At first glance, a press released headlined “Mastercard Drops Its Name” might lead one to believe Mastercard will be the anonymous payment network going forward. But no, Mastercard Inc. is simply removing its name from its familiar interlocking circles logo, the company announced Monday.
The name-drop marks the second time in two-and-a-half years that Mastercard has tinkered with its logo. In July 2016, Mastercard refreshed the colors of its 50-year-old interlocking circles as red and yellow, and changed the longstanding capital “C” in its name to a lower-case “c” to emphasize that the company is about more than just card payments. At that time, the Mastercard name was moved from within the circles to just below them.
Mastercard refers to the interlocking circles as its “symbol.” The symbol “will stand on its own across cards using the red and yellow brand mark, acceptance marks at retail locations both in the physical and digital worlds, and major sponsorship properties,” the release says. “As the consumer and commerce landscape continues to evolve, the Mastercard Symbol represents Mastercard better than one word ever could, and the flexible modern design will allow it to work seamlessly across the digital landscape.”
With its nameless logo, Mastercard is joining such companies as Apple, Target, and Nike that don’t have names integrated into their famous brand images. Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard’s chief marketing and communication officer, said in a statement that “reinvention in the digital age calls for modern simplicity. And with more than 80% of people spontaneously recognizing the Mastercard Symbol without the word ‘mastercard,’ we felt ready to take this next step in our brand evolution. We are proud of our rich brand heritage and are excited to see the iconic circles standing on their own.”
Some payments-industry researchers, however, are scratching their heads as they gaze upon the nameless circles. Tim Sloane, vice president of payments innovation at Maynard, Mass.-based Mercator Advisory Group Inc., qualifies that he’s “not a brand expert by a long shot.” But he adds, “I am hard-pressed to discern any such strategy here.”
“Perhaps this is preparation for a single buy button where logo space is by nature, and perhaps by contract, limited,” Sloane says in an email message. “Remember, Mastercard and its competitors are always trying to instill brand into every aspect of product usage.”
Sloane notes that both Mastercard and Visa Inc. have “released sounds that they will require be used for conversational commerce. It is interesting to note that sounds are critical for confirming purchase intention and purchase confirmation.”