The increasingly blurred lines between physical and virtual forms of interactivity have largely ignored the roughly 252 million people in the world either blind or significantly visually-impaired.
Mastercard’s latest payments product, the Touch Card, is intended to rectify that. The card’s release is presented as part of a broader effort to demonstrate that inclusiveness, and addressing discrimination across race, sex or degrees of ableness isn’t just a social marketing good—it’s good for business.
“Financial inclusion is a big part of our business strategy,” Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard’s chief marketing and communications officer, told Adweek. “We have a responsibility to ensure that the digital economy is enabled for all.”
Finding the right touches
Development of the Touch Card began in mid-2019. It’s actually a series of three cards for covering debit, credit and prepayment formats. The designs rely on a system of “notches” on the side of each card type to help consumers identify the correct one.
Touch Card credit cards have a round notch; debit cards have a broad squarish notch; and prepaid cards have a triangular notch. The standard has been designed to work within POS terminals and ATMs, ensuring it can be deployed at scale.
The brand made sure to vet and capture the endorsement of key groups representing the blind and visually impaired before issuing the Touch Card. Mastercard worked with The Royal National Institute of Blind People in the U.K. and VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired in the U.S. The card was co-designed by IDEMIA, the identification tech company that develops mobile driver’s licenses and biometric payment cards.
“The ability for the visually-impaired to identify their payment card is a real struggle,” Rajamannar said. “This tactile solution allows consumers to correctly orient the card and know which payment card they are using.”
The Touch Card is launching in the U.S. first, with the U.K. and other international locations to follow. While this product is just at the beginning stages, the brand hastened to note that it views the release as another step in a broader approach towards inclusion in its advertising, marketing and financial product offerings generally.
“Today, with more consumer touchpoints than ever before, consumer expectations of brands continue to evolve as the lines between the physical and digital blur, and the ascent of ad blocks and voice-technologies—the rise of smart speakers, voice shopping—continues to change the day-to-day way we live, shop and pay,” Rajamannar said, explaining the motivation behind services contained in products like the Touch Card.
We have a responsibility to ensure that the digital economy is enabled for all.
Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard
Addressing pain points: Priceless
The Touch Card comes two years after Mastercard created the True Name program for trans and non-binary people. That card allows people to have financial products with their self-identified chosen first name, as opposed to adhering to the usual financial service requirement of recognizing only legal names. The feature’s promise is that it can play a part in reducing the discrimination many members of the trans and non-binary communities face when purchasing items with a credit card, Rajamannar said.
“Since its introduction over a year ago, True Name has received incredible feedback from our partners and allies within the transgender and non-binary communities on how the capability has eased a major pain point in their lives,” Rajamannar added. “We have a responsibility to ensure that the digital economy is enabled for all.”
As an example of how Mastercard regards that responsibility, in 2020, the brand committed to “connecting 1 billion people to the digital economy by 2025.” The goal might appear almost too broad to have actual significance. But Mastercard has released some specifics about how it might achieve that aim: it’s pledged $500 million to help close the racial wealth and opportunity gap for Black communities and businesses across America.
A brand for all senses
In addition to the Touch Card notches, Mastercard has also created a new design system that is made to be better seen on smaller screens. It’s another way of addressing issues associated with sight. It’s developed an audio brand (or a “sonic DNA”) to match any situation or environment, including top ranking pop hits, thereby checking off the sense of sound.
Mastercard is even trying to master taste. The brand’s iconic intersecting red and yellow circles were the inspiration behind the creation of bespoke Mastercard macarons—the French meringue pastry item makes for a natural visual counterpart as well.
Meanwhile, Mastercard opened a new restaurant last week called Priceless in Brazil. (It had an eatery called Priceless in New York in 2019, but it was closed due to the pandemic). On the olfactory front, Mastercard has a set of branded fragrances to represent smell. Taken together, the Touch Card rounds out Mastercard’s targeted sensual appeal.
“Traditional ways of advertising and marketing need to evolve, and leading companies are transforming how they show up and interact with consumers,” Rajamannar said. “Exploring how the Mastercard brand shows up through all senses is imperative to the advancement of our brand and business.”