KEITH S. KENDRICK Senior vice president MasterCard International

"Everyone was saying that gold card growth was in its final year in 1987," says Keith S. Kendrick, 34, recalling the period when he was offered the chance to manage MasterCard's gold card business.

Despite the rampant pessimism, Mr. Kendrick took the job and -- through an aggressive marketing campaign -- helped turn MasterCard Gold into a leading premium card.

Nowadays, Mr. Kendrick is MasterCard's marketing director. His chief task: making MasterCard into the credit card for America's heartland.

He is one of the driving forces behind the card group's latest ad campaign, designed to distinguish MasterCard as the card for the way people really live. While American Express and Visa ads continue to feature well-heeled consumers shopping and dining in swanky surroundings, MasterCard commercials are more likely to depict a young college graduate furnishing his first apartment.

Mr. Kendrick's own college work prepared him well for his current job. After completing undergraduate work at Vanderbilt University, he got a master's degree in business administration from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, an institution known for producing marketing mavens.

He arrived at Master Card in 1985 as an assistant to then-president Russell Hogg. Mr. Kendrick says he took the job because the financial services world intrigued him.

Today, part of Mr. Kendrick's job involves talking to MasterCard member banks and explaining how he is spending their money. That's no easy task for a marketing executive who hasn't worked for a bank since his days as a part-time teller in college.

"The important thing is to build credibility with your membership," Mr. Kendrick says.

Hwo does he feel about working for an outfit that's No. 2 in size behind Visa? It suits his "underdog mentality," he says, adding, "At No. 1, you've got the problem that there is only one way to go. At No. 2, you've got real issues on your table. You get to do more."

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