Cornacchia: Nigeria Remains an Important Market

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Bea Cornacchia

The Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Middle East and Africa, Mastercard, Bea Cornacchia, in this interview speaks on the recent launch of a sonic indentity by the global payment company. Oluchi Chibuzor presents the excerpts:

Mastercard recently introduced a new sonic brand. What informed that decision?

For Mastercard, this a very important moment because we are launching a new dimension of our brand. I think that you will agree with me that consumers, nowadays, are asking for more and more touch points, especially from global brands. In addition, Mastercard is among the few global brands that is highly recognisable among consumers. Consumers associate Mastercard with very important values such as trust, safety and security. So we felt it is our responsibility, from a business perspective, to develop the best technology, the best tools and the best products, but at the same time also, our brand should be best in class, as our business. For this reason, we started the journey of modernising the brand in 2016. We felt that 2016 was the right moment when the lines between the physical world and the digital world started to blur a little. So we felt that our previous logo was not appropriate from a look and feel stand point to be the best brand online from our interaction with the consumers. That was why in 2016, we modernised our logo and we took at that time, a bold decision to take the Mastercard name out from the centre of our brand; and we also changed the ‘M’ and the ‘C’ from capital letters to lower letters (from MasterCard to mastercard). So, that was the beginning of our journey. Some weeks ago, as I am sure you know, we decided that we are going to evolve into a symbolic brand. We completely removed the Mastercard name from our logo, which I really feel is a super bold decision. I feel that at a global level, there are only four brands that have made that decision, including Mastercard. And that was not the end of the story. We are also launching the sonic brand. So why the Sonic brand? As I said to you, the way that consumers are interacting with the brand has dramatically changed and even today, you can make a purchase online without having the debit card with you. So we felt that it was important to have something which is recognisable, which has the same colour as our brand but at the same time, it is very modern. That is how the sonic brand came to our mind. It took about 18 months to produce the sonic brand that I hope you have had the pleasure to listen to. So for 18 months, we worked with musicians and agencies across the globe. So the anthem that you listened to is the global one but we will localise the sound for every single market and that is the beauty of music. That is a bit of the journey that we are going through.

Your decision to take out the Mastercard from the logo, do we expect it to also affect your market in Africa and how soon will that be?

So, as I told you, taking out our name from our logo was a bold decision. So this is official, Mastercard has evolved into symbolic brand. How we are going to roll out in the different markets in Africa specifically? I think is a great question. We are currently working to define a very specific plan. To be honest, I don’t feel that in Africa specifically and in Nigeria, that we will take out the name from the logo in the next six to eight months because again, this for us is a journey. As I said earlier, it is a bold decision and we also need to be respectful to our consumers. So the vision is to go there but I feel that for the next six to eight months, we will continue to keep the Mastercard name in the logo in Nigeria and in Africa. But moving forward, we will take it out.

With that decision to still keep the name and logo in Africa for a while, are you seeing it impacting positively on your brand and your market share?
So, normally, companies can take out the names from the logo when they have almost achieved a 100 per cent brand awareness recognition in the market. I feel that in Africa, we are not at that level in all the markets, but I can tell you, we are almost there. That was why I said it is not something that we will do immediately. But whenever we will do it, we are very confident that it will not impact negatively on the country; it will have a positive impact because it is a cool brand. And that is also the reason why we are adding the sonic brand to add a new flavour. If you think of it, as human beings, we have five senses. So we already have how to see the brand, now the other side is how to hear the brand and that is just the beginning. We will continue to be close to our consumers with the remaining three senses.

Take us through the continents or markets you are going to start with and how you intend to go about it in terms of ensuring that each region gets their own feel?
Yes, so today, while I have the pleasure of having this conversation with you, all my colleagues across the globe are doing the same. So today is the global day of launching the sonic brand. My Chief Marketing Officer is at the Grammys where Mastercard is a proud sponsor and he’s going to officially launch the sonic brand. So first of all, this is a global announcement. You touched a very important point: how we are going to localise? So first of all, let me tell you what we have done. So we started the journey of the sonic brand 18 months ago as I told you, and we asked all the musicians to consider five main attributes. Our sonic brand should be inclusive, first of all, because yes, it needs to be special such that everybody should feel that they are part of the game. Secondly, it should be passionate. I mean, music should give you the touch that a logo cannot give you. Thirdly, it should be surprising. I think that you should expect this from a technology company. Fourth, it should be delightful; it needs to be sophisticated but it also be a source of delight to the customer. Last, but not least, it should be captivating, you should remember the sonic brand. So, those are the five attributes and as you can see, these five attributes can be extremely local. So while you heard the global anthem today, we are working on developing an African one and why not a Nigerian one? So, that is the beauty of the music. How are we going to use this anthem? We are going to use it every time we produce a piece of content for our consumers: be it a video, a blog, a podcast; whatever is our connection with our consumer. But not only that, our consumers as I told you are also making payments digitally and physically. That is another way where our anthem will be leveraged and used. Of course this will not happen from one day, so we think that today is the beginning of a journey and we will need between three to five years to have a complete global rollout of the sonic brand.

Do you think this brand revolution will have impact on the penetration of Mastercard brand in Africa?

Yes, definitely. Otherwise, why are we doing this? Yes, you are totally right but this is a very important topic because one of the main requests from consumers is “hey global brand, stop doing advertising, that is not what I want.” We are always looking at avenues for interacting and connecting with our consumers. So, ideally, the sonic brand will give us the opportunity of getting closer to our consumers so as to increase the penetration. By the way, Nigeria, for us as you already know, is an important market where Mastercard is the leader both from a business perspective and from a brand perspective. But now, we don’t want to be only the leader in the market, we want to get closer to our consumers in order to connect people to priceless possibilities.