Raja Rajamannar approached his boss with a rather unusual proposal. “I went to my CEO and said, ‘I think we should drop our name from our logo. The look was… priceless,” the MasterCard CMO tells Bob Pittman on the iHeartMedia CEO’s “Math & Magic: Stories from the Frontiers of Marketing” podcast. It turns out Rajamannar had two very valid reasons for the radical idea. 

Recognition of the brand, even without the name MasterCard written out, stood at 84%. Plus Rajamannar had concerns about how the brand is represented on small screens like mobile devices, “where multiple brands are stacked next to each other, when you come to checkout page in an online shopping store.” No one could read the name MasterCard in these environments, Rajamannar contends. Dropping the name allowed MasterCard to enlarge its trademark interlocking circles in the small space and “the visibility was suddenly far more superior than any of my competitors.” But Rajamannar had other motives. “MasterCard is more than a payments company. We are into so many spaces, including healthcare,” which Rajamannar oversees. Dropping the MasterCard name increased the logo’s applicability across multiple spaces. And the new logo’s more stylish and contemporary look allowed the company to put it in many spaces that would have been problematic in the past. 

Dropping the name from the logo is only one of the ways the CMO has shaken things up at the company. In an era of voice, MasterCard also developed a sonic logo and got it embedded in a host of unusual places, including music. With smart speakers becoming more prevalent, Rajamannar needed a way to showcase the logo in a screen-less environment. “We needed to find a different way of depicting our brand in the context of sound,” he explains. So it set out to build a “contextually neutral” sound that would be appropriate everywhere from Dubai to New York, at a soccer match or an opera. It also had to be likable, memorable and hummable.

The melody it came up with will be used in all of the company’s ads, events and presentations. It also serves as MasterCard’s music on hold and is available as downloadable ringtone. 

The company then took a three-second hook from the 30-second melody and created a sonic signature to play at the end of every ad. Then it took a 1.3 second snippet of the audio signature to create a “sonic acceptance sound” and embedded it into nearly 7.6 million payment point devices worldwide. 

But that wasn’t enough. Rajamannar wanted to embed the sound “into the culture.” At CES 2020, MasterCard unveiled its first-ever branded music single, a collaboration with Swedish artist Nadine Randle. 

On the podcast, Rajamannar also discusses how he's reimagining the company's famous “Priceless” ad campaign and why he thinks of MasterCard, not as a credit card company, but as a technology company and a “lifestyle brand.”