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‘The transformation of banks into lifestyle brands is the transformation of the card into a lifestyle product’: Challenger banks turn to custom packaging as next step in customer journey

  • With so many challenger banks popping up, digital banking solutions are struggling to stand out.
  • How challenger banks package their cards could be key to staying memorable and top of wallet.
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‘The transformation of banks into lifestyle brands is the transformation of the card into a lifestyle product’: Challenger banks turn to custom packaging as next step in customer journey

Top financial brands are strategically using packaging as part of the customer experience. Packaging design firm Burgopak has literally written a book on the art and science of fintech packaging. Welcome to the Club: Packaging Design for Neobanks & Fintechs is available for download here.

As of December 2020, there were 256 active challenger banks worldwide according to data by Exton Consulting. 

With so many digital banking solutions, standing out is challenging.

As a solution, many challenger banks are putting extra focus on how they package their cards. 

Packaging, it seems, helps challenger banks express their brand’s tone and personality, make users feel special, and turn card activation into a shareable event instead of a mundane chore.

Dane Whitehurst is the creative director at Burgopak. Burgopak is a packaging company that in the past decade has worked closely with challenger banks in finding the best way to uniquely differentiate and present their products. For him, old-fashioned cardboard packaging causes customers to classify their new cards as boring rather than brag-worthy. 

A plain envelope doesn’t highlight its content as something desirable. Instead, what’s inside becomes just another item in your home, like a toothbrush or socks — something you use daily, but not something you’d boast about on Instagram. 

A unique unpackaging experience, though, can make the user feel like they’re now a part of something special.

“Part of the transformation of banks into lifestyle brands is the transformation of the card into a lifestyle product,” said Whitehurst. “Bank cards are moving from being this thing that’s hidden away in your wallet to being this hugely desirable celebrated object. it’s not something you hide away anymore. It’s something that gets waved around and photographed in countless locations.”

Packaging can also help challenger banks present the use of their banking products as a trendy experience, rather than just another way to pay for stuff. 

“I think a big part of the reason behind why these companies became hugely successful is because there were some very clever people in marketing who fundamentally rewrote what a bank is and how it behaves,” said Whitehurst. “They moved perceptions away from these large corporate institutions to something young, exciting and vibrant. And they’re connected much more closely with people’s lives this way. Banks feel much more like lifestyle brands today than they probably ever did.”

Then there’s the fact that through the packaging, challenger banks have been able to express their brand identities and personalities, differentiating themselves not only from incumbent banks but also from other challenger banks.

“It can embed the spirit of brands in a different way through cheeky little tones and things like that,” said Whitehurst.

The real takeaway though is that activating a new card holds the risk of being a pretty dull, forgettable event. And since card activation is often the first physical contact the user has with a chosen challenger bank, it’s important that it becomes memorable.

“If you reward customers, and they feel very good when they receive this thing that welcomes them into the club, there will be emotional investment immediately,” said Whitehurst. “But if you bury the card in an instruction manual, or in a written piece of text, it gets lost, it looks boring, and people often don’t pay much attention to it.” 

Not to mention that in the age of social media, once an event becomes worth remembering, it becomes worth sharing. And that can help the challenger bank catch more people’s attention. 

“Packaging is even more powerful as a shareable asset through social media. It seems to have become this personal billboard for influencers,” said Whitehurst. “If you Google ‘unboxing videos’ right now, you’ll get over 100 million hits, which is crazy. But it shows that people care about this stuff. They care about how the products are packaged, and how they received their needs, and the experience of receiving them.”

Ultimately, packaging seems to have helped challenger banks present their products not only as something you have to have, but as something you want to have. 

As contactless pay continues to rise though, the question is whether the experience we get from opening a cool package can be translated to a digital setting.

“Digital absolutely is where everything’s going. It’s convenient and some of the experience is very useful. But I think you lose some of the feeling that you get with real physical stuff,” said Whitehurst. “I think there’s huge value in brands crafting products and packaging. You can build a really strong brand experience around that, which you can never quite simulate digitally.”

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