B2B fintech: less bland, more brand

B2B fintech: less bland, more brand

The fact that many start-ups look, feel and sound the same has become painfully apparent.

A snapshot of successful fintech leaders is like looking at a jigsaw puzzle where the only different piece is the logo in the top left of the screen.

In both B2B and B2C, what was once a new and fresh way of communicating has become a well-trodden path.

Whether it’s insurance (Kinsu), banking (N26), gardening (Patch), food boxes (Gousto) or air travel (Level) – there’s a shopping list of brand features that you can now choose from.

Sans serif font? Check.

Pastel block colours? Yep.

Matey language? Heck yeah!

Overly-emojified messaging? 🤷‍♂️

Screen shot of Kinsu online ad: Protect your phone against life hazards or human clumsiness. Old, brand new, second-hand.. as long as it's not a stolen one, it's covered

There’s a multitude of reasons why this simple, stripped-back aesthetic has come about.

  1. Tiny screens
  2. The internet
  3. DIY start-ups
  4. Anti-shiny corporate sentiment
  5. Laser-focused business propositions

Oh and don’t forget that Pantone’s colour of the year for 2019 is ‘Living Coral’.

The problem is, of course, that people are beginning to feel that ‘peak minimal’ has been more than adequately accomplished.

The cosy pastel hues have become another reason to glaze over. The cute emojis have begun to grate. The simplistic language now sounds a bit basic.

This is a multi-industry problem

Fashion is one. Beauty is too. But financial services and fintech are the ones that are suffering most acutely from minimalist burn-out.

I took a look at a few fledgeling B2B companies out there and quickly found myself feeling bamboozled by the plain-ness of them all. A snapshot of successful fintech leaders is like looking at a jigsaw puzzle where the only different piece is the logo in the top left of the screen.

Screen shot of Chime banking website

Screen shot of Revolution banking website

Screen shot of Pleo banking website

The same brand cues and formats prevail across much of the B2B fintech industry.

From a customer point of view, this isn’t very useful and it’s potentially unsustainable. The simplicity of a service isn’t always enough. One day the VC money will run out and a brand could stumble on their lack thereof.

Meanwhile, across other industries, there are signs that things are changing. Design trends are moving on from an era of Ikea-inspired chic Scandi minimalism. Interior design taste-makers (and IKEA) are swinging back to gaudy maximalism. So are some beauty brands.

The interesting side story to this is the traditional financial services companies whose brands are built – and surviving – on scale, reliability and heritage. In other words, trust.

Some of the oldest banks in the world, from Coutts to Barclays, trade in a very different currency to the new wave. In look and feel they have more in kin with a premium tailor or shoemaker than they do a tech start-up. The crisp suits and wood panelled walls exude a natural sense of confidence and credibility…

Trust and credibility are precisely what fintech companies have to work hardest to earn.

So, will we start to see some of these trust-inducing cues seep in to some of these B2B brands in 2019? Will the serif fonts rise up to take back the throne? Is there anyone bold enough to stick their head above the parapet?

I certainly hope so, for all our sakes.