Can Releasing An Album Enhance A Brand’s Value? Mastercard’s About To Find Out

No longer a nascent phenomenon, sonic branding continues to gain ground as a foundational strategy for companies from McDonald’s to Apple
to Coca-Cola that seek to amplify their relationship with consumers. Now Mastercard
is turning things up a notch with the release of an album whose 10 songs each incorporate the melody of its sound ID.

Priceless debuts this week on Spotify with the blessing—and street cred—of super-producer Timbaland, whose music creator platform Beatclub worked with the payments company on the project. Mastercard also collaborated with producer Niclas Molinder to enlist artists who represent a gamut of cultures, genres and languages.

It’s the latest audio move for the company, which launched its sonic brand in 2019 and has been a vocal proponent of the role of sound in enhancing a brand’s value. Among recent moves, Mastercard released a single in 2020 based on its sonic logo, engaged music as a core component of its TikTok presence and has worked with artists including Jennifer Hudson and SZA for ad campaigns.

“People are engaging more with audio through wearables, IoT. By subtly integrating our sonic DNA into music that consumers enjoy, we are adding to the experience rather than taking away from it,” says Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard’s chief marketing and communications officer.

“As we continue to build the equivalent of our visual brand logo and design system in the space, this album creates a significant moment for us to connect to consumers in a culturally relevant, fun way.”

“It’s new, and it’s fresh, and I don’t think it’s ever been done before,” says Timbaland, who helped curate the songs and personally oversaw the remixes of two tracks. “I was hands on curating all the sounds and coaching the creators.”

Since embracing its sonic brand, Mastercard has been winning widespread kudos in the space, landing at the top of amp’s Best Audio Brands report for the past two years. It’s a designation that doesn’t come cheap, but Rajamannar believes elevating the sound of a safe and secure payment is worth every dollar the company has invested.

“As we continue to build the equivalent of our visual brand logo and design system in the audio space, this album creates a significant moment for us to connect to people in a culturally relevant, unique and fun way,” he says. “Traditional marketing is a way of the past—finding innovative ways of creating and reinforcing our brand identity is how we approach our marketing and partnerships.”

The Priceless launch follows Sprite’s introduction in early June of global music program Sprite Limelight, in conjunction with Universal Music Group. The program centers on a melody and lyric created by musician James Blake that artists from around the world are using to create original songs. Energy company Shell similarly has launched the Sound of Shell, a suite of flexible musical assets that comprises variations from guitar-driven rock to ambient to a five-note mnemonic.

As part of the Beatclub collaboration, Mastercard will purchase and provide one-year memberships to the platform to hundreds of up-and-coming creators from disenfranchised communities. It will also continue to support the album artists “through a variety of programs, activations and support functions,” Rajamannar says.

“We will be incorporating them into our programming wherever possible, and they are a part of the fabric of our sonic brand now. As a part of the Mastercard family, we look forward to continuing to support these artists through their musical journeys both individually and as a group. We hope this experience propels them forward to success as they continue to pursue their passions with our unwavering support,” he says.

Timbaland, who’s worked with talent ranging from Missy Elliott to Justin Timberlake to Madonna, says he expects more brands will lean into collaborating with the creative community to both create and elevate their sonic identities.

“The future is for brands to start collaborating with artists and producers to create a sound around their brand. You have to get back to the music. You have to think outside the box now,” he says.

The artists on Priceless include: Michael Rice (UK), Shiraz (Lebanon), Good Harvest (Sweden), Alma Lake (Colombia/US), Raees (Algeria), Tejas (India), Nadine Randle (UK/Sweden), Tania (Australia), Elle B. (US) and Amaya (Slovenia).

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