Will MasterCard’s new logo work for the Brand?

22 Jan,2019

 

By Bindu Balakrishnan

 

MasterCard announced recently that it’s dropping its name from the logo where it has resided for more than half a century. This means that the brand will now be represented by two interlocking red and yellow circles, known as the MasterCard Symbol.  This change is an indicator that the company is moving its branding strategy to prepare for a world which will be card-less and digital payments will rule the roost.  As MasterCard says in its press release, “the MasterCard Symbol represents MasterCard better than one word ever could, and the flexible modern design will allow it to work seamlessly across the digital landscape”.

 

With removing its name from its logo, MasterCard joins the likes of Apple, Target, Nike etc.  Apple and Target have logos which are not abstract and represent their names, so it’s easy to make the connection for the consumer. With a logo like MasterCard’s, which is two overlapping circles, it might not be that easy as circles of various colours are widely used in logos and brandings.

 

Is this change going to be positive for the brand and how is it going to be perceived in India and the rest of the world? Though MasterCard’s business model has been to drive its sales exclusively via its partners, it has always directed its communication and advertising to the end consumer. In the western world like Europe, media clutter is much lower than what we see in India, be it TV, print or OOH. There the impact of the logo change might not be that high as the audience will still be able to distinguish and identify the two interlocking circles as the MasterCard logo. But in a country like India where we are constantly bombarded by advertising from different brands and the use of OOH advertising is widespread, the logo without the name might get lost in the clutter. Their latest brand ambassador M.S Dhoni who also endorses many other products and services, would also not lend much of a brand recognition if seen with this new logo without a name. MasterCard will have to spend aggressively to reinstate its new identity in the minds of the consumer.

 

While the logo change and puling the name out of the interlocking circles does lend benefits looking at the long-term strategy of MasterCard and its move towards a card-less world, only time will tell if it was the right strategy in terms of brand recognition. The yea-sayers and nay-sayers are closely watching.

 

Late in Catching the Bus

 

MasterCard is one of the established name in the minds of the consumers, especially with their iconic communication “…. For everything else, there’s MasterCard”. The mobile wallets made a big push in the post demonetization period and established its name in the hearts and minds of the common man. The wallet brands capitalised on the gap left behind by demonetization and almost became a necessity for survival. But MasterCard missed that opportunity and failed to capture the mind share of the Indians in the Tier 2 cities, limiting itself to an urban phenomenon. All the associations are still limited to the debit and credit cards one is offered from different banks, where you see a mention of MasterCard in one corner.

 

Currently, India has under gone multiple changes, be it demonetisation, cashless India, Make in India or Digital India.  These initiatives have pushed India towards a digital ecosystem, which the likes of PayTM, Mobikwik etc successfully leveraged to be the market leaders. Post demonetisation in 2016, when there was a dearth in physical cash, these companies went on an aggressive marketing mode and reflected the urgency. They were everywhere; on TV, Print, Radio, OOH…they just took over. Further to that, these companies used the so-called feet on the wheels, where the sales team went door to door to sign on merchants to be part of their payment gateway. All this and we hardly saw any noticeable push from MasterCard at this time. So, it definitely looks like MasterCard missed that bus.

 

MasterCard Advertising Needs to Work Twice as Hard

 

MasterCard seems to have realised very late in the game the enormity of the government initiative in making Digital India a reality and the impact it would have on the financial ecosystem.  In some ways, it also underestimated the consumer acceptability of e-wallet, payment gateways etc. The combined factors of wider acceptability of e-com, increased smartphone penetration, digital acceptability and better and cheaper network connectivity has revolutionised the fintech space in the past couple of years. It has eased the life of consumers, who see it as a welcome change where their dependency on the middle man is gone and making them feel even more empowered. Though Dhoni is one of the stalwarts of Indian cricket, who is accepted not only by masses but also by classes, this most bankable icon is also endorsing other brands simultaneously. Hence the advertising will have to work much harder to capture the mindshare of Indians and his clear association to MasterCard to make the campaign effective.

 

MasterCard has always been relevant to the cultural and consumer truth of India and its choice of Dhoni as its brand ambassador reflects exactly that. Dhoni with his clean image  connects well in the minds of consumers, across age groups and classes. Having said that, MasterCard is still seen as B2B partner. With the latest logo change, it will have to up the ante with aggressive marketing and high investments on different media touchpoints, to win the minds of the consumer and establish itself as a partner of choice.

 

Long Standing Legacy

 

The biggest advantage MasterCard has is its decades of impeccable legacy and its name as a well-trusted international brand.  It has an immense network behind it, being the preferred partner with many credible national and international banks in India and elsewhere.   Additionally, the digital payment platforms cannot work independently and are linked to credit cards like MasterCard and the banks themselves, to facilitate payments on e-commerce portals, e-payments, E-bills etc. Here, Master Card definitely has an upper edge over the digital payment players.

 

 

Bindu Balakrishnan is Country Head, DCMN India. The views here are personal

 

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