The Spotlight on Mastercard’s new identity

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Here our financial and design experts give their view on the redesign and what this digital shift means for both marketing and the financial services.

JJ’s view

Sarah’s view:

We live in a world where consumers can identify the biggest brands from visual clues alone. Not only that, we thrive on our ability to identify our favourite brands – the logos quiz app has had over 40 million downloads worldwide! So it’s a wise move for Mastercard to retain the iconic interlocking red and yellow circles. And it gives them a great device to carry through both print and digital formats.

To cap or not to cap? Personally I’m not sold on the new lowercase mastercard (although I have just clicked “add to dictionary”). It’s a fashionable trend with the apparent objective of making a brand exude an approachable and friendly vibe. As my colleague, Zea, rightly points out in her personal branding article, we are our own brand, and writing our own name with leading caps is innate. I think the same rule applies for the brands we know and love.

Rebranding their icon right now has strategically aided the promotion and re-announcement of the new Masterpass service – a clever move if you ask me.
Marina Picciano-Smith,
Account Manager

Marina’s view:

“The goal was to convey simplicity and modernity” – and that’s exactly what they did. The simple primary colours, alongside modern font have allowed Mastercard to retain its distinctive recognisable heritage logo, but also demonstrate it’s moving with the times to keep up with the increasing competitive market. I think it’s important for brands to maintain their competitive edge as a logo is the key asset that distinguishes your brand amongst competitors. VISA, their direct competitor, recently carried out a similar logo refresh, so they inevitably needed to follow suit.

Whilst modernising the logo, they’ve also addressed the capital ‘C’. How big of a deal is this? Clearly quite substantial as it’s been part of the brand for over 20 years. Even writing this now, spell check is picking up an error with how I’m writing ‘Mastercard’ with the dropping of the capital ‘C’.

On a par with the “golden arches”, and the big white tick, Mastercard is up there as one of the world’s most recognisable brands (and is in the top 50 most iconic brand logos in the world!), so of course this brand change would have caused a few sleepless nights. In the eyes of a discerning consumer, the visual identity of a logo can make or break a brand but they’re more likely to ascribe positive attributes such as trust, respect, and reliability to logos they are familiar with.

Rebranding their icon right now has strategically aided the promotion and re-announcement of the new Masterpass service – a clever move if you ask me. Whilst being reborn into the new digital age, it only seemed apt to rejuvenate their logo simultaneously. With everyone moving online and being glued to their smartphones, adapting their logo for better mobile optimisation was a no brainer, something every brand needs to consider. And with Mastercard being the first network to deliver an all-digital payment service for consumers, they’re leading the way in the right direction.

Sue’s view:

I’m a huge fan of evolution not revolution (well, occasionally revolution where appropriate).

As guardian of a global brand with loyal users stretching over four decades, Raja Rajamannar and the team at Pentagram have done an exemplary job of evolving the Mastercard brand whilst retaining the most distinctive elements of its original identity. The Masterpass service update provides a perfect rationale for a design refresh and offers an opportunity to engage with a new audience. The retention and continued investment in the iconic elements of the design, namely the interlocking circles and the colours, will ensure that all audiences, in any region, will continue to instantly recognise the Mastercard logo. Raja deserves a well-earned summer holiday, no doubt booked using his Mastercard, after successfully delivering a design challenge with complex stakeholders.

Whilst the new branding looks new and fresh, it does also retain some of its heritage and a retro feel.
Simon Hollis,
Brand Designer

Si’s view:

It’s a bold move forward, and looking at the timeline of the logo’s development, it seems like a logical progression from where they were, bringing it more into the modern digital world. Interesting that the new logotype “FF Mark” that has been created mirrors that used in the logo from 1979, so whilst the new branding looks new and fresh, it does also retain some of its heritage and a retro feel. Great work by Pentagram, it’s a thumbs up from me.

John’s view:

The design of a logo is fundamental, as it’s the core element which represents and identifies a brand. Change is constant, and the evolution of a brand’s visual identity isn’t something that shocks us. Just take a look at JJ’s insight piece of ‘The evolution of a brand’ to see how other companies have developed their logos.

Mastercard is a very recognisable and distinguished brand used by millions worldwide and its brand logo has been strengthened by simplification. Although the continuous development of the logo came to a halt in 1996, the company has evolved over time, introducing digital products and new technology for payment systems. With technology becoming increasingly important, especially in the financial world, Mastercard has modernised its look and feel in line with its product offering.

Although the concept of the logo hasn’t dramatically changed, the components have been enhanced by brightening the primary colours and repositioning the word ‘mastercard’ in a more contemporary font (which I’m sure in the future will not even need to feature below the logo). With such global prominence, the logo doesn’t need to rely on the company name. The red and yellow interlocking circles are instantly recognised and remembered – envisage the logo’s that belong to brands such as Apple and McDonalds which have simple concepts, distinguished by an icon.

Amy’s view:

With consumers increasingly using mobiles and tablets to access their banking through apps, the financial and banking sectors are under pressure to meet ever changing customer expectations and make the move online with their customers. It should then, be no surprise that Mastercard, one of the most recognised credit card providers, has updated its logo to be more digital and online friendly. The change is subtle enough that consumers will still immediately connect the distinctive red and yellow circles with the brand, yet drastic enough that it opens the doors for more seamless use on digital platforms. Updating their logo is a positive move towards being more digitally agile, but much more exciting is the launch of Masterpass – the ‘omni-channel’ all digital payment platform. Bringing together all of the ways in which consumers pay for things, from cold hard cash to our plastic best friend, Masterpass will allow customers to make a payment from wherever they are with one simple experience. But, as with any new technology, to really wow those tech savvy consumers in this digital age, it has to be executed with perfection – and to know that, well, only time will tell.

I agree that the logo will look great on an app icon, but does that make this a digital rebrand?
Rich Henderson,
Account Director

Rich’s view:

From a visual point of view, I really like the new Mastercard logo but I think it highlights issues many large businesses are facing.

Mastercard claims that the new logo “aims to retain its 50-year-old familiarity while making it more digital” and this is where I am disappointed by the Mastercard update. I agree that the logo will look great on an app icon, but does that make this a digital rebrand?

What even is a digital rebrand for that matter? – (I will leave you to answer that) – In this case, what I think Mastercard means is it wants a logo which represents its focus on digital and modern finances and from this perspective, I think the new mastercard identity delivers on this – but also highlights other, incumbent issues.

I think this rebrand is Mastercard emulating companies that really get digital and following their lead. The logo follows Apple’s flat design style used since iOS 7 and clearly will look great on a mobile home page. The font is very digital start-up and you can see similarities to the change Alphabet/Google made not so long ago. At least they didn’t go as far as using a gradient between the red and the yellow.

To me this new identity only suggests Mastercard is not leading in digital, just trying to keep up.

I hope Mastercard proves me wrong and really demonstrates digital change through the business – which will be the real test of how the brand is represented.

Retaining brand in the digital revolution

For many the Mastercard brand update has been a long time coming. The digital revolution began some time ago and, for many of the big brands, making the digital switch has been difficult to embrace fully. As is clear from our experts’ view, despite the time it’s taken, Mastercard has effectively made the transition whilst retaining its brand identity and culture.

What are your thoughts on the new logo and digital vision for Mastercard and the financial services? Share them with us on Twitter.

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