Cheryl Guerin, Executive Vice President, Global Brand Strategy & Innovation at Mastercard, will be Jury Chair of the first WARC Awards for Effectiveness, North America Edition, leading a panel that will review entries into the Business-to-Business, Customer Experience and Cultural Impact categories. Here, she talks about what B2B and B2C marketers can learn from each other, the importance of ‘doing well by doing good’ and what she’ll be looking for in this year’s entries.


Cheryl Guerin, Executive Vice President, Global Brand Strategy & Innovation at Mastercard

Describe your role

I lead brand strategy and innovation for the Mastercard marketing and comms team globally. It’s a great role because it includes everything from our Priceless advertising campaign, to media, digital marketing, research and insights, and our overall brand strategy.

How do you ensure that effectiveness is always baked into your marketing strategies from the very beginning?

Every good marketing strategy comes from a business strategy and a business need. So, creative effectiveness is built into everything we do: we want to use creativity in a way that has business impact and gives us a sustainable competitive advantage.

We’ll look at our brand health – which is a critical part of our business, as we franchise our brand on to our card issuers all around the world – and track our ROI so to understand whether our campaigns are actually returning on investment. Winning business deals and distribution is a huge part of our business, so it’s certainly vital for us that our marketing efforts and platforms can drive that.

How do you ensure your board understands the value of creativity? What advice can you offer for unlocking investment into creativity? 

As marketing people, we’re the ultimate storytellers, or story-inspirers. When it comes to demonstrating the business value of marketing, we have to use that superpower and make sure we’re telling stories, but in the language of the audience we’re delivering them to. Just like when we talk to consumers we have to know their needs and talk in their language, we shouldn’t be giving a marketing answer to a business question. We should be giving a business answer, provide a marketing strategy and then demonstrate how that creativity has driven our business.

It is really about making sure that we connect the dots to show how that creativity cuts through the clutter, especially in the environment we are currently operating in as marketers, where there is more significant fragmentation, media clutter and technology than ever before. We have to demonstrate that what we’re doing is breaking through, having impact and also reinforcing our business and company values.

What do you think is the key to effective customer experience?

We’re in a world of less saying and more doing and at Mastercard we’ve been at the forefront of that for many years now. We know that our brand and business impact can grow and be maintained when we have a lasting impact on people’s lives.

For example, with True Name we addressed transgender and non-binary individuals, allowing them to have their chosen name on their card. This gave them a sense of pride, but also protected their privacy and prevented discrimination. True Name not only had an impact on the LGBTQIA+ community, but on everyone who champions strong brands which value inclusion.

Another example is the use we made of contactless cards during COVID. In that case, we had the product already, but with the pandemic it took on a different meaning for people, so we talked about it differently. We made our cardholders and our merchants aware that, with contactless, we were keeping both them and their customers safe.

You’ll be chairing a panel reviewing both B2B and B2C entries. What do you think B2B marketers could learn from B2C, and vice versa?

I think a lot of marketers overlook the many overlaps between B2B and B2C, starting with the fact that a B2B customer is also a consumer and so they’re not necessarily looking for the rational-only, non-emotional type of marketing. They’re humans, and if you’re going to cut through the clutter you need to have emotion and creativity as well as showing the impact that your product or service is going to have on their business. There is no reason why a B2B brand cannot be as culturally relevant as a consumer brand can be.

Another thing that we often focus on from a B2C standpoint is influencer marketing. But credible influencers that can provide an authentic representation of your products – in a human, emotional, creative way – are much needed in B2B marketing.

Then on the flip side, I think B2C can learn from B2B’s sharp focus on the end user’s needs, and precision in targeting all the decision-makers and influencers along the chain of approval. Data is used very smartly to target and reach B2B audiences and I think that can be further infused into the consumer world.

Also, building relationships is really critical, and I find that in B2B we move quicker through that funnel of awareness to action, and ultimately to building relationships. And the same way there’s pride in a brand for a consumer, there’s that same pride in working with a partner on the B2B side.

What do you think is the key for brands to effectively carve a space for themselves in culture?

To enter a cultural space, you have to work your way up and build credibility in it, demonstrating your commitment. Proving that you’ve been in it and you’ve been taking action, gives you the right to be there.

When I think about our efforts to help small business during COVID, we didn’t just show up when the pandemic hit. We already had significant support and grant programmes for women, business owners, and in particular black women business owners. What we did was scale that up during a time of need, issuing programmes to get the money into the hands of people who really needed it, and helping them turn their businesses digital so that that they could thrive in the future. We were able to do that because we had a long-standing commitment to inclusive growth and financial inclusion in that space.

Tell us about a recent campaign (not from Mastercard) that impressed you for its effectiveness.

The Iceland Tourism campaign that ran during COVID comes to mind. Their challenge was to promote travel when the world was completely locked down, and they did that by raising awareness of mental health needs during that time. With scientists and stats saying that screaming can release stress and help mental health, they created this app which allowed you to let out your screams in all these wonderful places around Iceland. It was different and breakthrough, and ultimately it generated increased interest and bookings for Iceland Tourism.

What are you hoping to see from this year’s winners?

I am hoping to see a lot of humanity. It’s been a heavy world the last few years – and it continues to be – and I think part of our job is to not make it heavier. I think this time has been a reminder, particularly as conscious consumption and other trends are growing, that while we all have a focus on performance marketing and results, it’s also important to connect with people and businesses in a human way.

I’ll be looking for differentiation, impact and real results. Also, there’s so much new technology out there and I’m really interested in seeing how people are leaning into it and innovating with it in ways that truly reinforce their business and business strategies.

What advice would you give to entrants?

Tap into culture and be authentic: demonstrate that what you’ve done is unique and different than any other brand. Then, importantly, make sure that you connect the dots between what you did and how it drove effectiveness.

What do you think is the value of effectiveness Awards, and the WARC Awards for Effectiveness in particular?

They are the ultimate awards to be getting because we’re all paid to drive our businesses: this is what our practice is supposed to do. I love getting creative awards, but I love even more getting rewarded for creativity that drives the business. We have this mantra at Mastercard, ‘Doing well by doing good’. We want to do good, but if we’re going to keep doing good, we have to be doing well. And so, demonstrating that you can do good things and drive the business, that’s the ultimate goal.

The WARC Awards for Effectiveness, North America Edition, are now open for entries, with a deadline on 21st September. To get started on your entries, download the Entry Pack, and should you have any questions, email