positive and encouraging—we know we are on the right path and will continue to explore and push the boundaries on how we can bring the essence of Priceless to life across every major consumer passion.

Beyond a payments solution, what role do you see Mastercard playing in customers' lives?

Our role is to enable consumers to connect with their passion points in a meaningful way. We know they are caught up in a world that is rapidly changing when it comes to digital technology. We know their attention spans are shortened. And we know we need to create unparalleled experiences for them in order to retain their attention and drive top-of-wallet behavior.

And we’re doing this two important ways. The first is immersion; consumers are gravitating like there is no tomorrow toward immersive experiences. The second is interactivity; we’re interacting with our cardholders in new, unexpected ways, like PRICELESS, that allow us to tap into their passions and simultaneously weave in our brand.

At PRICELESS, for example, a sonic branding concept featuring custom tracks captures the essence of each signature location, including the sound of Chef Watanabe’s sword blades, the Indian Ocean’s tide rising and falling at The Rock and the ice cubes dropping in the highball glass at Lyaness, while weaving in the Mastercard sonic identity.

How do you see experiences like PRICELESS driving emotional connection and loyalty?

With close to 2 billion Mastercard cardholders globally, we have long tapped into consumers’ culinary passions by creating one-of-a-kind experiences intended to indulge the senses and, in turn, drive emotional connection and loyalty to the brand. Over the past five years, we have held hundreds of exclusive Priceless Table meals for cardholders in landmark locations worldwide, including on top of a billboard in Times Square, in the American Museum of Natural History, at Christ the Redeemer in Rio, and atop Palazzo Beltrami in Milan.

Recently, we opened Bistro by Mastercard, a place for more discerning travelers to have a sit-down meal at Rome’s Fiumicino airport. These are the types of experiences that allow cardholders to connect with their passions, with the people they care about and, ultimately, with our brand.