Banking News

Fintech Is Banking On Influencers For Brand Building

It makes sense that brands in sexy verticals like fashion and hair care turn to social media influencers. But banking brands hire influencers, too.

One recent example is Kasasa, a fintech company that launched in 2003 and partners with local credit unions and community banks to offer discounts and attract people looking to open or switch accounts.

Last month, Kasasa ran a recent video campaign with a twist on the “shop local” trend.

YouTube and TikTok personality Trey Kennedy plays a small-town “hipster” who brags about only buying from local shop owners – at one point he boasts that he’s so local he has a “radish guy” – until another version of himself wearing a suit points out that buying vegetables and beanies from local businesses is great, but what about banking?

“Everyone’s obsessed with local coffee shops and locally sourced food, but they’re not thinking about local financial institutions,” Kennedy told AdExchanger.

One reason banking isn’t part of the millennial “shop local” agenda is because it’s not trendy, nor is it easy. “Waltzing into an alternative to Starbucks is a whole lot easier than opening up a new checking account,” Kennedy said.

But banking with community-based financial institutions is what helps fund the loans that keep the small businesses millennials love afloat, said Kasasa CEO Gabe Krajicek.

Hip to be square

Still, convincing millennials that the small business category includes banks is a tall order.

In the ’90s, most Americans were banking with local credit unions and community banks, Krajicek said. Now, local institutions hold less than 20% of market share. (More on the history of “megabanks” here.)

Kasasa is going after a contracting audience, which is why its latest campaign is about “pure brand building,” Krajicek said.

The campaign is also a step toward investing more in original content.

YouTube creator Trevor Kennedy proudly holding his locally-sourced eggs.
YouTube creator Trevor Kennedy proudly holding his locally sourced eggs.

“Influencers are how we can reach and appeal to more target consumers besides other old white men,” Krajicek said.

But while partnering with a popular influencer like Trey Kennedy is a helpful way to gain more awareness, it’s not enough to build a brand, he acknowledged, and a small fintech company like Kasasa has to spend judiciously.

“We’re small – a lot of our growth is grassroots activation right now – but we plan to continue working with influencers to complement what we’re doing with a little boost of prestige,” Krajicek said. “And because it’s cool.”

Kasasa currently represents 700 financial institutions spanning 3,400 branches and 3 million accounts across the country.

For now, Kasasa is focused on the upper funnel because it needs to broadly grow its customer base. It’s measuring its collaboration with Kennedy based on engagement with individual financial institutions, which it’s doing by tying ad exposures to new accounts each financial institution reports opening.

Because the campaign is predominantly running on Instagram and YouTube, Kasasa is also looking for social media engagement with the video as a gauge of intent.

“Customers considering potentially banking at local institutions are more likely to open an account if they see other people supporting those banks online,” Krajicek said. “It’s social validation.”

Money troubles

But the campaign has another target audience in addition to millennials: financial institutions themselves.

Kasasa hopes that better brand building for its service will incentivize other financial institutions to sign up with Kasasa.

Other campaigns Kasasa has run in the past for specific financial institutions led to a roughly 50% increase in account openings, Krajicek said.

But finance is a sensitive vertical when it comes to advertising and data use, and Kasasa has had to deal with quite a few challenges in how it markets itself.

In 2014, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) ruled that Kasasa is a deposit broker, not a financial institution, so it can’t market itself as one.

“Before, our ads we were directing customers straight to,” Krajicek said. “Now, we have to say that a certain institution ‘carries’ Kasasa.”

That’s why the tone of this campaign, which isn’t tied to any specific financial institution, is more like a satirical PSA rather than a pitch to drive visitors to Kasasa’s website.

Now that the waters have settled following the FDIC’s ruling, Krajicek said, Kasasa is back to focusing on its branding.

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