With a total value of $226.5 billion in investments worldwide in 2021, there’s no doubt that fintech (financial technology) brands are disrupting the financial services industry and will continue to shake things up in 2023.
By creating modernized, easy solutions for businesses and consumers, new players in banking, insurance, trading, and financial advice have made traditional financial institutions seem rigid and clunky, forcing them to digitize their services or risk not keeping up. Incumbent market leaders have seen their market share rapidly divided by upstarts like PayPal and N26 and unless they can demonstrate that they’re willing to adapt to this new world, they may get left in the dust.
Yet, fintech startups and scale-ups face their own challenges. They face strong competition and rigid compliance laws in an increasingly saturated market. Once they reach new audiences, they’re tasked with building trust in new tech and educating people on unfamiliar products and services — all without a brick-and-mortar presence.
How have the biggest fintech brands managed to get it right? This article explores the world of fintech marketing and shows how fintech companies have built brands worth reckoning with. It provides pertinent lessons for all brands, as more and more industries face disruption from paradigm-shifting startups that do things differently.
7 Lessons to Learn from Fintech Marketing
1. Take a Customer-Centric Approach
Adopting a customer-centric approach to every aspect of the marketing funnel is something that many companies claim to do, but that few manage to sustain. But when it works, it works, and many fintech brands have made this part of their brand identity.
Take Revolut, a banking app that has continued to maintain an ethos of focusing on the customer’s needs at every level and in every new market. This is something that has enabled them to grow from 150 thousand customers in 2017 to over 15 million by 2021.
Having launched their brand in the US in 2020, Revolut plans to level up their US expansion but they don't plan to take customers from other fintech brands in the US, but those unsatisfied with legacy banks.
“Our new customers come from traditional banks, where folks are just kind of fed up with the fees and the lack of transparency and all the things that go with large banks,” says Ron Olivera, former CEO of Revolut USA.
Global payments and shopping service provider, Klarna, also includes customer-centricity in its marketing strategy. In 2020, they launched their global "Consumer Council" program, where consumers were invited to meet and share their experiences of using Klarna.
By listening to shoppers and Klarna users, marketing managers can learn what customers want, what they need, and how Klarna could be more valuable to them.
Similarly, Stripe holds Stripe Sessions, which present a forum for the company to hear directly from its users and delight customers through rich brand experiences.
2. Take An Experiential Approach to Growth
For fintech companies, particularly those operating largely within a B2B environment, it can be difficult to create opportunities for customers to physically experience your brand. Besides the above-mentioned forums, what else can fintech companies do?
Klarna builds pop-up store experiences and events in different cities, working together with merchants to host and feature their brands.
Other popular ways that fintech companies create physical brand experiences is by attending or hosting events, hackathons, or meetups.
A physical touchpoint doesn’t always need to involve a big event or project. Stripe initially sent welcome packages to new customers, in a gesture that both makes the customer feel valued and also allowed them to physically experience a brand they’d otherwise only interact with digitally.
However, it’s also important to remember that having a physical presence is becoming much less important to consumers, especially if you can compensate for it by having a streamlined user experience and an authentic brand identity online. Transparency, accessibility, and reliability are all worth a lot more than a branch on the main street.
Think about the possible opportunities for customers to experience not just your products but your brand.
Can you create a way for people to touch and feel your brand through an experiential marketing strategy, does this need to be done in a physical space or can you achieve it through social media or other online channels?
3. Encourage Branded Language
We’ve all heard the phrase “Venmo me”.
Many fintech brands encourage customers to adopt branded language, to “verbify” their brand name, and work it into everyday use. This encouragement can be done via external communications and social media channels, as well as from within the app or platform itself.
Branded language fosters familiarity and brand resonance, and in the best cases, the brand name can become central to the product type or industry itself. (Think “Hoover”!)
Could your brand name be used to describe an action that has to do with your product? What other branded language could you incorporate into your communications strategy?
4. Educate Customers
Many successful fintech brands have invested in efforts to provide customers with advice, guidance, and education — and not just info on how to use their products. By addressing real questions and providing valuable knowledge, brands can position their products as the perfect solution or next step.
Wealthsimple offers a free investing masterclass, sharing tips that promise to turn customers into “financial geniuses”. Through short and digestible videos, the course introduces new consumers to the brand, positioning it as smart and approachable, and making people feel empowered to start investing and building wealth.
The language is simple and the topics are tailored to a specific audience.
Knowledge-sharing has also been a key component of Stripe’s marketing strategy, with articles, guides, and even books providing advice on everything from email marketing to engineering. While these topics may seem unrelated to Stripe’s core offer of payment processing, they’re more broadly relevant to Stripe’s key audience.
By focusing on adding value and educating your customers in areas of interest that can be even broadly linked to your brand, you can bridge the gap between interest and action when it comes to trying your product or service.
5. Leverage Gamification
By holding contests, creating puzzles, awarding prizes, or otherwise incentivizing some form of interaction with their products, fintech brands use gamification to generate excitement about new products and build awareness among new users.
In order to generate pre-launch excitement and capitalize on word-of-mouth customer acquisition, stock trading app Robinhood started a clever referral priority waitlist before their product was even launched.
It works like this: Join the list and you’re at the end of the queue to join their investment app where you can invest for free. However, refer a friend and you can move up in line. The more people you refer, the further you move up the line and the sooner you get access to the app.
The results were significant, with almost 1 million people signing up prior to the 2015 launch.
Consider how, like Robinhood, your own brand can generate press or customer interest and excitement before you launch a new product.
6. Establish Emotional Connection
Fintech companies have a unique challenge when it comes to the emotional connections customers develop with their brands. The emotions we feel about our hard-earned money and the way we use, manage, and spend it are drastically different from the emotions we feel when we use a food delivery app or streaming service.
So when our experience doesn’t match our expectations, the impact can be monumental.
Smart fintech brands know this and work hard to establish strong emotional connections with their customers.
Klarna constantly works to be fundamentally different from other brands in the sector. While almost all other fintech brand logos are colored black or blue, in 2017 Klarna boldly changed theirs to pink. They argued that even if people don’t like it, they’ll have reacted to it, which is the important thing.
Quirky brand campaigns establish Klarna as creative and unique, appealing to communities and segments that are receptive to the product and brand, but still getting a reaction from those who find the brand off-putting.
7. Utilize Influencer and Affiliate Marketing
Incentivizing third-party affiliates or influencers to promote a brand’s products is a popular growth tactic used by fintech brands. It allows them to access niche communities through trusted and influential people or businesses, and can often have a bigger impact than a splashy and expensive brand campaign.
Influencers who are well-loved in niche communities can be big drivers of culture around specific audiences, particularly among younger people.
Wealthsimple leveraged this by collaborating with successful rap artist Awkwafina. The campaign was particularly relatable to her fanbase, who also fit a relevant target customer profile for Wealthsimple.
Working with carefully selected influencers, who can reflect your brand’s image and whose audience matches a relevant segment of yours, can generate significant awareness of your brand or product.
The most successful fintech brands are those that reach the right audiences with clever campaigns and customer knowledge, all while experiencing rapid growth and expansion.
Consumers are aware that these brands represent a new chapter in financial services, so using your brand to build trust and foster bonds with them is vital. For some sub-categories, this is more important than for others. Cryptocurrencies, for example, have an uphill struggle to recover their reputation after the market crashed and various scandals tarred the industry’s image.
The tactics of these brands are transferable and it’s certainly worth looking to them for inspiration and innovative ideas when it comes to your branding and marketing strategy. Other adjacent industries are all but set to disrupted in the near future in similar ways, so looking ahead and working out how you can stay adaptable is essential. Which of these strategies will you incorporate into your own brand campaigns in 2023?
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