Unique Branding Trends – Only for Online Lenders

online lending

By the very definition of FinTech, online lenders have been using technology to transform financial services. In the early days, this equated to moving the mountains of paperwork into digital forms and automating manual processes. Rather than optimizing transactions and speeding approvals, the same inefficient processes were often recreated. The same documents were required — […]

online lending

By the very definition of FinTech, online lenders have been using technology to transform financial services. In the early days, this equated to moving the mountains of paperwork into digital forms and automating manual processes.

Rather than optimizing transactions and speeding approvals, the same inefficient processes were often recreated. The same documents were required — now in a PDF format rather than paper. In fact, some lenders made the mistake of modernizing the front-end customer experience but didn’t link their digitization efforts to the back office.

User-Focused Design and Branding

What’s changed? Now, consumers are demanding more security, privacy and personalization from their banks and financial service providers. Online lenders and financial institutions must upgrade their user experience by speeding transactions, providing personalized pricing and integrating data sources to reduce documentation requirements.

A recent article in The Financial Brand magazine says consumer lending is entering a new era of digitization. The PwC Consumer Finance Practice team identified key trends that will drive the next era of innovation in digital lending:

  • Evolving end-to-end workflows and processes
    This long-running trend to simplify and streamline the often arduous loan approval process is now including new data sources. Financial institutions are re-thinking the requirements to originate a loan and reworking their customer experience and internal workflow to deliver a frictionless lending experience.
  • Friendly Financial Advice Delivered Digitally
    Borrowers value personal advice and often require 24/7 access to answers. Fortunately, digital tools are becoming more acceptable with the flexibility of self-service and collaborative models to deliver information quickly and efficiently.

The next generation of digital lending will engage consumers in new ways, such as digitally-augmented human support, voice interaction, AI-powered virtual assistants and chatbots, wearables, and augmented and virtual reality.

Online-Only Lenders

Since online-only lenders don’t have storefronts to develop in-person relationships, clear communications are critical for building trust. Opportunities to better serve online customers include:

  1. Discrete Research and Application Process
    Plain Green Loans recently conducted another round of focus groups with customers and received feedback about the need for protecting their privacy. As a provider of short-term loans to consumers during emergencies, Plain Green’s customers require discretion as they research loan options online. Customers also expressed appreciation for a simplified and streamlined loan approval process. The consumers seeking emergency loans are on tight deadlines and need immediate responses to determine next actions. A fast review of applications and loan approvals are imperative to these consumers. In fact, a recent PwC survey of more than 1,600 adults with full-time employment found that 46 percent of those in the study – which typically has more stable finances than other groups – stated that financial challenges are the number one source of stress in their lives. The study concluded that lenders have tremendous opportunities to assist consumers in understanding their financial options and help them choose the best solution based on their personal situation.
  2. Building Consumer Confidence
    Feedback from the Plain Green customer focus groups emphasized the need for authenticity, being real and believable.Creative Bloq’s list of big branding trends in 2018 cited the recent massive data breaches and natural disasters occurring one after the other as the reason consumers want extra assurance from brands that they will provide security. They say, “consumers are looking for clues to determine whether a brand can be trusted, from the overall design quality and experiential thoughtfulness, to ratings and feedback on social media. Brands have to view all of their activities through the lens of a skittish public and a tumultuous world; particularly online.”Online reviews were a major topic of discussion during the focus groups. Several customers said they don’t believe the reviews on websites because the testimonials are all positive or have high ratings. Instead, they preferred to research customer feedback on their own using Yelp, Google or other platforms to give them a broader understanding of experiences the general population may have encountered.
  3. Brand Images Reflecting Diversity
    Focus group participants expressed a desire for more diversity in branding images. They want real people shown on websites and in communications that reflect wider demographic groups.Customers stated that they distrust images of people looking too happy, too sad or with fake, over the top emotions. Especially when making a financial decision, the customers want to see people with expressions that underscore the serious nature of the transaction.The focus groups provided meaningful insights that will inform our customer care team, website development, and acquisition and loyalty programs.

It’s clear that online lenders and other financial services providers must continuously seek customers’ feedback to align product development and business strategies to customers’ needs.

Author:

With more than 12 years of experience designing groundbreaking marketing strategies for Fortune 500 companies and financial technology brands, Guy Dilger, Guy Dilger, VP of Marketing, Plain Green, LLC, is known for generating engaging content and compelling concepts that resonate with targeted consumers. Prior to Plain Green, Dilger held senior positions within fintech and retail spaces where he managed national marketing campaigns and customer-centric loyalty initiatives for Sears and Kmart. Previously, he was part of the management team at Limited Brands, where his marketing work in support of Express brand included CRM, email, web-based programs and the redesign and relaunch of a private label credit card. Dilger has an MBA, as well as a bachelor of science in economics, from Southern Methodist University.

Branding is a Key Element for Fintech Lenders

Landor branding

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 […]

Landor branding

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.

About Landor

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.

Authors:

Written by Heena Dhir.