Over the past century, sonic branding in advertising has taken on many forms, from the early days of radio jingles to the more recent use of mnemonic devices often heard at the end of commercials from companies like Intel, State Farm and AT&T to the occasional hit single backed by a big brand (Justin Timberlake’s “I’m Lovin’ It,” Chris Brown’s “Forever” and K’naan’s “Wavin’ Flag” all come to mind.)
But for the latest extension of a sonic branding effort that debuted in 2019, Mastercard is advancing the medium by prepping its first full-length album of original songs, all of which will feature various interpolations of the brand’s five-note “sonic logo” that will span multiple genres and cultures. The album, named “Priceless” after Mastercard’s longtime tagline, will be released this spring and feature 11 to 12 tracks.
The first single, “Merry Go Round,” features writing and production from Swedish producer Niclas Molinder (Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Mary J. Blige) and is performed by Nadine Randle, an emerging artist also from Sweden. The track debuted Tuesday (Jan. 7) as part of Mastercard’s programming at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, where Randle is set to perform the single as part of iHeartRadio’s Live @ CES event on Jan. 8. The single will hit streaming services on Friday (Jan. 9), and is currently available to stream via Mastercard’s YouTube channel (watch it below).
Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard’s global chief marketing officer, tells Songs For Screens that the idea for the original album was inspired by the traction the sonic logo picked up last year, which included collabs with musicians like Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda. Globally, the sonic logo was adapted into various interpretations by musicians who used native instruments in dozens of different territories.
“We started thinking about whether there was a way that Mastercard could create and write songs that people would listen to day in-day out on Spotify, in the car or wherever they feel like,” he says. “We liked the idea of working with artists and high-level composers, co-writers and producers, but using it as a launching pad for up-and-coming artists. Not just making music for the sake of creating music, but using our melody non-intrusively and subtly integrated into these songs so the people listening will become more and more familiar with Mastercard’s melodies. We felt there was no better way to do that than through the medium of popular songs.”
And as Mastercard’s melodies become more ubiquitous outside of traditional advertising environments (a 1.3-second version of the audio logo can be heard at the end of a digital or physical transaction using a Mastercard at certain retailers, while 2-hour Mastercard-branded playlists are featured at pop-up Priceless restaurants in New York), Rajamannar hopes that the songs from “Priceless” will find an audience among pop music fans. “I can keep on playing [the sonic logo] at the point of sale, I can use it at my events, but that’s only 1.3 seconds. The reach and frequency aren’t as likely as it would be when we get to a place where I have people coming to us by creating music they would love and embedding the Mastercard logo into it.”
Rajamannar says Mastercard may also be teaming with a record label or distributor for the release of “Priceless” to bring the songs to a wider audience, adding: “We are exploring different options right now, and there are pros and cons for each option that we are looking at.”
Songs for Screens is a Variety column sponsored by music experiential agency MAC Presents, based in NYC. It is written by Andrew Hampp, founder of music marketing consultancy 1803 LLC and former correspondent for Billboard. Each week, the column highlights noteworthy use of music in advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as film and TV. Follow Andrew on Twitter at @ahampp.