by Wei Wen Sng
March 22nd, 2018

Stories are powerful. Accompanying us since time immemorial, they make us laugh or cry – sometimes both at the same time. Cutting across cultures and creeds, the magic of storytelling lies in its power to invoke our shared humanity.

However, it seems that some narratives are no longer worth a yarn in today’s information-saturated world. Most of us are quick to delete the content and clutter flooding our inboxes (both online and physical).

Can storytelling ever be a viable tool for brands? To cut a long story short, the answer is “Yes”. After all, selling is hard without telling.

Despite brand noise, our collective thirst for stories remains unquenched. We might be time-poor, but we’re spending more and more of it on blogs and social networks than ever, searching for stories or content from our friends and favorite influencers. When it comes to stories, what matters most is what we tell, and how we tell them, and who we tell them to.

Now that we’ve waxed lyrical about storytelling, we’ve got one for you. It’s about how we helped Mastercard tell a story of Innovation story for  this year’s No Cash Day. Sit back, get comfortable, and read on.

Powering Up: Building Southeast Asia’s Innovation Narrative

The evolution of money is deeply entwined with the path of innovation in Southeast Asia. Thousands of years ago, people in the region bartered cowries and gold rings for food and land. Today, technology has vastly expanded Southeast Asia’s payments ecosystem’s reach and capabilities. No longer beholden to cumbersome payment tools, people trade plastic and printed paper for goods and services and exchange taps and swipes in pursuit of richer lives.

As Mastercard’s partner agency, we were tasked with telling this story of  change  in newer, more compelling ways that would resonate with Southeast Asia’s diverse audiences and celebrate the region’s history of innovation.

Hence, Mastercard’s bespoke Interactive Timeline – From Cowries to Contactless – was born. It was a simple idea, crafted by our Senior Managing Editor, Moska Najib. This infographical narrative would delve into the dollars and cents of the history and future of money in Southeast Asia. Have a look!

Starting from the use of shells and gold in the 10th century, to the possibilities of wearables, selfies and artificial intelligence, the Interactive Timeline brought information about each currency to life with bite-sized facts, striking visuals and mini quizzes. Each insight was a mini-history lesson, providing relevant information about the convenience and safety of adopting cashless payments.

Taking Flight: Propelling the story across the region and beyond

Jumping on the global No Cash Day on 27 June 2017, we leveraged the interactive timeline across paid, earned, owned and social channels to ensure a full 360o blitz.

We also established a content partnership with Facebook – a chatbot called – Bus Uncle, targeting Singaporean audiences to promote the timeline and lend a light-hearted local voice to the everyday use of cashless payments. Here, we drafted bespoke jokes and call to actions that reached an audience of 20,390 people.

To propel thetimeline further, we also shared it with educators and museums in Singapore to teach youths about innovation in the region.

Touchdown: Generating Mileage and Resonance

With its hyperlocal tone and thought-provoking visual story, From Cowries to Contactless resonated strongly with consumers in and beyond Southeast Asia, generating curiosity, buzz and incredible results:

Our #NoCashDay efforts generated widespread positive media coverage in top-tier local dailies and technology media across Southeast Asia, including Business Insider, The Business Times, The Daily Star Philippines, Koran Jakarta, and The New Paper. These pieces of coverage helped drive Mastercard’s  significant 20% lead in Share of Voice ahead of its closest competitor.

The Timeline has also attracted strong social media traffic. In its first week, it generated 338,070 impressions, 17,734 engagements and a 277% spike in organic Twitter conversations.

Numbers aside, the Interactive Timeline won a 2017 SABRE award for Persuasive Content, was well-regarded by various schools and opened doors to potential partnerships with cultural institutions in Singapore.

“So good to have this wonderful educational resource shared with us. I will forward this to the Humanities Faculty for use in their classes, especially the History and Economics/ Business lessons.” Tan Siew Hoon, Vice Principal, Anglo-Chinese School (International).

Achieving these results was not easy. Stories on innovation are often perceived as cold and dry, particularly by people outside this field. We sought to humanize Mastercard’s Innovation story by imbuing it with warmth, wonder and possibility. At the end of the day, people love a good story, especially one that tells them something about themselves, where they’ve come from, and where they could go next.

Sold on the currency of storytelling yet?

To receive our updates: