In the past, the financial sector was known for safe and stodgy marketing. Times have changed, especially after the advent of fintech companies focused on building a clientele through online marketing and social branding. Today’s startups have razor sharp branding strategies, and scaling up is the only game in town for capital-hungry lenders. This has pushed brand consulting and digital marketing firms into the limelight as fintech startups have shown a penchant for thinking out of the box for their customer acquisition efforts. Landor, a leading brand consulting firm and a member of Young & Rubicam Group is pioneering this push for fintech firms looking to create a brand in this ultra-competitive market.
The Need for Branding
Branding is much more than the usual website, logo, and visiting card. It is the message you are communicating to multiple stakeholders about your organization. It defines your value proposition and why the brand is different. Branding is not only a tool for helping get customers, but it also is extremely vital for acquiring the right talent. Consider the specific case of fintech lenders: There is a mad rush for hiring data scientists to create credit models, analyze prospective borrower behavior in real time, and tweak product offerings for better acceptance. For that Ivy League graduate to choose you over Google requires you to have a brand which he or she can recognize and be comfortable associating themselves with.
Startups have a lifecycle, and even founders are comfortable starting a company they know will eventually get acquired. This makes nursing your company’s valuation an important part of the founder’s job. Valuation can swing widely for two similar companies, one with a strong brand following and one with just good numbers. Brand equity is an important part of your balance sheet, and it can decide if you get a 50 million dollar offer or a 100 million dollar one. If your brand has a “tribe,” aka dedicated followers, then your company will have the opportunity to cross-sell products and services and your client list will be more precious when a company comes knocking on your acquisition door.
Alignment with Business Strategy
In the FinTech space, everyone has a focused vision with respect to their business strategy, but from a brand perspective, there is usually no unified clear message. Some startups have realized the importance of branding and have come up with innovative ways that enable them to gain share in the market.
One such example is iZettle. The fintech company created a “Pop-Up Store” campaign to make businesses understand how easy it is to sell face-to-face and accept card payments. It conducted a six-day pop-up store marketing campaign where it allowed six different businesses to use the store for trading using mPOS technology from iZettle. This enabled the company to introduce its product to the mass market and also burnished its reputation as a supporter of local businesses.
Case Study: Communication
TD Bank is a new age bank but was caught in the public cross hairs after it was revealed that one of its major clients’ products — a Smith and Wesson gun — had been used in the San Bernardino shooting. There was a public outcry over the incident, and many people wanted TD Bank to drop Smith and Wesson as a client. But they communicated clearly the sympathy they felt for the victims and the family but also stood firm on its corporate policy of not commenting on individual customer relationships. It was able to navigate through the situation without suffering any noticeable loss in brand equity.
Case Study: SoFi
SoFi has revolutionized the student finance industry and is now the first fintech lender to advertise on the biggest stage for any brand — the Super Bowl. With over 100 million viewers, there is no other event of this scale for introducing a brand to the masses. The 30-second spot cost the company almost $5 million and 20% of its total advertising budget. It was a massive brand building exercise. But the company has a 360-degree branding and marketing strategy by leveraging social media, referral programs, and other innovative approaches. These innovations comprise of helping borrowers find jobs, providing them with mentors, and even hosting social mixers. SoFi calls its borrowers members instead of customers. This community-building has fed into making SoFi a giant with an over $5 billion valuation.
Though SoFi offers the ultimate commodity — money — they have been able to build a brand following by differentiating their approach and offering multiple complimentary services to their customers. This has helped elevate the company from a mere provider of loans to a financial support center for its target customers, Millennials.
Landor was founded in 1941 and is headquartered in San Francisco, California. They have 27 offices in 21 countries and count leading brands as clients. Their vision is to help brands engage audiences across channels and platforms. Landor understands that disruption is the new normal and help brands achieve agility.
Louis Sciullo has been playing a key role in handling the financial services division as executive director of Landor. He has more than 25 years experience in brand building, brand strategy, and management strategies focused on shareholder value and global visibility. He has been previously associated with banks like Lehman and Barclays.
Written by Heena Dhir.