Mastercard’s Priceless, an experiential program which was first launched in New York in the year 2011 and was recently launched for the South Asian countries.
The program aims to connect consumers’ passions to unique experiences, privileged access and attractive offers and is designed to bring consumers closer to their passions — dining, sports, shopping, arts and entertainment, and travel — through experiences and exclusive access in more than 40 destinations.
Medianews4u spoke to Manasi Narasimhan, Vice President and Head Marketing & Communications, South Asia, Mastercard about the initiative and much more.
What is Priceless? Could you give us a brief understanding of how it is helping brand Mastercard?
There are certain experiences that money cannot buy and Mastercard truly believes that. With a Mastercard credit card, consumers can book enticing offers and life experiences through the Priceless program. This change in strategy has been driven by a simple thought to make the brand synonymous with ‘Priceless’. There are enough resources worldwide to show that the consumers value great experiences and time pursuing their passion.
‘Priceless Cities’, our global platform that celebrates the best of what cities around the world have to offer, is our program under this ‘Priceless’ tag. Priceless Cities that began in 2011 in New York, is present in over 40 cities worldwide, and for the very first time is being opened up in South Asia with the launch of Priceless Sri Lanka.
In order to deliver ‘once in a lifetime’ moments across multiple passions, destinations, and the world’s most iconic properties, we are curating personalized experiences across culture, wildlife, food, adventure sports and fashion based on the passion points of Mastercard cardholders.
Since its launching in the South Asian market, what have been some of the learnings that have helped you customize the offering for the SA market?
We have done research in the past to find out the passion points of the consumers. Globally we have identified 10 areas of passion points that people care about.
We are trying to identify what kind of passion points work most in India and we will get deeper into each of them, the identified points in India would be Cricket, Bollywood, music and travel. With this context, we have seen that travelers appreciate more experiential vacations. They would like to explore undiscovered places and experiences, and this insight has helped us customize ‘once in a lifetime experiences’ for Mastercard cardholders in South Asia.
Some of the consumers are driven by culture & heritage, wildlife, adventures etc. South Asia has all these experiences to offer like spotting leopards in their natural habitat with a trip to Yala National Park. The adventure begins with breakfast at the lodge, a ranger-led lesson in leopard identification and tracking, and two game drives. A guided tour of Sri Lanka’s ancient cities and fortresses with Stefan D’Silva (wildlife photographer and author),channelling the thrills and excitement of being a racecar driver with a private kart ride at Sri Lanka Karting Circuit. A tour of the Dunkeld Tea Factory and learning the origin of Ceylon tea are a few experiences that we have specially curated for Mastercard cardholders travelling there.
How will Priceless Cities benefit South Asian audiences?
Tourism is a vital part of the global economy and Priceless Cities is a global platform. It will open-up Sri Lanka as a destination for Mastercard cardholders everywhere in the world. A lot of people don’t know about Sri Lanka and what it offers. This will generate a lot of interest in Sri Lanka as a destination and showcase the variety available here.
Over time that will start physically driving traffic into the country. Initially, we expect interest from Asia like India, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. This is just the start, and as we go along, we hope to partner with the Tourism Board and our service partners and keep creating more and more experiences. It’s a win-win partnership overall and opens-up the continent for seamless travel and luxury experiences.
What are the marketing plans for Priceless?
Given the fact that personalized and curated experiences are what we are banking on through the introduction of this program in South Asia, digital content tie-ups and influencer engagements are going to be our key strategy.
In fact, we are not looking at traditional advertising for this campaign at all. For this programme specifically, we are not only looking at influencers with reach, but also the ones who curate and create quality content. Banks also play a major role in our sector, so we want banks across the world to recognize the value these experiences provide to high-end cardholders.
On the face of it, this looks like a pure B2C offering, how are you going to market Priceless as a B2B offering?
Priceless is not a B2C offering, but rather a B2B2C offering as Mastercard reaches out to its consumers through partner banks. We would check whether the banks are keen to be a partner with us. In our business, most of them have a strong connect with the consumer and work closely with them which help us a lot in curating the priceless offerings. The issuer banks are happy to work with us.
What are the key challenges with the Fin-tech space in the South Asian market?
While the South Asian region has seen rapid growth in the fintech sector over the last decade, financial inclusion is now a key concern for all of South Asia. Internet penetration is high, but the digitization of financial services does not seem to have really picked up the pace.
According to Cento’s fourth-quarter 2018 report, Southeast Asia is the fastest-growing digital economy, although less than 2 percent of the economy is digitized. This creates a challenge for the fintech players, as they cannot hope to scale up without the right public infrastructure. Along with taking steps towards building cashless societies, governments in countries like Malaysia and India have introduced measures by way of regulatory sandboxes, interoperability, and strong authentication amongst other things to propel innovation in the fintech space. So, if one looks at it, there are more opportunities than challenges in the South Asian market for fintechs.
However, we are driving initiatives such as ‘Team Cashless India’ to accelerate the acceptance and adoption of digital payments in Tier 2 Tier 3 cities by educating merchants and creating awareness about convenience, safety and security of digital payments.
The digital transformation will happen when merchants, consumers, acquirers, and fintech companies come together to expand the acceptance infrastructure in the country. We are working with partner banks and PayFacs to drive the adoption of low-cost acceptance solutions. The Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth is developing innovative ways to connect people to the networks and resources that enable them to thrive and prosper.