US Microfinance Startup
Competitive positioning, rebranding and strategic blueprinting for expansion and an impending IPO.
Capabilities Deployed: Brand, Strategy, Creative, Innovation, Culture
A pioneer in providing credit to underbanked and unbanked US consumers, our client was in its eighth year of successfully driving financial inclusion by providing responsible loans to underserved consumers with little or no credit history. The company had a propriety underwriting methodology, and a superior, cost effective loan product, but operated with a very resource-intensive and capital-intensive brick and mortar branch strategy. Additionally, the competitive landscape was becoming increasingly crowded, with several well-funded copycat lenders having emerged. The company also faced a very tough regulatory, policy and opinion influencer community, driving the need to position the brand credibly with multiple constituencies with divergent perspectives, and to build a strategic roadmap to ensure delivery of the brand promise through the entire customer journey. Against this backdrop, the leadership team had developed ambitious growth objectives and was in the planning stages for an IPO. Finally, the company needed to rebrand as it did not have trademark rights to its name in several key markets it intended to enter.
Working with a broad senior leadership team, we conducted a series of strategic ideation sessions focused on brand strengths, vulnerabilities, strategic blueprinting, audience definitions, and product prioritization. We then conducted extensive consumer research (in store, ethnography, focus groups, and quantitative surveys) to develop several high-impact brand positioning concepts based on what turned out to be a very rich set of emotional needs among targeted consumers. We uncovered a significant opportunity to create a brand that transcends the product offer and connects profoundly with the customer - - individually, with their families, and within their communities. We developed a new brand narrative and framework based on a concept of “understanding and opportunity.” We led the rebranding effort (creative naming), and developed the brand transition/migration strategy to ensure the preservation and transfer of current brand equity to the new name over time. A second phase of work involved aligning the strategic blueprint and brand development strategy, creating a brand tracking program, and establishing a refreshed set of corporate values to support the organization’s ability to “live the brand.”
The company launched the new brand with increased clarity of purpose and highly focused communications, and created a much more intentional and culturally-aware customer experience in harmony with the brand promise. Over the next two years, the company grew from serving customers in three states to twelve states, had expanded from roughly 100 branches to over 300, and had implemented a 24/7 contact center with an end-to-end mobile solution. The customer base had grown from roughly 400,000 customers to nearly 2 million in the same time period, with nearly $4 billion in loans disbursed (a 400% increase). The company achieved a highly successful IPO, and has since experienced a 600% increase in market capitalization.