Covid led to a boom in investing, according to a recent CNBC|Momentive Poll. 26% of the general public started investing in 2020. 60% of 18 to 34 year olds said they started investing in 2020 or later.
When asked what changed during this period, consumers gave different reasons. Plans for the future (35%), advice from family and friends (19%), and recently figuring out how to invest (16%), were among the top incentives. Others included leftover money from pandemic relief funds and crypto curiosity.
Then of course there’s the rise of memestocks and the Gamestop craze on Reddit, which led to a whole new generation of investors – no longer crowded by just Wall Street veterans or financial experts.
Consumers’ increased interest in investing has meant some nice upticks for a lot of investing apps. Stash, for example, saw a lot of growth over the course of the pandemic. The company went from 4.5 million customers in June 2020 to over 6 million customers today.
Stash started out as a pretty straightforward investing app with a clear investing product. But as it gained more users, it began to expand its product, covering both investing and banking. The company now has not only automated investing tools, but also banking products – like an automated savings account, a stock-back card – which awards users for shopping at a specific place by giving them stock in that company – and early wage access.
But with its new line of products, the company faced a challenge: It wanted to better define itself to its users. Consumers saw it as anything from an investing app, to a challenger bank, to a super app in the making.
Chidi Achara, chief creative officer at Stash, spoke at Tearsheet’s Acquire Conference about how the company has been able to build its brand through focusing on the three Cs – clarity, consistency, and cohesion.
“Clarity of communication drives engagement, consistency builds trust, and cohesion adds a layer of credibility,” said Achara, who prior to joining Stash, hailed from a career in consumer products and retail.
Achara has been using his experience in retail to build a brand image for Stash that stick with consumers. In fact, most people on his team don’t come from finance – and that’s not by happenstance.
“We don’t actually have a lot of finance veterans on our squad,” said Achara. “We have a lot of retailers who are used to communicating why this product will add value to your life, very quickly, very clearly, with some warmth and some witt, to try and engage the attention of our customers.”
The three Cs have come into Stash’s marketing tactics in different ways. Clarity, for instance, has been about keeping Stash’s mission statement at the forefront of any campaign.
The trick, it seems, is to keep the value proposition clear, no matter the context. If he were at a bar, and someone asked him what his company does, Achara said he’d respond with ‘it’s an app that makes it easy for you to invest for the long-term, starting with just a few bucks.’
This sort of clarity helps express Stash’s mission. If consumers are able to easily process what Stash does, they are able to trust it more.
“It’s a little bit like everyday life, we all pick the people and co-workers who communicate clearly and are consistent with their positions,” said Achara. “And why should it be any different for brands?”
Consistency also relates to messaging – all of Stash’s products are delivered through investing goggles, in a way.
Its banking product, for example, offers a stock-back card instead of the more common cashback incentive.
“It’s about positioning everything on the Stash platform in a way that makes sense and adds value to our customers’ lives around this idea of investing in yourself for the long term,” said Achara.
Finally, there’s the idea of cohesion that Achara talks about – it all has to fit into consumers’ lives in a way that’s palpable.
Customers aren’t excited about fintech, he says. They know it exists but for them a lot of these firms just fall into ‘tomayto, tomahto’ territory. Yes, they may see Chime as a challenger bank and Robinhood as an investing app, but there isn’t really a whole lot more depth than that.
“It’s not like a degree of differentiation in people’s minds between, say, an Apple and an IBM, or a BMW and a Subaru,” said Achara. “I mean, [these fintech firms] are still kind of seen as sort of doing the same thing. And I think these are all challenges that we have to contend with.”
Stash has developed strategies to market itself in a way that feels relevant to consumers’ everyday lives.
Its Union Square campaign, for example, targeted consumers during their daily commute, calling them to invest in their future. Meanwhile, Stash’s ‘Great Things Take Time’ campaign was about sharing stories of people investing in their future, whether through dance or culinary endeavors – not necessarily things related directly to finance.
“Our vision is centered around creating a sense of hope that you can have greater control not just over your finances, but over your life.”