Sporty dressed woman puts metal credit card in her jacket pocket
#Payment Technology

Are banks becoming lifestyle brands?

Global Trends
5 Mins.

Some brands have developed into a way of life. From Patagonia to Ralph Lauren, from Apple to Nike, these lifestyle brands have almost ceased to be brands, and are instead founding a community. It’s no longer about what they sell – it’s about who they are.

The above brands are just a handful of those that have carved out a strong brand identity that reflects and represents the people buying their products and offers their target group added value. It’s a two-way relationship that demonstrates these brands’ deep understanding of their customers.

Banks and fintechs, too, have realized that a lifestyle-first approach can be used to grasp customers who are otherwise hard to reach. Apple’s titanium credit card is more of a lifestyle product than a bank card, for example, and banks have realized the need to adapt and react. As a result, many are now using celebrities, influencers, and glossy campaigns to lure in prospective customers.

Fintech giant Klarna has partnered with the likes of hip-hop star Snoop Dogg and rapper A$AP Rocky to launch campaigns and drive brand awareness. In a June 2021 YouTube video that has garnered almost 5 million views, A$AP Rocky wanders the streets of New York City in his lockdown slacks, before using the Klarna app to buy clothes to reclaim his pre-lockdown look. It’s a timely, culturally relevant video that helped Klarna go viral.


The pursuit of customer-centricity

Banks and fintechs that understand what their customers need and integrate this into their branding will succeed. Younger generations value individual expression,1 and customers are becoming increasingly used to the customer-centric digital experience offered by global corporations. For example, there’s the famous anecdote that Amazon always has one empty chair at a meeting – for the customer.2 The customer is king, now more than ever, and this is something banks and fintechs must keep in mind too.

“Successful banks understand what their customers aspire to. They speak their language, target them via their preferred channels, and create products specifically for that audience“
Mikko Kähkönen
G+D Global Head of Card Products

Lifestyle banking: branding and communication

A smiling man sitting at a bar holding his credit card

How do banks and fintechs move toward lifestyle banking to draw consumers in? The answer: with a focus on a holistic, engaged approach that improves the customer experience.

Brand imagery should fit the desired customer base. Knowing and understanding consumers enables banks and fintechs to select the right design elements that will appeal. Should the design reflect exclusivity? Should it veer toward innovation and progression? The brand design should speak to the desired customer.

As the aforementioned example of A$AP Rocky highlights, banks and fintechs can use social media to increase visibility and acquire customers. The 17-year-old TikTok star Charli D’Amelio has 128 million followers, and has invested in a teen banking app that she has promoted on social media. Justin Timberlake and former American football quarterback Eli Manning have also invested in the app, which now has over 2 million users (and was launched in autumn 2020). Their celebrity and relevance lends the brand appeal among peers, as well as improving reach.

Indeed, social media is one way to capture younger customers who are otherwise disinterested in finance and financial products. And products specifically targeted for these harder-to-reach groups take it one step further.

Carefully thought-out, customizable products help ensure that banking brand identity is strengthened. The digitalization of the everyday may imply that cards are no longer needed as often as they once were, but for those moments in stores and restaurants, cards take center stage.

A metal card is a sensory experience that connects the user to a need for performance, an expression of their personality, and a prime lifestyle. The clang on the counter, its cool touch, a refined and elegant design – metal is a symbol of value. It makes a statement. Meanwhile personalized cards with user-generated content (UGC) target another consumer group. And of course, the eco-cards made of recycled or bio-plastics appeal to the growing number of environmentally conscious consumers. Packaging, too, makes customers feel special.

Know your customer better

A holistic approach is key. With a focus on brand identity, banks and fintechs must know their customers’ likes and motivations, and what tangible products the customer desires. And this is the essence of lifestyle banking: fully understanding consumers and maximizing user experience, being able to leverage data to generate customer insights, and creating a brand identity concept that leaves nobody guessing. A strong image, targeted products, and relevant personalities that reinforce messaging will help position a bank strongly, setting it up for a future with long-standing, loyal customers.

  1. ‘True Gen’: Generation Z and its implications for companies, McKinsey, 2018

  2. Why Every Amazon Meeting Has at Least 1 Empty Chair, Inc., 2018

Published: 07/12/2021

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