Brands Enter the Era of “Quantum Marketing”

In a new book, Mastercard CMO Raja Rajamannar says companies need to brace for radical changes in marketing and advertising

By Chuck Kapelke

Mastercard CMO Raja Rajamannar and author of the recently released Quantum Marketing: Mastering the New Marketing Mindset for Tomorrow's Consumers, which maps out the massive challenges awaiting marketers. “Thanks to the new technologies that are coming at us, marketing is not going to work the way it used to work. For this new future, we have to reimagine and rethink marketing,” Rajamannar says. Courtesy of Mastercard

The rise of digital has already led to a seismic shift in marketing communications, but buckle up, because the twists and turns are just starting. In his new book, Quantum Marketing: Mastering the New Marketing Mindset for Tomorrow’s Consumers, Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer at Mastercard, describes how emerging developments like artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality, blockchain, and the Internet of Things are poised to transform everything marketers thought they knew about the marketing discipline.

Rajamannar details how the field of advertising has come through four distinct phases: first was rational, feature-oriented product marketing, which evolved into a second era characterized by more emotion-oriented promotion. The third wave emerged with the rise of digital marketing and “ad tech,” and the fourth paradigm brought the industry to its current state: an era marked by the ascent of mobile devices, social media, and programmatic ad buying.

The next phase, which Rajamannar calls the “Fifth Paradigm,” will “feel like a whole new planet for marketers,” Rajamannar writes. “Crazy new technologies, an extraordinary quantum of data, fleeting life moments becoming accessible, an opportunity or threat of real-time actions, the collapse of the purchase funnels and other classical theories and frameworks — all of these will totally alter the marketing landscape, and marketers will have to reimagine their strategies, structures, and talent.”

It almost makes the past several years of marketing upheaval seem like a day at the beach. ANA magazine recently spoke with Rajamannar about how companies can unpack quantum marketing, why every marketing team needs to be like Leonardo da Vinci, and what opportunities non-fungible tokens (NFTs) hold for brands and organizations.


[This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]

Q. What is quantum marketing and why do marketers need to embrace it?

Many traditional marketing principles — like the 4Ps of marketing, the purchase funnel, and loyalty programs — were developed for a world that is very different than where we are today. Thanks to the new technologies that are coming at us, marketing is not going to work the way it used to work. For this new future, we have to reimagine and rethink marketing. The old rules or frameworks or principles all break down. You need a new formulation, a new framing of marketing. And that’s what I did in the book. Quantum marketing is a radically new approach to tackle the “Fifth Paradigm.”


Q. What will an ad campaign look like in 10 years if it is using quantum marketing?

The need to communicate effectively with consumers will remain, but advertising will shrink in importance. Advertisements will not be based on sound and sight, but will be multisensory, including touch, taste, and smell. It will be less rational and more intuitive, and every advertisement will be contextually personalized. If I’m seeing an advertisement, it will absolutely be tailor-made for me. And measuring the effectiveness of advertising will practically be in real time, across channels.


Q. How can brand managers best equip their marketing organizations for this shift?

First, they have to rapidly educate themselves about all the new things coming around the corner. They have to invest time and effort and energy to climb up that curve. Second, they have to have rock-solid teams. Not everyone is like a Leonardo da Vinci, who can learn everything about everything and be both creative and analytical. But you need to make sure that your team is a Leonardo da Vinci team. That involves getting the right people and training them, through talent planning and job rotations. Third, marketers need to start testing and investing in new areas like artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and augmented reality. The companies that adopt these technologies first will have a significant advantage.


Q. What kinds of practices have you implemented at Mastercard to try to align the organization toward quantum marketing?

Learning is very critical, and I have to set the tone from the top of the house. Every weekend, I have carved out five hours to learn something new about the areas that are going to impact the future of marketing. I took a full course on Coursera on artificial intelligence, for example. And together with my human resources partners, I created a list of competencies that are required for integrated marketing and communications (IMCs) for the quantum marketing era.

We have said, “What does the future IMC look like?” We have created a companywide IMC program in which everyone has to be certified before they can be considered for promotions or transfers.


Q. How do you think AI will transform marketing and how are you building AI into your processes?

AI is transforming the entire marketing value chain, from end to end. It is helping us connect the dots or make out patterns from across very dissimilar data sets. We have started using AI for processing our requests for proposals from banks, and we have AI that can create digital banner ads in a matter of seconds, in a most optimized way. It completes the entire process of launching a campaign in a matter of minutes.

Every direction I turn in marketing and communications, AI has significant opportunities, and we are trying to deploy it as fast, and in as many places, as we can. We have acquired two companies that specialize in AI and they are helping us quite a lot.

“Advertisements will not be based on sound and sight, but will be multisensory, including touch, taste, and smell. It will be less rational and more intuitive, and every advertisement will be contextually personalized.”
— Raja Rajamannar, CMO at Mastercard


Q. You write about the shift to marketing to “people” as opposed to “consumers.” What does it take for brands to adopt that kind of mindset?

First and foremost, it’s awareness that people behave like human beings. They don’t behave like consumers. Marketers call them consumers. People don’t compartmentalize their lives by categories of products, so you have to research the entire life of the individual and find out what motivates them. It might not have anything to do with product. Since digital marketing began, the dependency on technology and data has become so intense that people started regarding anything creative as unnecessary or fluffy. But the reality is that technology and data will level the playing field, so a company can no longer compete on just its product features or benefits or pricing or distribution network. You are going to have to differentiate yourself through creativity that is relevant to human beings.


Q. You note that blockchain may have a variety of uses for marketing, from reducing ad fraud to tracking products’ shelf lives. How should marketers approach blockchain?

First they need to understand what blockchain is. It starts with education. Second, there are a lot of industrywide efforts that are happening. IBM and Unilever, for example, have come together and did an experiment on deploying blockchain in the advertising space, and they have demonstrated some significant savings that are feasible by deploying blockchain.


Q. The latest blockchain craze seem to be non-fungible tokens or NFTs. Are those relevant for marketers?

The market might be sitting on a lot of assets that might be in demand as NFTs. If I’m sponsoring Priceless moments, can I take moments that are in some physical form and digitize them and then make them available as an NFT? Or would someone want to own the first Mastercard Priceless ad as an NFT? There are so many things I can imagine in my own company’s content and other companies’ content.



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comments (4)

Richard Coriaty

May 21, 2021 2:20pm ET

What an exciting read!

Robert Bly

May 21, 2021 2:31pm ET

A precise definition of both quantum marketing and the Fifth Paradigm are missing from this article--an unfortunate omission, as I read the article and still have no clear idea of what these terms mean.

Jennifer Halloran

May 21, 2021 3:29pm ET

I love the perspective of "people" vs "consumers" . We are all so well trained to be consumer-focused but this is a great point to shift our thinking.

Jaime Vasquez

May 26, 2021 9:24am ET

I agree with Robert Bly but understand the tease so that if interested in learning more, we'll have to buy the book. Well done Raja like the great marketer that you are by showing how to drive awareness and trial before we move to the purchase stage on Amazon books. The title is quite the purchase driver as "Quantum Marketing" will jump off the shelf at the various airport bookstores we all browse on our way to our next business trip.