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Written By Alberto Hernandez – Chief Operating Officer at Valid
Published June 3, 2019 in PaymentsJournal

Mastercard is making noise in the payments space. The financial giant has joined the growing list of companies to introduce a “sonic logo,” or a distinctive, trademarked sound used across all its marketing efforts.

The hope is that this new lyricless tone will become as ubiquitous with the Mastercard brand as their logo. In fact, this sonic logo launch comes fresh on the heels of Mastercard’s big nameless logo reveal. The new design consists of just two circles, red and orange, and no brand name, putting Mastercard among the ranks of similarly branded names like Nike and Apple.

But the sonic logo is more than just a fun, new jingle. The “Mastercard Melody,” as it has been dubbed, is the core of Mastercard’s new comprehensive sonic architecture that includes point-of-sale acceptance sounds, ringtones, musical scores and other digital sound assets. Dropping the Mastercard name in both audio and visual settings will help the brand stake its claim in a financial space that is increasingly cardless. While evoking something other than the image of a physical credit card might be difficult when “card” is intrinsic to the brand name, Mastercard is confidently taking up the challenge.

With their global audience in mind, Mastercard assures that the melody is flexible across cultures. By changing the instruments and tempo, Mastercard can make the distinct tone adaptable to its environment, creating a different version of the tune to relate to the country, store or city in which the purchase happens.

The strategy and complex sound architecture behind the tune signals that Mastercard’s introduction of this sonic logo — which debuted with much fanfare — isn’t just a PR gimmick. This move by Mastercard is indicative of some larger trends in the payments space, and makes it clear that the company isn’t bowing out of the fight with newer players like Venmo and PayPal.

The future is beyond the keyboard and the screen 

Audio is a powerful method of securing brand recognition. And with an increasingly audible world (think smart assistants and podcasts) an audio brand strategy is just as vital as a visual one. To stand out among an increasingly crowded market, brands need a distinct identity in every sense of the word. That means unique packaging, mobile apps and an equally unique presence across screenless mediums that rely on voice and sound.

It’s estimated that there is $40 billion up for grabs in the voice shopping space — so it’s no wonder companies are thinking of ways to bring an audio component to their brand beyond a classic jingle. But it’s also an obvious play toward our shrinking attention spans. With research that shows our ability to focus is closely rivaling a goldfish, it makes sense that companies are looking to capitalize on our other senses to win our attention.

Sonic logos and accessibility

In a small way, audio branding like sonic logos helps to increase accessibility. And in the payments space, this can be particularly helpful. When a blind or low vision customer completes a payment, they can’t see the confirmation that often comes up on the card reader’s screen. While some retailers have already implemented a point-of-sale approval chime to prevent shoppers from accidentally abandoning their cards, a tone that works in all the places that accept Mastercard would be far more beneficial. A distinctive sound that matches their credit card brand will give these customers a much easier experience.

The sound reinforces what has always been important in payments

The introduction of a sonic logo is clearly a step forward in the evolution of Mastercard’s brand, and is likely to inspire other payments brands to follow suit. However, the distinctive Mastercard Melody also serves as a subtle reminder of the values that are important to any company: safety and security. Similar to the feeling of comfort you might experience when you hear the chime of the Lyft app, or cha-ching of Venmo, the Mastercard tone will ultimately become associated with a successful and secure transaction. It is incredibly powerful for a brand to possess an asset that creates those high-value feelings with just a sound.

Sonic logos aren’t a fresh concept. After all, the NBC chime has been familiar for generations. But this new crop of sonic branding goes beyond TV ads, they’re at the point-of-purchase and in our homes and offices. And in Mastercard’s case, this particularly melody reveals a big change brewing in the payments space: as payment methods change and evolve, so do the brands behind them.

The article can also be read by visiting PaymentsJournal.