Peer-to-peer lending site Harmoney launched last year in the Kiwi market with an ambigram as its logo and a quirky cartoon TVC by Barnes, Catmur & Friends that compared conventional loan agencies to sharks. However, this launch identity—and the creative approach that accompanied it—is history now, as Harmoney has changed both its creative direction and its logo in a new ad campaign, which makes the company look more like a conventional loan company than an industry-disrupting startup.
Here's the launch ad:
"We decided to evolve the brand into a more mature iconography and esthetic – one that would enable us to use the full brand and the 'H' icon more easily in the digital space," says Harmoney general manager Monica Mathis. "The ambigram was a great marketing campaign, but wasn't a long-term brand strategy that would and could be utilised across traditional and digital media"
There have also been some creative shifts behind the scenes, with Harmoney deciding to discontinue working with Barnes, Catmur & Friends and taking some of its work in-house.
"We used Barnes, Catmur on a project basis however we are finding that being a young, digital startup, that we are finding it best to utilise a broad spectrum of agencies," says Mathis. "We haven't taken things completely in-house, although we do have very strong design and creative skills internally. We are preferring to work with local talent and smaller boutique agencies and match the project to their core competence. We used True recently to complete the brand development phase for us; Goodfolk to assist with the [revamped] brand launch; JustOne to assist with our direct marketing rollout; and Latch Digital to assist with BAU design requirements."
Mathis says the in-house marketing team consists five full-time employees, which is supported by a bigger design team that specialises in user interface and user experience.
The latest campaign, which features a range of videos of Kiwis talking about various aspects of service, is unlikely to win any awards for creativity and certainly seems to step a bit closer to the space usually occupied by lending institutions. However, Mathis argues that Harmoney still retains an important point of difference over its traditional competitors.
"I don't think this is a truly conventional route as it's pretty difficult for most financial services organisations to get consumers to be their advocates," Mathis says.
"What sets us apart from the rest of the businesses in our industry (financial services), is that we are a consumer focused brand. Being a marketplace, we are matching buyers to investors. To have a bustling marketplace, we need strong buyer and investor engagement. The peer-to-peer proposition is very new to kiwi consumers and therefore what better way to convey the value proposition of Harmoney, and the dynamic nature of the marketplace, than to get its consumers to express why they are strong advocates."
Harmoney worked with Auckland-based production company Farmer Clark to produce the campaign, and Mathis says the videos were unscripted and that those appearing in the clips were not paid for their contributions.
"The resulting TVCs were simply a representation of how our consumers feel about Harmoney as a marketplace and a Kiwi brand," Mathis says.
According to Mathis, Kiwis have shown themselves to be early adopters of the service, with over 100,000 accounts having been created, leading to $1 billion of assessed applications and over $100 million of written loans.
For the service to truly function as a peer-to-peer lending service rather than traditional lending enterprise, it will have to balance the investment from investors with the amount borrowed. During its early tenure, Mathis says much of the marketing spend has been focused on bringing borrowers into the mix; however, Mathis says there are plans to commence investor marketing in the new year.
Internationally, peer-to-peer lending has been growing quickly, and Harmoney is already looking to expand into Australia.
"We have our sight set very squarely on launching into Australia before the end of the year," says Mathis. "Looking at our performance in the first year in New Zealand, we are currently tracking at ten times our nearest Australasian Peers."