Mastercard, Adidas, M&S: 5 things that mattered this week and why

From Mastercard’s new sonic brand to Marks & Spencer splitting its ad account and Adidas making a move into the ‘stale’ hiking market, catch up on all the biggest news from the last seven days.

Mastercard brings its sonic branding to the UK

Mastercard has brought its sonic branding to the UK, launching it during the Brits Awards on Wednesday night (20 February).

The product of more than two years of work and a “quite big” investment from the brand, it aims to give Mastercard a branding advantage in places where consumers can’t see its logo. With the rise of smart speakers and voice assistants, Mastercard’s marketing boss Raja Rajamannar believes sound will become increasingly important in distinguishing brands, as well as offering reassurance, of particular importance to a payment company.

Mastercard is one of a small but slowly growing number of brands that are focusing on their sound identity. Mastercard’s may be the most comprehensive yet, though. Rajamannar says the sound was deliberately designed to be “subtle” and “in the background”, catchy but not in your face. Having started his career at a paint company, he uses that analogy, saying the sound DNA is the “base colour” that other colours can be added to.

That means the basic tune can be added to music that is equally at home in opera halls and festivals, the UK and China.

It’s a huge piece of work, one that few brands or marketers would have the time or investment to do. But Rajamannar believes it is key to the future of the brand and worth both. And so he’s prepared to focus Mastercard’s strategy on it. Given that long-term focus, you wouldn’t bet against the Mastercard sound becoming as ubiquitous as Intel’s.

READ MORE: ‘People asked if I was smoking something’: Mastercard’s CMO on developing its new sonic branding

Co-op Bank makes all marketing digital

There have long been advocates for getting rid of the ‘digital’ moniker ahead of marketing. As outdoor, radio, TV and press all add digital elements, the distinction is becoming less and less clear.

That shift is refocusing how Co-op Bank works. It has a new campaign out for its business bank and is trying out TV for the first time, using Sky AdSmart to target people through catch-up. Marketing director Alastair Pegg says this is changing how the team works, looking more broadly at the message rather than the media and working across channel.

“[The team] has got to think about social, programmatic, our website. Maybe an individual isn’t doing all these things but they’re making sure it all lines up across the piece and extracting the best value out of spending money on creative,” he explains.

“It has changed how the team operates. There’s no such thing as a digital marketing team now, all marketing is digital marketing.”

That’s a sentiment Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson agrees with. Writing this week, he says it has become “harder and harder to isolate exactly what isn’t digital”.

READ MORE: ‘There’s no such thing as a digital team’: Co-op Bank rethinks marketing as it launches business campaign

M&S divorces food from clothing & home creative

Marks & Spencer

In the latest marketing overhaul of a long list of marketing overhauls, Marks & Spencer has decided to split its creative businesses in two, resulting in its clothing & home ad account going up for review.

It is the latest sign the struggling retailer is seeking to differentiate the two following a lacklustre Christmas where sales were down across the business.

On the face of it, it might seem like an odd decision given the halo effect that comes with a unified brand – something M&S has been trying to push for a number of years under its ‘one brand’ strategy – as well as obvious cost savings.

But food and clothing & home are in very different places at present and each has issues of its own to contend with that aren’t especially relevant to the other.

Food, for example, is trying to shake off perceptions that it is expensive and not good value for what it is, while clothing & home is trying to fight off years of being seen as unfashionable in a drive to get that all-important 18-34 year old demographic in-store.

So, for the time being at least, it feels like a move that makes sense. If M&S can bring its individual businesses to where it wants them to be – both in terms of perception and profitability – then perhaps moving towards a more unified brand (like John Lewis and Waitrose has done) will work again in future.

READ MORE: M&S’s move to split its creative should bring some much needed spark back

Adidas turns it attention to hiking


From baggy trouser to heavy brown boots and unflattering fleeces, hiking attire doesn’t exactly scream ‘fashion’. But what if you could merge practicality and performance with comfort and style?

Well, that’s exactly what Adidas is trying to do with the launch of its new hiking shoe, the Free Hiker.

Unless you’re considering scaling the top of Everest, the company says the boot is over-engineered in a way that it is appropriate to wear on the likes of Kilimanjaro or the Swiss Alps but can also be worn casually in urban environments.

Adidas’s global VP of marketing and digital commerce Stephen Dowling says the sportswear giant is keen to shake off hiking’s “stale” image and appeal to a new generation of consumers.

“We’re being true to Adidas and Adidas Outdoor in this line because if we just create an overly styled product that lets someone down in the toughest terrain, we’re not staying true to being the greatest sport brand in the world,” explains Dowling.

“Or we could create an ultra-technical shoe that looks like something my great grandfather in Dublin would have worn, but then again that’s not really Adidas. Adding uncompromised performance and style while overlaying that with our purpose that sport has the power to change lives is sweet-spot Adidas and sweet-spot consumer.”

The company has called on world-renowned DJ Diplo to help promote the new shoe – which officially launches today (22 February). He is just one of a number of influencers Adidas will use as part of the campaign, which also aims to promote the importance of mindfulness and taking time out from busy schedules.

That’s all well and good in theory but it will take time and investment to build a reputation in hiking like it has in football or running. Hiking equipment may be seen as stale but most people who venture into the wilderness for a few hours aren’t hoping to look cool, they want to get away from it all and be sure they don’t come back with a sprained ankle.

Finding that balance between street and mountain will perhaps prove trickier than Adidas thinks.

Read More: How Adidas is trying to shake off hiking’s ‘stale’ image

CMA comes down hard on Sainsbury’s and Asda merger


The judge of whether the Sainsbury’s and Asda merger should go ahead, The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), has finally made a decision. And it’s not looking good for ‘Sasda’.

According to the UK’s competition regulator, the tie-up could lead to a worse experience for customers through higher prices, a poorer shopping experience and reductions in the range and quality of products offered.

As such, the CMA says it could block the deal or require the merging companies to sell off a significant number of stores and other assets to recreate the competitive rivalry lost through the merger. This could include one of the Sainsbury’s or Asda brands.

Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe – who was caught on film singing ‘We’re in the money’ after the merger was announced last year – called the CMA’s findings “outrageous” and “fundamentally flawed”, and said Sainsbury’s will be making “very strong representations” to it about its “inaccuracy and lack of objectivity”.

Strong words from Mr Coupe who is clearly very upset that he might not be “in the money”.

The CMA’s ruling might appear harsh when compared with the swiftness with which it waived through Tesco’s £4bn deal with Booker in 2017. But it has a new boss clearly keen to show the regulator has teeth.

And despite protestations from Coupe, the deal would have created an effective duopoly in the supermarket sector with two companies controlling 60% of the market. This isn’t quite the end of the road yet but Sasda will have to make some major concessions if it to pull this deal back from the brink.

READ MORE: Sainsbury’s and Asda could be forced to sell one of the brands after merger deemed ‘bad for customers’



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