Did Mastercard really need to launch its first rebrand in 20 years?

Matt Parkes
Mastercard unveiled its new logo earlier this month (Source: Mastercard)

Mastercard unveiled its first rebrand in twenty years earlier this month and the reaction to its new design has so far been pretty positive.

But does it have that very modern measure of success: shareability?

On initial inspection, the new design can seem a little underwhelming, especially considering it’s the first time the branding for the credit card firm has been updated in two decades.

Much of the original design has been retained, with the overlapping circles and the iconic use of red and orange. However, scrape the surface and stand in the designers’ shoes, and the enormity of the brief here begins to hit home.

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Keep the charisma, but bring it kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Not an easy task, by any measure.

The team behind the new design claim that they were driven to the new look logo and typeface by the requirements of the digital world, while wanting to retain the recognisable characteristics of the brand.

As a result, gone are the capital letters, clunky shadowing and fussy details, and in their place are a new lowercase font and a simplified overlapping circle design which keeps the brand’s original look but makes it relevant for a modern world.

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There’s been a clear effort here to remove Mastercard from stuffy, corporate perceptions traditionally associated with finance and banking, and instead convey it as a softer, more approachable brand that fits in to today’s multi-purpose, digitally powered society.

The lowercase typeface is certainly more compatible with digital transactions, which are increasingly becoming the number one banking method of choice for millions of global consumers.

With new technologies emerging and evolving such as ever-more sophisticated smartphones and devices like the Apple watch, it’s vital that today’s brands and their logos are recognisable and accessible via these smaller screens, and this new logo with its distinctive circles certainly passes this test.

Missed opportunity?

Many brands have rich histories and with that comes a sense of familiarity for their audiences, while their symbols, language and straplines are embedded in the minds of consumers – to risk losing this is a big gamble.

There is an argument that Mastercard has missed an opportunity here: to use its branding to tell a new story and to bring together all the wider elements of the brand’s marketing strategy, drawing on the famous "priceless" strapline from its advertising campaigns.

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The strapline will still be used, but could this have been played up more in the design, again drawing on an aspect of the brand which is well loved and remembered by consumers all over the globe?

Even if this simple redesign is a clever reflection of a rapidly changing market, Mastercard has not won out yet.

If it wants its rebrand to stay relevant, it will need to back this up with creative and engaging activity to ensure its new brand endures through the coming decades.

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