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‘Brand is the tide that lifts all boats’: Inside the evolution of Varo’s brand

  • Varo’s ambitious “A bank for all of us” campaign highlights its maturation into a national bank.
  • The bank's chief brand officer spoke at Tearsheet’s Acquire Conference about building a next generation challenger bank brand.
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‘Brand is the tide that lifts all boats’: Inside the evolution of Varo’s brand

Varo’s emergent evolution from a mobile app to a national bank has allowed it to expand its services for a growing customer base. The challenger bank has shaped its brand strategy to mirror this expansion by recently launching its multi-million dollar brand campaign “A bank for all of us” across television, radio and Super Bowl advertising slots. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZ2jSaHvNX4

The campaign champions financial opportunity, diversity and inclusion by emphasizing America’s local communities. It reimagines money by featuring ordinary Americans as the faces on a $20 bill. The ambitious campaign is a major milestone for the young brand. 

Varo’s chief brand officer Halle Hutchison spoke at Tearsheet’s 2021 Acquire Conference about what it takes to build a growing challenger bank brand for the next generation. According to Hutchison, the community oriented bank aims to position itself as a lifestyle brand in order to forge a more meaningful relationship with consumers.

“From a business standpoint you have to compare yourselves to similar brands and similar product offerings,” said Hutchison “But from a brand standpoint, we really want to reach higher than that and become a brand that people are proud of, that they're proud to be associated with beyond finances and where they feel like Varo is doing something important in the community.”

Hutchison has previously worked with a variety of tech companies, including heading marketing at Rover.com and Expedia, helping them mature and expand their brands. Her work at Varo has also been focused on shaping the fintech’s brand strategy to lure larger mainstream audiences while remaining loyal to its vision of financial inclusion and empowerment. 

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“You'll see we're showing community members. We call them the makers, the doers, and the creators, the people that wear uniforms. You see everyday that this is the bulk of America, and that's who we're showing in our ads, not the 10 percent,” said Hutchison. 

Varo’s venture into brand marketing to match its growth into a national bank has allowed it to engage with hard to reach customers previously untapped from direct marketing efforts. 

Hutchison recommends channelling brand marketing outside the regular confines of performance marketing to move beyond plateaus in growth when it comes to gaining customers. 

“If you start out just with what I call ‘buy me now’ product messaging, you can acquire customers. I mean, some customers will come in, but they're usually much more fickle,” said Hutchison. 

Brand marketing efforts such as TV ads might be expensive but rewarding in the long run in  attracting high value customers who deliberately choose to build long lasting relationships with a brand.

Varo uses a combination of marketing strategies by layering its brand marketing onto its performance and direct marketing for additive impact.

“What you find over time is that brand is the tide that lifts all boats,” said Hutchison. “So over time, performance marketing becomes much more efficient because people are sensitized to the brand and so and it goes all the way through the funnel.”

“Even when you're after a customer, if you're encouraging repeat usage, that repeat usage goes up, because the brand is so dominant, and is just a part of their lives.”

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