In 2016, Mastercard made headlines for releasing its first new logo in two decades. And this year, it announced it would remove its own name from the symbol. Now, the credit card company is pushing its brand even further into a new era by debuting a sonic brand identity.
A few days ago, the company announced the release of what amounts to its own soundtrack, a “transaction sound” that will play across mediums and platforms when users check out. Developed with what Mastercard describes as a group of “musicians, artists, and agencies from across the globe,” including Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, it’s a contemporary answer to the jingles of another era.
It’s also a reflection of the way branding has evolved in recent years. Today, brands need to have a distinct, recognizable identity not just in packaging, stores, or billboards, but across digital ads, apps, and podcasts–and newest of all, in a growing number of screenless interfaces, like Amazon and Google voice assistants. Brands, once purely visual tools, are weaving their way into the world around us–including what we hear.
“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,” the company’s announcement reads. Without a screen, you can’t see what Mastercard looks like–but you can certainly hear what it sounds like.
Mastercard isn’t alone in investing in sonic branding. Visa, one of its most direct competitors, is similarly trying to leverage sound to imbue its brand with trust. Coca-Cola has long managed a vast audio library of sonic identities for its various brands, sounds that can be heard in commercials and even the occasional Billboard 100 hit.
Sound and audio have long been valued by tech companies–just look at what went into developing Apple’s instantly recognizable text message sound–and developers and engineers seem to be putting even more emphasis on the auditory experience of their software. For instance, Prototyper recently launched an audio UI library to bring more sounds to interface easily, even if you don’t have the resources of an Apple or Tinder.
So just what does Mastercard sound like? To my ears, the company’s sonic “logo” is something akin to a folksy Coldplay cover. It starts like it’s drinking Budweiser in middle America, but quickly incorporates some ephemeral, optimistic world beat texturing–perhaps channeling Ed Sheeran through a synth.
Whatever you hear the next time you pay with your credit card, there’s certainly a hook. And with American credit debt rising apace, you probably haven’t heard the last of Mastercard, either.