Mastercard does some…. branding…!

Not the most exciting headline I suppose, but I am a bit bemused by the furor about the decision to remove the brand name from the logo. This decision been called ‘smart’, ‘masterful (nice pun)’ ‘bold’. I call it business as usual. This is what any brand with a strong Distinctive Asset can do - use the Distinctive Asset to replace the brand name. It’s not brave, bold or brilliant, it’s just good branding - assuming you have a couple of foundations in place.

1. It is really a strong asset with (close to) 100% Fame and 100% Uniqueness

Marketers often over-estimate the strength of their Distinctive Assets because they have a skewed view of the impact of their own asset building activities versus competitors. Mastercard are reported in the Forbes article as saying 80% of consumers recognised the logo without the words accompanying it (I assume they linked it to Mastercard, not just had seen it before!). This does, of course, mean 20% or 1 in 5 consumers don’t think Mastercard when they see this logo. Perhaps these people don’t need credit cards?

Some forms of measurement can also give misleading results. For example our research, published in the Journal of Advertising Research, shows that prompting people with the brand name when measuring the strength of Distinctive assets can inflate Fame scores by up to 20 percentage points.

2. There is a new buyer education process in place

Even if you have a strong asset now, new buyers are constantly coming into the category. Distinctive Assets are not innate knowlege, we learn them through the (successful) activites of marketers. New category buyers need to be taught that this Distinctive Asset is synonymous with Mastercard or over time, even the strongest Distinctive Asset will erode in Fame.

3. There is a competitor monitoring system in place

While you might have some control about your brand’s asset building activities, you have limited control over competitor activities. For a global brand like Mastercard, its important to monitor the Uniqueness of their asset, and check no competitors are encroaching into its mental territory. Lack of Uniqueness is when competitor brands are also linked to your brand’s asset. And once lost, Uniqueness, is very difficult to regain - as you can’t tell category buyers not to think something!. So picking up encroachment is early is really important for keeping a Distinctive Asset strong.

4. You have a full Distinctive Asset palette and not just rely on one asset

A visual asset will not work in all environments. Any brand needs a set of diverse assets to draw on to use in different media and retail environments. Putting all your eggs in one basket with one asset is a risky strategy.

Mastercard’s choice is not something to be applauded, celebrated or even criticised in itself. Thousands of brands make this same decision for branding moments in an advertisement, on a social social media post and other places where category buyers experience brands. It’s just often, unfortunately, a decision made without the right foundations in place. Hopefully this is not the case for Mastercard.

Posted on January 11, 2019 .