Will Mastercard’s sonic identity connect with consumers on a new level?

Discussion
Source: Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor
Feb 14, 2019
Bob Phibbs

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail Doctor’s blog.

Last weekend, I found myself in Fred Segal’s on the Sunset Strip to take part in the launch of Mastercard’s own sonic brand identity, which the credit card giant describes as “the sound equivalent of our iconic red and yellow circles.”

 

Developed for over 18 months in collaboration with agencies, artists and musicians, including Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park, the sound will become a way for consumers to connect with Mastercard in the future, whether online, in a store when using their card or, more importantly, when using voice search.

That’s because voice shopping will hit $40 billion by 2022, according to OC&C Strategy Consultants’ data cited by Mastercard.

“Audio makes people feel things, and that’s what makes it such a powerful medium for brands,” said Matt Lieber, president, Gimlet, the podcasting studio that helped develop Mastercard’s new sound, in a statement. “With the explosion of podcasts, music streaming, and smart speakers, an audio strategy is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ for brands — it’s a necessity.”

As payment options explode for consumers, being top of mind, especially when it comes to voice search, will be table stakes. Much like the old NBC tone did on TV, adding a sound to make the voice shopper actually pay attention will become important to brand loyalty.

Sense memories are quite powerful. Beyond sound and sight, some retailers are using smells to support the in-store experience.

As Dr. Christophe Morin and Patrick Renvoise, authors of “The Persuasion Code” note, “In today’s day and age, the most successful brands are the ones that deliver feelings and emotions.”

The Mastercard strategy is to touch the senses to stay top-of-mind with their loyal customers.

And as exciting as it was to be there at the launch, I couldn’t help but wonder how many retailers are as focused on where they need to be in the future and how they will remain relevant and top-of-mind to their customers.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see sonic branding growing in importance over the next several years? Should retailers be developing their own sonic branding as well?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"For companies that have managed to pull it off, it’s very powerful. But it’s not revolutionary."
"In a voice-driven, Alexa world it makes sense to have something to distinguish your brand from Amazon’s. "
"In the beginning, branding was text, then imagery. Now audio and video are taking over. When will we leverage our sense of smell? A brand with a trademarked aroma!"

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32 Comments on "Will Mastercard’s sonic identity connect with consumers on a new level?"


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Nikki Baird
BrainTrust
I have to admit, when I first saw this question, I thought this was pretty silly. I’m not sure that I’ve ditched that point of view entirely, but perhaps it’s fair to say that there are some nuances worth exploring. I agree with the notion that sensory experiences are powerful and when you can connect them to a brand, it’s a very effective way of creating brand connections. But I don’t think that’s new at all. As noted, NBC pretty much has a lock on their tri-tone. And Intel has theirs. For companies that have managed to pull it off, it’s very powerful. But it’s not revolutionary. It’s not like MasterCard has done something no one has done before. I also agree that with more voice-driven interactions – I’m not sure that I would call it all “shopping” quite yet – paying attention to sounds and how they connect to a brand is important. However, I also think they need to be careful to give consumers control, so that we don’t start living in the… Read more »
Laura Davis-Taylor
BrainTrust

Right on Nikki. Hailing from a background in advertising, this is not new and I’ve yet to see research to prove that it can change buying intent or behavior. Brand recognition, yes — which can stimulate negative feelings if correlated with a negative experience (hello Jaws!) But in this day and age, I struggle on how much sonic matters if it’s not fueling purchases.

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

Yes, Nikki and Laura. I hear the bongs of Law and Order and think, Law and Order is on. Does it make me drop what I’m doing or choose Law and Order over something else? No. It’s a nice awareness plug but that is about it. Perhaps with a little more thought, the concept can get us to buy or choose a brand but not yet. For my 2 cents.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

This doesn’t purport to change buying behavior, it is an aural identity – particularly for applications where no one will see the gold and red dots. It also gives the user trust it is really the brand and not another unsecured payment choice.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Sorry … I don’t get this argument. Trust is something consumers extend TO brands, not the other way around. And all the chip readers I’ve seen give you a visual prompt to ensure you are using the right network as part of the payment confirmation process. This still feels — or sounds — like a solution chasing a problem.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

I’m sure when Amazon’s Alexa comes out with a sonic identity in a few months you’ll all say “brilliant.”

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Maybe I am slow. I don’t get it.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Who does?

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Thank you. I feel better now.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

So now we’re treating customers like Pavlov’s dogs? Mastercard might think having a sound that’s connected to its brand is cool, but I bet the average consumer won’t pay it any attention to it at all. It’s like the sound the credit card machine makes when it tells you to remove your card; just background noise that adds absolutely nothing to the shopping experience.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

It’s not “all about sound,” sound is merely a sample of what it’s really all about. What it is about is frequency and vibration. We have yet to understand what Einstein, Tesla and others have tried to tell us about these forms of energy. Medicine is probably the profession most in tune with this factor, but even there we’ve only scratched the surface.

I’ve seen specific frequencies embedded into paint in a high-end health spa to create a sense of wellbeing and relief just by walking in the front door. A more advanced idea than a Pavlovian tone is to explore how to reach consumers through frequencies that create an environment that literally resonates with them.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

I’m not buying it. Few if any people care if they have a Mastercard or Visa credit card. If a bank offers a card that they can get and it’s one or the other, it makes no real difference.

Because it will be drummed into their brains, people will know what the tone symbolizes, but they will not care. Instead, they will ultimately get annoyed having to wait for the long tone to play, slowing their transaction. And that’s counter to the reason why voice interfaces will be popular: speaking is second nature and it’s quick. Adding an unneeded tone a.k.a. unneeded delay goes against that.

Hopefully, other brands don’t go down this path.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

There’s no delay, it plays as it processes it.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

Bob – if there are no circumstances where it adds a delay, that’s a good thing. I still see little worry from someone utilizing Alexa, Google Assistant, or as you expressed in your video, hearing the tone at a terminal in-store, that they’re not experiencing an authentic Mastercard transaction. Maybe within some apps, but the branding/loyalty gain there for Mastercard will be essentially nil.

And I still can’t imagine a world where every brand thinks this is a good idea and every product search or brand related voice reply is accompanied by an annoying set of tones.

The bottom line on this initiative: Mastercard is a big corporation drinking its own Kool-Aid and looking for growth in the shadows.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

In the beginning, branding was text, then imagery. Now audio and video are taking over. When will we leverage our sense of smell? A brand with a trademarked aroma!

Has anyone done that yet?! Probably.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

As I noted in the original post, indeed yes, Westin has had their White Tea scent for nearly ten years to brand their properties.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Nice, Bob! I KNEW that wasn’t a new idea. 😉

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

God … I hope not! Sound, as Ian points out is a powerful force — for good and bad. The “Mastercard Melody” is just annoying. And worse, imagine what happens in a world where hundreds of mediocre tones are competing for our attention — modified by what region their sonic assault is taking place in. Another clear example of just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Modifiying the sound by region kind of defeats the purpose of brand familiarity, doesn’t it?

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Not really. It is the same recognizable set of tones. More here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izeEqjeYGgQ&feature=youtu.be

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

But if the idea is to build brand equity through sonic awareness, why create regional variations, no matter how close?

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

I’m sure Mastercard did their homework and the tone and variations resonate way past what those who skoff at it.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Got it. Thanks!

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

If I understand this correctly, this is just branding. The Mastercard circles are recognizable, so why not a sound to go with it. Smart marketers are appealing to all senses (or as many as possible).

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Exactly the point Shep, thanks for getting it.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

I can’t understand why Target plays no music in most of their stores, now this? Will they turn down the MC fight song? Mastercard is now the Law and Order of credit card sounds? Doink Doink. Dumb.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

I don’t know that having a dedicated sonic tone or melody will change anyone’s buying habits, but in a voice-driven, Alexa world it makes sense to have something to distinguish your brand from Amazon’s. Let’s face it – most consumers who would interact with Alexa as Bob shows us in the video would remember that interaction as an “Alexa experience.” That doesn’t help Mastercard, does it? They want you to remember it as a Mastercard experience and the sonic tone will help with that brand recognition. They want a consumer who does this to tell their friends and family about it so that they want a Mastercard experience, too.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Glad you got it Ricardo.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

Sonics can be quite effective if used well. But I haven’t been impressed with Mastercard’s latest efforts.

And a projection of voice-driven sales of $40 billion? Have they forgotten that when a number is tiny today the error in a projection of that much growth is huge – as much as +/- 100 percent?

I doubt that Mastercard will see much value from this sound branding. I don’t think sound branding is a wrong thing – but I don’t see that Mastercard stands to gain from it.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

I want to add just a bit to my comment about how using sound in a Pavlovian way in retail is just the smallest tip of the iceberg. I mentioned that this whole arena is really about frequencies and vibration and how we can learn to use this energy to reshape our experiences. Medicine, I noted, was furthest ahead in this. This article introduces the idea that sound could replace laser frequencies in surgery. As an example, they mention the possibility of “holographic acoustical tweezers.” Kind of makes having a three-note doorbell tone when you see the Mastercard logo look like child’s play, doesn’t it?

David Naumann
BrainTrust

With the increased use of voice-assisted speakers, I can see how this might become a new form of brand identity — at least sort of new. As others pointed out, NBC, Intel and some TV shows have well recognized tones or jingles. I have not carried a Mastercard credit card for years and a tone won’t inspire me to change cards.

While it isn’t truly innovative, I suspect that we will see other companies emulating this strategy in the near future.

Evan Snively
BrainTrust
Sonic branding hinges on the strength of creating proprietary sounds, but creating an audio experience that enhances brand loyalty doesn’t necessarily need to follow the same guidelines. I’m all for Mastercard’s sonic identity but instead of being forced to use that sound, what if the consumer was able to customize that part of their journey, using a sound that was already inherently meaningful to them? Sure you drop whatever consistent brand recognition is gained by using a universal sound, but you gain a valuable personalization touch-point. Imagine being able to swap the MC tone for the Classic Nintendo Coin “Ca-Ching” (instantly triggering a feeling of childhood innocence), or even a sound clip of Aziz Ansari saying “treat yo self,” reminding customers it’s ok to splurge. A bit gimmicky for sure, but no doubt those sounds would bring the user joy, lightheartedness, and probably even spark conversation with the store staff or their friends who share an affinity for those memorable melodies. Make the ability to activate said feature a perk of having a certain card… Read more »
wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"For companies that have managed to pull it off, it’s very powerful. But it’s not revolutionary."
"In a voice-driven, Alexa world it makes sense to have something to distinguish your brand from Amazon’s. "
"In the beginning, branding was text, then imagery. Now audio and video are taking over. When will we leverage our sense of smell? A brand with a trademarked aroma!"

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