(July 11, 2023) With the continuous evolution of technology over the past few decades, marketing has undergone significant transformations, progressing through four distinct stages that have built upon the strategies and tools of the preceding eras. While the world is trying to figure out ways to tackle the fifth stage of marketing, one man seems to have it all figured out. Indian-American business executive and the Chief Marketing Officer of Mastercard Raja Rajamannar, who is not afraid to experiment and push the brand into new frontiers.
The business executive, who recently spearheaded a unique web3 music-focused program as part of his strategy to engage consumers with their passions via multi-sensory marketing, was listed among the Insider magazine’s most innovative CMOs of 2023, a list of 25 top marketers who are ‘confronting big challenges’ including ‘volatile economy, and testing generative AI’, and are ‘pushing the marketing discipline into new technologies’.
“One of the things that technology does is gives you a new kind of enablement,” the Global Indian had said during the latest interview about technology-driven business strategies, adding, “I help you analyse mountains of disjointed data and come to insights in an unbelievable fashion. It just happens almost in real-time, and that can change marketing to the most appropriate fashion, based on the context in which the consumer is. So your effectiveness will go up. Your return on your marketing investment will go up.”
Young boy with big dreams
Hailing from Hyderabad, Rajamannar earned his undergraduate degree in Bachelor of Technology degree in Chemical Engineering from Osmania University. He later received a Master of Business Administration degree from the Indian Institute of Management, in Bengaluru. Eager to start working, the business executive joined Asian Paints in 1985 and had a fantastic time there. “The company didn’t have a marketing department when I joined, so part of my role was to build out the department,” Rajamannar shared, “As somebody who loves to learn, it was a phenomenal experience for me. I studied marketing, I meticulously examined how other companies approach marketing and I brought those learnings in and uniquely tailored them for Asian Paints.”
His experience at the company imparted a valuable lesson that continues to resonate, highlighting the fact that every company maintains its distinct interpretation of marketing. “There is no one-size-fits-all template. Marketing manifests differently for each organization based on its unique needs and a leader’s role is to be able to deploy a distinct plan that works best for the organisation,” Rajamannar recalled.
Eventually, the business executive joined Hindustan Lever Limited in 1988. He continued to work in the country until an opportunity at the Citi Bank took him to Dubai in 1994 – a job that took him to New York, USA as a Senior Vice President.
The world of marketing
With over three decades of experience as a global executive, Rajamannar has occupied various C-level positions at companies including Anthem and Humana. The business executive joined Mastercard in 2013 and has successfully guided Mastercard’s transformation into a digital-era identity, overseeing the development of Priceless experiential platforms and marketing-driven business models.
Speaking about who has had the biggest influence on him, Rajamannar said, “Mastercard’s former CEO Ajay Banga. All in all, across companies, he was my boss for nearly 25 years. If you don’t know Ajay personally, then I can tell you that he is both an extraordinary professional as well as a wonderful human being. Truly inspiring. Through his words and his actions, he has underscored that companies in general and marketing, in particular, can and should be both a force for growth and a force for good.”
Rajamannar’s tech-savviness as a CMO has earned him recognition from Adweek, ranking him among the industry’s most technologically adept executives. Forbes has also acknowledged him as one of the world’s top five most influential CMOs, while Business Insider has listed him among the top ten most innovative CMOs worldwide. The business executive launched the accessible card—Touch Card, for blind and partially sighted people. And before that, he rolled out the True Name card initiative to support transgender and non-binary communities.
“So many people have come back to me personally showing their appreciation for this product. It has got a positive ripple effect. It cascades eventually to business and brand results but most importantly, you’re creating the right social impact. That to me, and my whole team, is hugely gratifying because it’s not always about chasing the corporate objectives but also about leveraging the power you have—the financial resources, the network resources, and the creative and communication assets,” Rajamannar said during a recent conference.
The business executive, who has been honoured with the title of Global Marketer of the Year by the World Federation of Advertisers and received the Marketer of the Year award from the ANA Educational Foundation, has been the subject of case studies at esteemed institutions such as Harvard Business School and Yale School of Management, where his work has been taught at over 40 prestigious management schools worldwide. “Sometimes the best ideas collapse,” the business executive said during one of his talks to the students, “Not because the competition is intense or the market conditions are not appropriate, but because of internal politics. This is why getting your colleagues across the company involved and aligned is essential.”