We’re experimenting with an interesting new series on the podcast called Marketing Talk. We’re talking to top finance and fintech marketers sitting on the front lines of their business, hustling to bring in the next cohort of customers. As much as TechCrunch makes this stuff look easy, it isn’t and we want to hear from marketers — in their own words — what’s working for them, how they’re structuring their teams, and what channels are delivering.
For startups, branding can be tricky. It’s hard to put forward a strong brand when a company is still growing up, searching for its business model and target customer, and finding its voice. But there comes a time when a business matures and it can be intentional about who and what it is.
Financial software firm, Wave has grown up a lot since it launched in 2010. The company now has over 3.5 million customers. It’s always helped small businesses get control over their finances through simplifying things. But through the rebrand, the company wanted to convey the feeling that there’s power in this process — Wave’s new branding focuses on empowering small businesses and entrepreneurs. It’s a nuanced change but makes a huge difference.
Director of marketing creative at Wave, Grace Marquez was the architect of Wave’s re-launch and she takes us behind the scenes to see how the rebranding process was organized, how various teams across the company worked together on the project, and how the financial brand found its new voice and image.
The following excerpts were edited for clarity.
Do you think there are particular challenges for financial services firms when it comes to branding?
We all have a very emotional relationship with our money. Sometimes the relationship is fantastic — oftentimes, it’s not. I think if you take that very emotional connection and layer on top of that where technology has gone in the last 20 years, financial services firms do have a unique set of challenges.
For example, you have a lot of new companies that layer on experiences where money and finances aren’t central. If I’m house shopping, tech firms allow you to browse for a home. Their product may center around lending, but the experience is really the fun and emotional side of things — like finding your dream home.
What prompted the brand relaunch at Wave?
We had grown. It’s not unlike what a teenager goes through. You come of age and you realize that you want to speak a certain way or associate with specific people. That’s where we were when the rebranding process started.
When you look at startups, we’re so busy building our products and offerings and just stabilizing our businesses that the brand itself evolves organically. This rebranding process was about us declaring our intentions for what we wanted our brand to be. It’s getting intentional about our brand. Where we may not have been as clear before, we decided to be very clear now about who we service.
Our primary beneficiaries are brave entrepreneurs. When you start a business, it’s not easy. There are many things to learn and fears to deal with. There’s a constant tension between your dreams and fears. Everything we put out there in marketing and communications says that you’re not alone out there and that we believe in you. This came out in the rebranding process — that our essence had always been about believing in our customers and what they’re trying to achieve. We want to celebrate and be with you as you achieve and hit certain milestones. We want to be with you when you deal with challenges, too.
We got very intentional about who we wanted to speak to and to be clear about what we wanted to do for our customers and what our essence is all about. We believe in small business owners and we want them to believe in themselves when they’re managing their business finances.
How did you decide to hone in on celebrating the process of being an entrepreneur or small business owner?
When you look at human nature, there are two voices in your head when you encounter anything outside your comfort zone. There’s a positive voice that urges you forward and says that you can do it. And there’s a negative voice that’s really self doubt. You’re fearful you’re not making the right decisions or your doubt your abilities.
I always compare it to playing golf. I’m a horrible golfer but I love being outside and the social aspects of the game. I try my best every hole and I think every time I have a bad swing that I’m the worst at this. But all you need is one beautiful swing and the ball lands where you want it to that this is the greatest game ever!
It’s very similar to this. The insight we looked at was about confidence and self doubt. They will always be at play together. Even the most successful entrepreneurs will experience moments of self doubt. Acknowledging both sides — the doubt and the belief in yourself — was what we honed in on for the re-brand.