Raja Rajamannar: Brands aren’t giving consumers what they want. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/FRANCOIS G DURAND
Raja Rajamannar: Brands aren’t giving consumers what they want. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/FRANCOIS G DURAND

Consumers no longer want "stupid stories and ads" that brands continue to produce, but a seamless, meaningful and uninterrupted experience. Few, though, are providing this.

That’s the blunt view of the current state of global marketing from Raja Rajamannar, the chief marketing & communications officer of MasterCard, speaking on the side-lines of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which has just wrapped up in the south of France.

The marketing fraternity needs to start embracing more aggressively what Rajamannar calls "real time hyper-targeted engagement", where once-in-a-lifetime unexpected experiences are created. "Brands need to understand that to be successful they are now just behind-the-scenes enablers of an experience."

Rajamannar says that at the end of the fourth quarter of 2016 there were about 198m active users of AdBlock (an online content filtering and ad-blocking extension), and by the first quarter of 2017 that went up to 225m.

"These are the people who are saying: ‘I don’t want your stupid ads, I don’t want your stories, and I want uninterrupted experiences’." Explaining how it’s done, he used the example of singer Robbie Williams meeting a fan. The brand experience was designed around the fan’s family, who all went to watch a movie, only to have Williams himself appear on stage and address the
fan by name.

"When you looked at the expressions and emotions of that person it resonated, and the MasterCard brand was not spoken about in an intrusive manner."

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity brings together professionals working in the creative space. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/FRANCOIS G DURAND
The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity brings together professionals working in the creative space. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/FRANCOIS G DURAND

Diana O’Brien, who heads marketing for Deloitte worldwide, believes the C-suite has lost control of brand management because there are so many media outlets and touch points. "You simply can’t manage and project a brand image 24/7 anymore. Brands need to think about creating world-class experiences and also have the courage to let things go that have made the brand successful in the past. If a brand gives itself a sense of freedom to do things differently it will develop a growth mind-set."

Marc Mathieu, head of global marketing for Samsung, believes customers themselves have become the story.

"They are, and should be, the best advocates for a brand because people are generally more interested to hear what other people have to say. It is disruptive for the creative process but brands have to accept that the ecosystem of traditional marketing has been disrupted," he says.

O’Brien says measurement of marketing success in this new paradigm is predicated on all parts of an organisation seeing value and making sure there are "new deals, bigger deals and retreaded deals" at the end of the process. Marketing, he says, needs to be hardwired into the DNA of an organisation.

Rajamannar cautions about brands’ over-measuring outcomes, given the "deluge of data" available to them.

"It’s about being conscious of what you are trying to achieve and using relevant data to achieve it."

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