Taking charge with LaKisha Garcia of MasterCard

"Our research shows that multicultural consumers are very connected, so we make sure all of our programs incorporate a strong digital element," says LaKisha Garcia of MasterCard.

As part of MasterCard’s US multicultural marketing team, LaKisha Garcia, director of US marketing for MasterCard Worldwide, spends her days developing programs that provide multicultural audiences with information about flexible and reliable payments tools. As the second most widely used payment system in the United States, MasterCard has put Garcia in charge of this sizable task, a responsibility she has rightfully earned through her 11-year tenure with the company. In fact, it was during her first-ever summer internship with MasterCard International that Garcia’s passion for marketing was sparked—and she’s been maximizing her talents ever since.

What drew you to MasterCard?
What initially drew me to MasterCard were the people. I had the benefit of working with smart people and MasterCard is a place that constantly offers employees the opportunity to grow. I have a passion for what I do and I take great pride in representing MasterCard.

What is a typical day like for you?
There is no such thing as a typical work day. I focus on providing our issuers with resources that support our mutual business objectives—to reach new and existing audiences, enhance customer satisfaction and retention, and drive revenue growth. This is accomplished by producing thorough research and strategizing ways to reach multicultural audiences with insights, financial education, products, and services in a way that’s relevant, tailored, and interesting. Aside from that, you can find me coordinating production, executing programs, evaluating results, collecting data, or staying in touch with what’s down the road for internal and external partners.

How do you define success in your industry and at your particular job?
I define success in the prepaid industry as eliminating the ambiguity in the meaning of prepaid financial services. Thanks in part to our efforts, people are becoming more aware of what a prepaid card is and how it helps you figure out in advance how you’ll manage your money.

How do you target your audience while also meeting the needs of different financial segments?
The US market is very diverse; gone are the one-size-fits-all days. At MasterCard, we are always looking for ways to ensure that we provide consumers with products and services that not only meet their varied needs and preferences, but also tie closely to their interests and passions—such as music, movies, family, and culture. Many of our programs focus on educating consumers about the benefits of prepaid cards. There are several million consumers in the US that do not have access to traditional banking relationships, so we are focused on delivering them secure and relevant products that help them with financial management. A large area of concentration for us is the Hispanic segment. We partnered with Univision in 2009 to develop prepaid-card products for the Hispanic audience, including the Univision prepaid MasterCard card—a flexible payment tool that helps meet the everyday payment needs of Hispanic consumers.

In the 11 years since you’ve been at MasterCard, social media has made major strides. How do you incorporate social media into your programs and how has this changed the way you do your job?
Our research shows that multicultural consumers are very connected, so we make sure all of our programs incorporate a strong digital element, in conjunction with other strategies like advertising, partnerships, and traditional media. Engaging in social media is a necessity, not an opportunity.

What are the most difficult aspects of your job and how do you overcome obstacles when trying to meet challenging goals?
Balancing the brand and product messages is a daily goal. Brand management is about creating an emotional connection to a commodity. It’s about balancing the product attributes and about the way the product makes the consumer feel.

What does the future hold for you?
In the immediate future, I envision a role in advancing digital wallets and mobile payments. I also see myself as a teacher, giving back to the community and building on the knowledge I’ve gained educating key audiences while working at MasterCard