By Andrew Brennan, partner, strategy-led design agency fst
In many ways, financial services and fintech solutions are only just preparing for take-off. Innovation is happening at such speed, and businesses are making inroads into new territories at an unprecedented rate. So, unsurprisingly, there's been a flurry of investor interest recently all around the world. As a result, the sector is experiencing disruption and progress at an extraordinary pace.
But alongside all the innovation and the proliferation of businesses coming into market, both b2b and b2c, we're also witnessing a surge in complexity. It's inevitable, as sectors roll out and the landscape becomes more complicated, that many people will be overwhelmed by their options. A brand strategy that offers clarity where there's confusion and reassurance where there's scepticism can help overcome these obstacles.
In such a busy landscape, disruptors need brand strategies that set them apart from the competition. But so many disappear into a sea of sameness because they're marketed in a traditional, dry, corporate and tech-first way. Consumers, from the C-suite to the shop floor, quickly become inured to traditional approaches. So why not replace stills of city skylines and boardroom scenes with engaging podcasts and grabby graphics? Or complex corporate prose, designed to demonstrate 'expertise', with content that does what it says on the tin?
Demystifying financial services
To cut through and connect with the people that matter, a financial service's brand strategy should put humans at the heart of things and create an emotive bridge between person and product.
But financial services providers are struggling with this. Whether it's start-ups, scale-ups or legacy brands. Whether it's B2B or B2C. Wherever it is internationally. Too many are focusing on product functionality, not enough on how they make people's lives better.
Why is it important? Because brands have mere seconds to make themselves known and appreciated, which is why businesses need the right brand strategy to take them from pre-awareness to adoption and then loyalty by conveying benefit through storytelling. People don't want to spend hours, days and weeks fretting over making the right decision.
Consider payments platform i2C. It promises to take the pain out of helping its customers stay up to speed with a 'relentlessly evolving' financial services market. A big concern for many CEOs and CFOs out there.
Despite an immensely complex portfolio of niche products, the brand strategy smooths the pathway, giving businesses the tools they need to keep up. The brand communicates on a human level with its b2b audience. It could rely on corporate-style communications, but instead it uses simple graphics to demystify and make itself 100% approachable. There's nothing intimidating about the methodology – everyone is invited to get excited and energised by the offer. People are reassured that they'll remain in control, that everything can be adapted to suit their needs. And there's 'no coding required'.
Putting benefit to user first
There's sound thinking behind this more illuminating methodology. A straight, fact-based approach to communications employs the language-processing and comprehension parts of the brain. But when we're engaged more creatively, our neural activity increases, pulling in our emotion- and image-processing centres, too. That helps with cut-through and with ensuring that your message is received, understood and acted upon.
The key is to focus on delivery as well as content. So often, the passion and creativity that is invested in research and development doesn't make it as far as the final, outward push. There's no hook, build and pay-off. Scant attention is paid to scene-setting and context, to holding the potential consumer's attention.
Consumer-facing payment system Wamo is another good example of a brand that cuts through complexity to offer simple solutions to day-to-day problems. The strategy presents Wamo as empowering; it's bright and positive, offering to help people stay on top of their finances safely and securely. It's easy and takes away any sense of panic and confusion.
What these two operators have done is focus on benefit to user rather than solely on function. The brand strategies and design solutions in both cases communicate safety, speed, clarity and simplicity – and they make an emotional connection. They're aiming for that 'ah, I get it' moment in the mind of the potential consumer.
It's this progressive, human-centric approach that will give financial service providers the edge they need to stand out from the crowd – and it's an ever-growing crowd. Strategic brand design enables financial services providers communicate how a service or product can make someone's life better. And what could be more important than that?