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Why brand is crucial for business growth in the new age of subscription services

Why brand is crucial for business growth in the new age of subscription services

Car subscription service FINN has grown to $100 million in ARR within three years and is expanding quickly into the US. Maximillian Wühr, Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer at FINN, shares the role brand has played in its growth story

My first experience of buying a car was frustrating, to say the least. The initial overhead was overwhelming, then came the hidden costs. I felt I was being misled at every stage. In hindsight though, I’m thankful for that terrible experience. It was a key factor in driving our goal at FINN: to make mobility simple, accessible and fun.

We launched FINN in Germany in 2019, with the goal to expand into the United States while scaling the European side of the business. As a new subscription service breaking into the nascent online car rental space, we knew brand was going to be important to achieve our growth ambitions.

Navigating potential friction points

Getting customers to connect with brand is a challenge for every start up, but tougher still for businesses like ours with a subscription model. As there are fewer points of contact, your brand needs to resonate at every opportunity to create a sense of home and belonging. Then, there are more friction points to navigate, so the risk of churn is ever present.

At the end of their annual term with FINN, customers have two options: choose a new vehicle, or cancel. This isn’t like a Spotify subscription that you can cancel month to month. Many tech companies make the mistake of getting caught up in how their brand looks and how it appeals to them internally. We needed to put the customer first at every touchpoint to help justify the commitment to an annual term.

We approached London-based design and brand agency ShopTalk/DEPT® to create our new brand identity in 2021. We’d just secured funding and were poised for US expansion, with all the risk that entails, while also needing to scale the European side of the business. Our brief was to translate FINN’s reason for being into a robust brand identity that was also flexible enough to translate across markets.

The hidden complexity of simplicity

Simplicity is a fundamental part of the experience FINN delivers. The price customers see online covers the rental, insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance. They browse, click, and get their dream car delivered to their door.

While the customer experience is simple, our business is anything but. Like other vertically integrated businesses we handle many aspects of the supply chain. This involves everything from financing and insuring the vehicles, to storing and transporting them. Much like Amazon, we’re a marketplace selling multiple manufacturers’ brands—but this isn’t the customer’s problem. What they need is the clarity to make their decision.

The interesting part for consumer-facing tech businesses like ours is that digital purchase experiences don’t inspire trust. Ironically, the fewer the clicks, the harder it is to build credibility.

Communicating sustainability without straying into greenwashing is another challenge as an automotive brand. We committed to walking the talk on sustainability by planting trees to compensate every mile driven from the very first subscription. Together with ShopTalk/DEPT® we looked at how we should communicate this and developed our “driven with a clear conscience” positioning.

Bridging the gap

One of the challenges of being a primarily digital business is creating a distinctive brand beyond those moments of truth at sign-up and renewal. We wanted frequent physical reminders of our brand in subscribers’ daily lives. All our cars bear the FINN badge as well as the manufacturer’s, so customers sign up to the brand as much as to the product. They don’t just drive a VW, for example—they drive a VW Golf FINN. The ShopTalk/DEPT® team created an identity that is trustworthy and simple, but bold enough to stand its own alongside iconic marques like Jeep and Chevrolet.

Internal buy-in was also very important to us as a start-up. Our entire team was involved in developing the brand, which we presented internally at our first in-person meet-up following the lockdown in 2021. Emotions were high, and the brand resonated with us all. You only need look at our LinkedIn to see how we live and breathe (and wear) it every day.

As customers continue to prefer accessing things over owning them, subscription-based services aren’t going anywhere. The car subscription market is growing particularly fast, and we now have the confidence to welcome competition. Customers choose us because we give them access to the car of their dreams. Now, thanks to our new brand identity, people everywhere will connect with how simple and achievable that is.

Why brand is crucial for business growth in the new age of subscription servicesAuthor bio:

Maximilian Wühr is Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer at FINN, the leading car subscription platform in the U.S. and Germany, founded in 2019.

Global Banking & Finance Review


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