Mastercard's advice to marketers: Figure out what your brand sounds like
Raja Rajamannar has a message for fellow marketers out there: It's time to figure out what your brand sounds and tastes like. The chief marketing and communications officer at Mastercard was at Advertising Week New York this week to discuss the company's new sonic branding and other forays into the five senses, particularly taste.
At first blush, a financial services company does not have to do with sound or flavor apart from, say, facilitating transactions at concerts or restaurants. That said, Mastercard is leaning into the idea of creating "experiences."
The Purchase, New York-based brand (how perfect is that?) is in the midst of an overhaul of how it hits consumers' senses: Visually, it updated its famous logo of interlocking circles by dropping the word mark in January. Then, it revealed its new sonic branding, which includes everything from an audio logo to the sonic signal of a completed transaction.
"With voice commerce becoming very big, there's no visual real estate where you can show this beautiful brand. You can represent your brand with Alexa or Google, etc., only through voice," he tells Ad Age in this video shot from the lobby of the AMC Lincoln Square theater. "So we had to create a sonic identity."
On the subject of taste, Mastercard launched a restaurant in Italy and also brought pop-up restaurants that painstakingly recreate four world famous eateries in New York's Tribeca neighborhood to "launch the taste of priceless." (To be clear, though, we've been to the New York outpost and there is very much a price attached to the food on offer).
Rajamannar's takeaway from these endeavors—and his advice to other marketers—is that "they're going to have to jump on the bandwagon sooner or later. First movers in this space will always have significant advantage," he says. "Depending on whether they are a global brand or a local brand, you need to be really in tune with consumers' tastes and sensibilities."
For a brand in a seemingly stodgy space, Mastercard has been innovating in real ways recently: In June of this year the brand announced it would allow transgender customers to use their preferred names on debit and credit cards. For Pride month it renamed New York's Gay Street in Greenwich Village to "Acceptance Street."
This, says Rajamannar, is what he means when he talks about a brand's sensibility. It is the "subtle undercurrent in a person's feelings in their actions and what they care about," he says. "It's basically the why behind the how and behind the what. You need to tap into those sensibilities."
As for the senses, though, there's no word yet on what Mastercard smells like.