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Mastercard recently joined the growing list of companies embracing wordless logos, opting to let their iconic red and yellow interlocking circles represent their brand. “We live in a time where, increasingly, we communicate not through words but through icons and symbols. Now, by allowing this symbol to shine on its own, Mastercard enters an elite cadre of brands that are represented not by name, but by symbol: an apple, a target, a swoosh,” says Michael Bierut, a design partner with Pentagram, the agency responsible for the logo change.
By name-checking themselves with other iconic symbol brands, Mastercard aims to solidify their status as a heritage brand that is nonetheless adaptable, digital-friendly and modern. The usefulness of image logos has grown with the rise of digital marketing and an increased need for efficient consumer connection. Brands, new and old, are experimenting with different image logos and icons to capture market share.
The Rise Of Digital Has Pushed Many Brands To Simplify
In an increasingly hectic online landscape, brand recognition is key. When a user scrolls down the page, a recognizable logo, devoid of words or clutter, could instantly stand out. Once spotted, the user will be alerted they can pay with Mastercard or that Nike is a sponsor, or whatever cue the brand is trying to deliver. For marketers, this can increase brand awareness and customer engagement.
The move to mobile and the dominance of digital was the architect of the wordless logo. Wordless logos seamlessly work across all digital interfaces, creating more user-friendly experiences and more succinct brand message. For Mastercard, the word-free logo also portends a likely move into alternate forms of payment, which the logo will represent. According to a recent Vox article, “Mastercard is using the word drop for something totally different — they’re trying to move away from the card aspect towards a more virtual financial space, where cards might not be the wave of the future.” In 2011, Starbucks did something similar, when they dropped their name in an effort to be about more than coffee. Additionally, an image logo has the benefit of working effortlessly in the global market — no translation necessary.
App Icons Serve As A Brand Identity That Is Adaptable Across Platforms
Apps have also ushered in a version of the image logo. Snapchat, Twitter and Spotify are among the companies whose user-interface icon, ubiquitous on mobile devices, is also their brand identity. Although instantly recognizable as a standalone image, for creative or sponsorships the mark will often be featured with the company name offering a cross platform appeal that isn’t cumbersome and still appeals to native digital users.
Before Changing To An Image Logo, Marketers Must Be Certain Of Brand Recognition
The recent change to an image logo for Mastercard, a 50-year old brand, was done only after market testing showed 80% recognition of their circles as identifiable with Mastercard. Interestingly, Uber recently updated their image logo to a word mark just two years after their last redesign because they didn’t feel the prior logo offered high enough brand recognition. Newer brands interested in ditching their company name or tag line entirely should conduct significant research and be ready to change course when necessary.
For Marketers, The Wordless Logo Can Soften The Corporate Feel Of A Brand
Consumers today are more wary of the hard sell and can be distrustful of what they perceive as overly corporate advertising that is too manipulative. “Debranding” or “decorporatizing” is a strategy that may soften the corporate image. This more authentic style can sometimes be achieved with a wordless logo, providing a more accessible, relatable icon that is quickly interpreted. Young consumers are particularly open to a softer sell and will increasingly be Mastercard’s customers as the company moves into the digital payment space with Paypal and Venmo. Both of these payment solution brands have icons that straddle a wordmark and an image logo but are nonetheless pared down and unfussy.
The need to connect with a product and buying experience and the move toward digital dominance may drive more brands to image logos or simplified messaging. However, this should only be done with a well-researched understanding of your company’s brand awareness and perception in the market, otherwise you might leave people scratching their heads, and moving on down the page.