MasterCard. The Evolution of a Global Brand Mark

The small but meaningful changes in the MasterCard brand mark over time reflect the brand’s increasingly global reach. In the early years of the brand, lnterbank was represented by the “i” symbol—a straightforward means of identifying participating members of the Interbank Card Association.

1. 1966
17 bankers meet in Buffalo, New York to form a federation for the reciprocal acceptance of their credit cards. Once the federation becomes formally chartered, The Interbank Card Association creates the “i” symbol as its mark.

2. 1969
The Master Charge name and graphics are adopted to provide stronger brand identification. The new brand mark features the Master Charge name centered between two interlocking circles of red and ocher. The “i” symbol is retained in a smaller size at the bottom right corner for purposes of continuity.

3. 1979
Master Charge becomes MasterCard. The “i” symbol is retired.

4. 1990
A bolder, more contemporary brand mark and identity system are introduced. The mark maintains the two interlocking circles with 23 horizontal bars, and uses an italic, sans-serif typeface.

5. 1996
As part of a global effort to strengthen the MasterCard brand, a new, enhanced Brand Mark is unveiled. The Brand Mark’s visibility, recognition, and overall brand image are improved, with new features including larger lettering highlighted with a drop shadow, fewer interlocking bars within the circles, and a new dark blue background for use on decals and signage.

What do we learn from this?
Carefully adapting the brand to present time while keeping in mind that people got used to the old logo is key. One can refresh a brand by redesigning it but also kill it completely. There are more “extreme” rebranding examples like Burger King or Pizza Hut but most of them focus on a different, more flexible target group. They’re not into the money business.