Mastercard reveals new Sonic Branding, but what is it and will it work for MENA? [Interview]

Last weekend, one of the biggest technology companies in the global payments industry launched a new addition to their continued brand transformation. After two years of work, Mastercard announced they are ready to show the world their new sonic brand.

According to the company, the sonic brand will be “a comprehensive sound architecture that signifies the latest advancement for the brand.”

Working with talents from around the world, including Linkin Park’s Mike `Shinoda, Mastercard developed a distinct and memorable melody that will be heard throughout all of their future communications, as well as whenever a consumer uses their Mastercard.

“With voice shopping set to hit $40 billion by 2022, audio identities not only connect brands with consumers on a new dimension, they are tools enabling consumers to shop, live, and pay in an increasingly digital and mobile world,” states a press release from the company. This could be another reason why the brand is venturing into sonic branding.

We sat down with Mastercard’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Middle East and Africa, Beatrice Cornacchia, to talk more about their new sonic brand and how it will be implemented in MENA.


Just last month, Mastercard announced that they are dropping the famous text in their logo after only a few years from its full rebranding in 2016 and now you are announcing a new addition to the company’s brand through Sonic Branding.

That’s a lot of transformations and changes in a short amount of years, why does Mastercard feel this immense need to transform and change itself?

“You are right, our sonic brand is not the only brand announcement we have made recently. Our journey on the transformation, or I would call it the modernizing, of our brand started in 2016.

Mastercard is one of the most recognizable global brands across the globe, and our consumers associate Mastercard with values such as trust, faith, security and modernity. We feel a responsibility to be at the cutting edge of any new innovation we undertake.

As a technology company, it is our responsibility to offer to our consumers the best experience, whether we’re launching a new solution or new tool, or if we are talking about the brand.

With this in mind, and also knowing that the world that we are living in now has an increasingly blurred line between the physical world and the digital world, we need to understand how to connect with our consumers at different touch points.

In 2016, we went through a remodernization of our brand and at that time, we made the decision to take the Mastercard name out from the logo. [However], we kept the name and we just changed the ‘M’ and the ‘C’ from capital to small [letters], because at the time we felt that the market was not 100% ready to completely remove the name.

But in 2016, that was the vision. Now in 2019, the vision has become reality; our consumers associate Mastercard with our colors and interlocking circles. That is why we have decided to take quite a bold decision, but also conscious that the numbers are telling us that we can do that, to take the Mastercard name out… so, we [now have] a symbolic brand.

Our consumers are using their voices to ask questions to Google, they are using their voices to make purchases. So, we felt that it was our responsibility to be present when consumers are making any payments, asking any question, or when they are navigating through life. That is why the sonic brand came to our mind and we started our journey.

Again, it was not a decision that was taken today, back in 2016 that was the vision we had. It just took us almost two and a half years to make it happen.”


So, this is a very long-term plan in terms of brand evolution, will you be adding anything, is there more to the evolution and the vision?

“Of course! There is always more.

As you can imagine, I cannot be precise but I can give you a peek.

For Mastercard, our consumers are extremely important …We want to connect with our consumers with [all of] the five senses. Each of us have five senses, for the moment, we [the brand] touched upon two senses. The only thing I can tell you is that we will continue; so, this is two out of five and so definitely more to come.”


Let’s talk a little bit about the sonic branding, could you tell us a what was an important part of the transformation and modernization of the brand?

“Yes, so the journey of the sonic brand, as I told you, started 18 months ago…

We have been working with musicians and agencies across the globe because, while Mastercard is a global brand and a global company, and we are proud to be a global company, we are also proud to be local as well. To have local insights…

The music can have the same melody like our anthem, but you can insert some beats that can have a huge local flavor. So, when we started our journey and began working with our musicians and agencies, we wanted to communicate five major attributes.

The first one is [to be] relatable and inclusive; so, while I want to create a unique melody, I want melodies that can be listened to by everybody regardless of where you are coming from. The second attribute we wanted was passion; I really wanted to transmit the energy [of the red and orange color, they are transmitting] really good energy and that is what we wanted to replicate with our anthem.

The third attribute is surprise… for a technology company to have a sonic brand; it is not the first thing you would expect from them. So, we wanted to pull this surprising element. The fourth is delight; I really wanted to have a melody that always has a simple degree of sophistication but at the end, it is a timeless sound.

Last and not least, captivating. I really wanted to have an attribute that is remarkable, unforgettable. I really wanted to create melodies that stay with you. So, those are the five attributes we had clearly in mind when we were briefing our agencies and musicians…

We were also thinking ‘where are we going to use the sonic brand?’

As you know, consumers today don’t want [to see] advertising anymore. They would like to have a piece of content [instead]. So, moving forward, any specific piece of content that Mastercard will deliver to our consumers will include our sonic brand. Also, when you make a purchase, online or in the real world, the idea is, of course, to have the Mastercard anthem [play] if you are using your Mastercard card.

So, anytime a consumer is interacting with our brand, ideally, our sonic brand should be there.”


How will it help with marketing the company other than the fact that it is content?

“… We see this as the new frontier for branding…The beauty of the sonic brand is that we will be able to adapt and localize it. The melody will remain the same, but we will create some flavor to make the sonic brand more relevant in the Middle East when relevant, and the same for other places in Africa and around the world.

So, really the idea is to have something that does resonate with our consumers.”


From what I understand, there are several melodies based on the master anthem, as you mentioned, to help be more relatable in certain countries or regions, including one specifically for Dubai.

Will we be seeing one specifically for Egypt and other MENA countries?

“Yes! So, the answer is yes… again, for us at Mastercard, it is extremely important to respect culture and the environment where we are. So, of course the overall melody will be the same, but the vibes, the tone will lightly change in order to welcome, in this case, the Egyptian reality.”

*Mastercard’s Dubai Anthem


So, when should we expect it?

“[Unfortunately] I don’t have a specific date. I really hope that it will be quite soon, but I cannot be very specific right now. I have not started working with any local musicians [yet], so I don’t know the exact timeline. [However] it is our interest to do it as soon as possible, because that is, for us, the right way to thank all our consumers and to be close to them.”


Let’s talk implementation. While MENA countries such as KSA will be able to quickly transition into using the sonic brand, how are you planning on implementing in other MENA countries like Egypt, which are still mainly cash-economies?

“…This is, as I call it, a nice challenge that we have. I really prefer to have these challenges to be able to make an impact. For this reason, this is not only a marketing and communications exercise. We are working very closely with our salesforce, our acceptance team, and our merchants’ team, in order to design a precise rollout plan market by market.

Because, of course, some markets can [implement faster] because the infrastructure is more ready [than others], and some markets will have some delays.

Now is the time in which we will design a very detailed plan… we have already designed the different activities that need to happen… [now that we have launched], and we working with our partners to understand which launch plan we can put in place.

Most probably, there will be [some] differences but generally speaking… [it should be the same as] the vision we have.”


I understand the reason why Mastercard is introducing the sonic brand is because of the voice shopping industry internationally, but how do you see the voice shopping industry in MENA?

Is it a strong power right now, or, for most countries, should we be holding our breath for a little while longer for voice shopping to actually be a big trend here?

“I really feel that this region has huge potential, so I believe that in some specific markets, it will take a little bit more time. One thing I can tell you, out of this $40 billion broadcast, the MENA region is playing an important role. It is not playing the predominant role, but it is playing an important role…”


I only have one more question right now. What else can we expect from Mastercard this year?

“Let’s put it like this, you can expect that at least we are going to add one more sense to [the ways] we communicate with our consumers.”


Audio Press Releases

Alongside their announcement, Mastercard also released their first ever “Audio Press Release” for the launch.


When we asked Cornacchia if Mastercard MENA is planning on following suit, and possibly in Arabic, she stated “the beauty of a podcast [or audio press release] is that we can do it in different languages… [Currently] we are still finalizing and designing the roadmap, so I can’t tell you specifically [when].”

While it may take some time to implement here in MENA, the sonic brand is an interesting concept that could prove useful for the future.

Should brands be preparing their own sonic branding?

Maybe not yet for SMEs and companies focused only on local markets. Keep an ear out for Mastercard’s sounds whenever you’re shopping, and let us know when you hear it locally.


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