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MasterCard is paying millions to produce its own music album, part of its sonic branding campaign

What if your favorite brands launched their own musical careers? Think singles, albums, and concerts. No? Well, believe it. MasterCard is making it happen.

Mastercard had announced this sonic branding campaign back in 2019, revealing a jingle it had paid millions to produce Now, it has taken it further, investing into a full-blown musical album, hiring an artist to record their first ever single In layman's terms, sonic branding is essentially the audio counterpart of visual branding - using sound to create a brand image

What if your favorite brands launched their own musical careers? Think singles, albums, and concerts. No? 

Well, believe it. MasterCard is making it happen.

Taking sonic branding to the next level

It’s no surprise that the best jingles come from the best-known, most successful brands. By now, we’re all pretty familiar with the classic Samsung or Nokia’s iconic ringtones, or the “I’m lovin’ it” jingle from McDonald’s.

Still, some companies have been pushing some interesting innovations in the field. 

Mastercard, the financial services firm, showcased at the ongoing Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2020) in Las Vegas, USA its first ever single, titled “Merry Go Round” and performed by Swedish artist Nadine Randle. They even announced plans to release an entire album for their brand. 

The concept is the brainchild of Mastercard chief marketing and communications officer Raja Rajamannar, who used his background in music to inform his marketing strategy. 

“Sound is our next frontier for brand expression and a powerful way for us to reach consumers through the passions that connect us all,” Rajamannar said. 

Mastercard’s approach to sonic branding (or the concept of advertising through audio) is quite interesting. Essentially, they’ve taken their relatively new jingle and expanded it into a full-blown ballad that is indistinguishable from any billboard topping song. 

“The launch of this sonic-integrated song project is one-of-a-kind and signals the way that music and consumer consumption is changing,” said Niclas Molinder, a world-famous songwriter and producer that helped create Mastercard’s single. “The recognizable sonic sound architecture has an incredible way of transcending genres and geographies, while continually evoking excitement through its expressive melody.”

The original jingle, which serves as the main motif of the Merry Go Round single: 

When Mastercard first launched this particular sonic branding campaign last year, Forbes reported that it cost the company $15 million. That’s quite the cheque to sign for a 3-second, 6-note jingle, but Mastercard is confident in its campaign, and wants you to hear this catchy tune every time you use its services, whether at POS points, on your phone, or in your home. 

Mastercard’s bold marketing stint could pay dividends, even if it does sound like a trivial novelty right now. After all, there seems to be a growing focus on sonic branding following the rise of voice assistants like Alexa, which has prompted marketers to rediscover the importance of sound in reaching consumers.

How sonic branding works

Advertising is a business practice as old as time, harkening back to years BC when market stand owners would shout promotions on top of their breath. It’s safe to say we’ve become a tad bit more sophisticated since then, blaring the same advertising spiel from radios and TVCs instead. However, the craft is still the same: using sound to market a product or brand. 

In essence, that’s what sonic branding is. Despite the fancy term, most of us are quite familiar with it. Any jingle on the radio you’ve had caught in your head is a successful instance of sonic branding. The goal is to create an audio persona for the brand, the same way visual branding uses motifs, characters and slogans to catch a customer’s eye and create a brand identity. 

“Sonic branding is becoming a strong vehicle through which companies convey memorable messages to their target audience,” the blog Marketing Tutor explains. “From catchy snippets of different tunes to non-lyrical sounds, sonic branding takes advantage of the most powerful memory of human brain – sound.”

And it works. Advertising is mainly a psychological affair, and just like visual memory, echoic memory (memory relating to sounds) can be equally, if not more, memorable. From triggering emotions to imprinting memorable tunes into our heads that we associate with the brand, sound can be a veritable advertising tool. 

“Different melodies, chords, or key changes in songs can elicit responses,” Econsultancy notes, citing an Australian consumer study. “For example, strings playing short and sharp notes in a major key were found to elicit feelings of happiness and excitement in 87% of respondents. Meanwhile, a shift from major to minor keys provoked a sense of sadness or melancholy in 83%, and 90% found acoustic guitar sounds to be caring, calm and sophisticated.”