In September 1999, Edelman started working to create brand recognition for MasterCard in the Brazilian market. Through a careful analysis of local needs and our client’s business we were able to implement innovative strategies and increase MasterCard’s brand awareness and media exposure to historic high levels in Brazil.
For over eight years Credicard represented MasterCard as the only issuer of MasterCard credit cards in the Brazilian market. This exclusivity agreement, ended in 1997, completely shadowed MasterCard’s brand identity, causing consumers to perceive both companies as one. Our biggest challenge was to defend and divorce the MasterCard brand to our target audiences in Brazil. We developed strategies to counterbalance the greater cost involved in successfully positioning a brand after main competitors had already established their leadership.
In order to find the best platforms to expand MasterCard’s differentiating factors, we conducted a perception study of the credit card industry in Brazil with opinion leaders in the government, media and financial institutions, as well as major retailers and consumers on their perceptions and critical issues about MasterCard, its competitors and the credit card industry. Results highlighted the confusion around the MasterCard brand, re-enforcing the need to consolidate the company’s brand identity among the defined audiences we spoke with. The interviews also unveiled other critical issues such as the industry’s lack of social commitment perception, safety, smuggling and fraud, an industry concern. Participants also recognized the importance of exploring and applying emerging technologies to the local market, creating opportunity to leverage MasterCard’s ongoing investments in the field.
Our findings demonstrated that as the credit card industry was evolving it was necessary to create more value added for Brazilian customers through differentiated services. After many years of record high inflation rates, Brazil’s fast recovery after the 1999 currency crisis helped restore consumer confidence in the possibility of long-term planning, increasing spending and the receptivity for more sophisticated payment options and services. We concluded that in order to increase MasterCard’s local brand awareness our strategy should focus on exploring these conditions, enabling us to differentiate MasterCard by leveraging the company’s existing investments in technology, services and products to create and effectively communicate “Priceless Experiences” with the MasterCard brand in Brazil.
By exploring MasterCard’s resources in relation to changing market demands we developed a series of independent programs to build the necessary credibility for MasterCard’s positioning messages. Each program was created for specific audiences and designed to explore different aspects of MasterCard’s business.
Edelman developed a Consumer Education program to be implemented among consumer rights institutions and the media in order to provide valuable information about different payments tools, financial planning, and all relevant topics in the payment industry.
We also conducted an Emerging Technologies Program where MasterCard sponsored monthly panels at Brazil’s top Universities with key media outlets, industry and academic leaders to educate all target audiences about new technologies and the related developments in the credit card industry. Topics covered included the latest global and local trends in e-commerce, e-business and mobile commerce.
This Emerging Technologies Program served as a perfect space for the parallel launch of the MasterCard chip card, the only card in Brazil that can be used anywhere in the world. The card operates under the EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) platform, bringing one of the latest developments in “smart card” technology to Brazil.
We implemented a Government Relations campaign to position MasterCard as an expert source of information, emphasizing the company’s efforts to raise tax regulatory control issues to a broader discussion among the Brazilian government, trade and opinion leaders. We concentrated our efforts on intense lobbying activities on behalf of MasterCard to persuade these audiences to reconsider some of the taxes as well as to support the company’s leadership in the discussion of other critical issues such as interest rates, tax evasion and money laundering.
On the social front, MasterCard joined forces with Unicef against malnutrition in Latin American children. Edelman supported a special holiday promotion to benefit children in Mexico and Brazil where MasterCard donated a portion of all transactions taking place in both countries, between the months of November and December of 2000, to Unicef. Over US$200,000 were allocated to Unicef´s programs, supplying more than five million children with the necessary supplements.
The Priceless Promotion was also very effective in reaching consumer audiences. Edelman handled the media outreach of the development and execution of the promotion, which aimed to increase the cardholder base and activate current users. Through electronic raffles, four people per month were awarded R$25,000 (approximately US$12,500) to be spent in a shopping spree during one hour. The event attracted top journalists from Brazil’s TV and print media, resulting in excellent placements in both segments.
The implementation of these programs during the year 2000, installed credibility and recognition for the MasterCard brand in Brazil, engaging key media representatives as powerful advocates to communicate the company’s position as a market leader. Bottom-line results were greatly impacted by increased visibility, leading MasterCard to achieve the leadership in the credit card segment in Brazil, surpassing its main competitor, with a 35% growth on its card base. Edelman’s work on the MasterCard account in Brazil produced record high results for the company in terms of brand recognition and media exposure. Unprompted brand awareness increased by 63% and media exposure grew by 640% in comparison with September, 1999.