Mastercard wants to position itself as a tech company and kick the perception that it’s just a card issuer. To do this, it’s opening a series of content studios it’s calling “Storylabs.”
As major media houses grow their personal finance coverage, brands like Mastercard are building dedicated content shops to meet the demands of a 24-hour news cycle.
“Mastercard is a tech company that’s important in the payment space, rather than a financial services company — it’s about being able to create relevant out-of-the-box content that may be a little unexpected,” said Marcy Cohen, Mastercard’s vice president of global digital communications.
The company launched its first Storylab last week — a six-person operation based at its Purchase, New York offices — but the team has been in operation since January. The studios will roll out around world eventually, with plans to build one in St. Louis later this year.
“We wanted to make sure we were being nimble and pushing out creative content that would resonate with key stakeholders,” Cohen said.
The content team, which includes former journalists, doesn’t displace the need to work with agencies, but will help the company churn out content more quickly than it currently does, Cohen said. Mastercard isn’t alone among financial services companies that are amping up content investments. JPMorgan Chase, Wealthsimple and Acorns are creating newsy content to engage existing customers and prospects. But Mastercard isn’t focusing exclusively on the mass consumer market, it’s aiming for business customers too. And while some other brands are tilting towards magazine or service-type articles, Mastercard is also pushing audio, including podcasts, and video.
“We do speechwriting — all of our writing that goes into our newsroom blog comes out of the Storylab — and we’re doing audio and videos, animated gifs and all kinds of animation to be able to tell the Mastercard value story in a more compelling way,” Cohen explained.
Content creation has shifted from a nice-to-have to a must-have for large financial brands. Every company is a media company and a publisher and brands need to find ways to captivate, educate and inform people in an entertaining way, customer experience analyst Blake Morgan recently told Tearsheet.
By creating compelling content, Mastercard can entice businesses and the general public to keep coming back to the site, which will help the company grow its customer base over the long term.
“It’s a lead generation model,” said Jamie Gillingham, PR account manager at Eighty-Eight Agency, a Toronto-based tech marketing firm. “By creating shareable content that isn’t overly branded, you’re building trust in potential customers by showing that you’re thought leaders and in the game for the right reasons.”
Cohen said Mastercard’s financial commitment is modest but declined to specify how much it spends on the content studios. She said the company has seen a 30 percent increase in LinkedIn followers in the last month since the Storylab began operations.
In January, Mastercard launched a weekly podcast called “Fortune Favors the Bold” hosted by journalist Ashley Ford, in partnership with Gimlet Creative. The show runs segments that align with the brand narrative of Mastercard, which is that it’s a key actor fostering a change in how consumers think about money. Recent segments tackled digital identity and the future of work.
“We need to think outside of the box and to think of what content would resonate, away from press releases,” Cohen said. “We look at the unique and changing role that money plays in our lives.”
The podcast is part of a broader strategy to immerse audiences in the story of what the brand represents — also exemplified by its “priceless” consumer campaign, which offered customers money-can’t-buy experiences. But the focus here isn’t limited to consumers, Cohen said; it also includes “key stakeholders” including merchants, banks and governments.