Sunday, November 26, 2006

Mastercard : Priceless

Brand : Mastercard
Company: Mastercard Worldwide
Agency: McCann Erickson

Brand Count ; 165

Mastercard is one of the pioneers in the global credit card business. Born in 1967, the brand is the second largest player in the Indian plastic money market trailing behind the global leader Visa.
Diners Club issued the world’s first universal credit card in 1920. Mastercard was born from an alliance created by United California Bank, Wells Fargo,Crocker National Bank and Bank of California. This alliance was pitted against the Bank Americard issued by Bank of America that later became Visa.

The original name of Mastercard was Master Charge Inter Bank Card which later shortened to Mastercard in 1979. In 2002, Mastercard International was absorbed by Europay International SA and in 2006 the company changed its name from Mastercard International to Mastercard Worldwide.

The business of credit card works in different layers. There are four players in the business.

  1. Network
  2. Issuer
  3. Users
  4. Establishments

The networks consists of players like Mastercard ,Visa who are the credit card companies .These companies have linkages and association between different banks and facilitate transactions between users , the establishments and the banks .The issuers are the banks that issue the credit cards like the ICICI, HDFC etc.The users are card users and establishments are those who accept credit cards as a mode of payment.

How credit card works?
When the user buy something, the network ratifies the user’s credibility and authorize the establishment to proceed with the transaction.The netwok then instruct the bank to make the payment to the establishments.(This the layman’s description of how credit cards work).

The credit card companies make money through the association fees paid by the banks and the fees paid by the establishments. The issuers make money by the interest charges paid by the users when they avail the revolving credit facility. Issuers also charge the users annual fees for issuing the card.The establishment benefits by the higher purchasing power of the users .

Mastercard is positioned on the emotional platform rather than on the rational platform that Visa uses. The brand has the famous campaign “ There are somethings money can’t buy, For everything else there's Mastercard”. The campaign known as Priceless campaign was launched in 1996.The campaign executed by Mccann Erickson rejuvenated the sagging fortunes of the brand during 1996. The brand at that time was facing disaster, the sales was sliding and the competition from Visa was slowly pushing Mastercard to oblivion.The Priceless campaign was indeed Priceless for the brand.

The main attribute that consumers look for in a credit card was its acceptability in shops ( reach). Visa was a leader in this and the positioning was based on its awesome acceptability.Together with the reach, the Visa also was building its equity through celebrity endorsements.

Mastercard at that time had no clear positioning and was not focused on any one attribute.This diluted all the previous campaigns for Mastercard. What the brand needed badly was some meaningful differentiation.

The Priceless campaign was aimed at differentiating this brand on the basis of intangibles ie emotions. The campaign is based on the big idea that cost of ownership is one thing and the emotional value that one derives out of it is another thing. Mastercard wanted to say to the consumers that the Mastercard is the best way to pay for every thing that matters. It wanted to show how the purchases can enhance the quality of the consumer’s everyday like. So the brand takes Money as a competition rather than other cards. This campaign is cited as an example of breakaway positioning .The campaign is already 10 years and some 170 campaigns old .This is a classic case of a successful global positioning and one of the most successful campaigns ever.

In India too the brand is riding on the Priceless campaign. The company very cleverly mixes local version of the campaign and the global versions to keep the excitement live. This campaign has established the brand recall for Mastercard in the Indian market. The Indian credit card market is a large one with a market size of $4 bn and there estimated to be around 17 mn cards and growing very fast. The market is skewed towards Visa but Mastercard has gained its rightful share with the help of the Priceless campaign.

Priceless campaign was extended not only to the credit cards but also to other retail products of Mastercard. The campaign is now extending itself to consumers and asking consumers to share their Priceless moments with the company through its website “”. The brand is an example of the power of Big Idea and a lesson for all who are bored with a successful positioning and want to change the positioning for the sake of change.

Source: Breakaway branding by Kelly &Silverstein, Wikipedia,


  1. Consumers today have little choice/awareness/interest when it comes to choosing a networkfor credit cards. The user chooses the issuer first and the issuer decides whothe network will be. Hence marketing it better to institutions/banks will be a better strategy than marketing it to end consumers.

  2. Anonymous9:28 AM

    I agree that credit card users are not so interested in the mechanism of business of credit cardworks. Cardholders are more into credit cards options. well, probably, it would be good if we could choose the network, the issuer and the establishment. But this would cost us a good headache. Thanks God choosing a credit card is much easier. You can just apply online.

  3. does anyone have a diner's club credit card anymore?

    the good thing about mastercard is that everyone that will accept credit cards will accept mastercard. also mastercard comes in debit and credit, which can be used for anything, anywhere!

  4. Dhiraj kumar12:56 PM

    Dhiraj kumar,iilm gsm
    well according to me the success of any credit totally depends upon its accessibility in the shops,interest charged by it and the service provided by the company in terms of rectification of complains in short spam of time.

    The three main player of the market VISA,MASTERCARD AND AMERICAN EXPRESS.where ever we can use visa card,we can also use master card sp its all about how we are going to make users to use master card instead of visa.

    Here comes the role of POD(point of differentiation)either in terms of function or in terms of emotions.,Master card successfully uses the second one,attacking o the emotions of the customers.And it became a big hit in the market cause of this only.what money cant buy....tag line itself indicates its full of feelings and emotions.

    Dhiraj kumar

  5. well according to me the success of any credit totally depends upon its accessibility in the shops,interest
    card master

  6. Indeed, the success of credit card depends upon several factors and one of them is its accessibilit in shops. The task of appling for credit card has been made easier for the consumers as they can apply online.

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