By nickjohnson - November 21st, 2013

MasterCard now brands itself as a "technology company and payments industry leader". Set up in 1966, the company is now one of the leading  payments services companies in the world.

Elaine Lawson is Vice-President of Digital Marketing at Mastercard, and recently contributed to the Incite Summit:East as a speaker - sharing insights on targeted communications, and real-time insight for responsive marketing.

We spent some time discussing marketing with Elaine - and covered the pace of change in the space; 'right time, right place' marketing; and understanding customers better through social engagement.

Can you give us some detail on your role and responsibilities?

I’m in the US Digital Marketing team here at MasterCard. I’m essentially responsible for all things digital, and social - for a number of the programs that we have out in the marketplace.

We work with different audiences: consumers, issuing banks and merchants.  Most of the programs I manage are targeted to consumers (in which we include small business). We also partner with some of our issuing banks and merchants to do programs with them - perhaps a bank wants to do a promotion with us to activate against their cardholders. In that case, we’ll provide turnkey materials, social content, emails, etc.

We also manage our US websites in terms of content updates, SEO, reporting/tracking, etc.

You've been at MasterCard for just over 6 years - a period of considerable upheaval, not least the maturation of social media as viable marketing channels. How has your role evolved in that time?

Social has really taken off. When I first started at MasterCard, we had no social channels. We launched them in 2010. So social has definitely played a very large role in a lot of the things we’re doing across a number of programs. There’s almost always social overlay on any marketing we do.

And of course, we have our social presence - we’re on Facebook, Twitter, etc. I’m not completely responsible for managing our social channels and I consider myself a social stakeholder.  We have an agency and I actually have a colleague whose role is 100% social.  We all work together to ensure any marketing program I’m working on is in the consideration set from an owned perspective and a paid perspective.

That seems like a lot of quite close team-working. How do you manage that organizationally, to ensure multiple channels work in concert, and you speak with a unified voice externally?

In most instances there’s a 360 degree, holistic approach to how we support different marketing initiatives to ensure we’re delivering on a consistent strategy, with a consistent message.  We primarily work cross-functionally – partnering with different teams across the organization.

For example, you’ll have the Consumer Brand team, responsible for executing against a number of different elements - a TV commercial, print, radio, etc.

My team and I will manage all the digital/social elements.  And for any paid digital or social elements, we'll partner with our Media team.

As a result, when a consumer sees all the different elements of a marketing campaign, they come together as one.

Has the changes to the marketing landscape (the plethora of channels available; the fragmentation of customer touchpoints; etc), meaningfully changed organisational structures at MasterCard?

We all still have our distinct roles and responsibilities.  Having said that, it is imperative that we work closely with different departments. So we  work together cross functionally  - but we focus on ensuring we each represent our specific departmental expertise.

A big focus for you is driving engagement with the MasterCard brand. How have you done that successfully over the last year?

Well, from a social perspective, I think that has been hugely successful. We started with social in 2010, and we’ve grown exponentially, and learned exponentially.I think there’s still more to learn, but I do feel that we are in a great space - where we understand our fans and followers better.

On another note, I think everything we do is always going to be steeped in what’s ‘Priceless’. Though importantly, that’s not us telling you that, it’s about our audience telling us what’s Priceless to them. Our role is increasingly to enable that discussion.

You spoke about real-time insight and responsive marketing at Incite:East. The nexus of this is the Oreo “You Can Still Dunk in the Dark” message during the Superbowl Blackout.

Are you aiming to get that quick? Do you want to be able to react with a tailored message within minutes? Or is there still a need to prepare messaging for at least a number of days before it's released?

Well, we certainly admire what Oreo has done.  However, not everyone can be Real Time 24/7! There were a lot marketers who did not jump on the Superbowl blackout from a social perspective for various reasons I’m sure.

I think it is important to ensure that you are relevant to your audience when you are trying to engage with them socially whether it is real time or not.

You also talked about using social to understand fans and followers better. How do you do that?

Well, fundamentally we know what  they’re posting on our social channels and we listen. We are getting a sense of what works and what doesn’t work in terms of driving engagement and loyalty with our audience.

That's the end of our interview with Elaine. We did ask her one other question - and that response is available on our Facebook page (along with exclusive content from other interviews and analysis we've done. You can see Elaine's answer to the question "What would you say is the biggest challenge you can see on the horizon for marketers? What are you going to be dealing with in a year that’s you’re not dealing with right now?" at Facebook.

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