Within the past decade, consumer usage of digital services has
surged, as has the quantity of relationships consumers entrust
for niche financial purposes, from direct banking (Mango,
UPside, Ally, Electric Orange) to payment methods (Square,
LevelUp, BillMeLater) to financial management (SmartyPig,
Mint, Hello Wallet.)
We handle our money with more casual, lifestyle-consistent
interactions. And, fittingly, the names of these new entries are
routinely more conversational, sociable, and even more playful than banking products of old. Few are purely descriptive,
and most evoke associations beyond the products themselves.
An early pioneer of this cultural revolution, PayPal, has
a name that exemplifies the shift in consumer expectations
from services to relationships (or friendships, even.) To capture
our affinity, names must make such connections amid online
ecosystems of Google results and friend feeds—unlike the days
when, once inside the brick-and-mortar bank walls, generically
named services saw little competition.
Given these shifts within the financial category, the opportunity to differentiate is quickly becoming a necessity for survival.
To compete, new products must move away from traditional
bank-speak and towards names that spark emotional connections.
New naming rules for the financial world
To keep up with this diverse influx of new competition, banks not
only need to remain innovative with new products and features,
but they need to do it in a way that rivals the human interest of
the changing landscape. When naming new entries, these four
tenets are key to keeping ahold of divided consumer attention:
Bank of America could have called
1. Names should spark curiosity (keep
its “Keep the Change” service
something more descriptive,
like “Automatic Savings.”
However, the chosen title is more
suggestive, while capturing the
essence of the service.
changing the story)
Introducing more points of interaction with customers means
new revenue sources and deeper loyalty. But getting customers
interested enough to actually sign up and engage with new
products takes a story they have not heard a million times.
A dynamic name is chapter one of such stories. It sets the
stage for whether an offering will be perceived as useful or
frivolous, exciting or forgettable, from the first interaction.
That’s why industry leaders are embracing more engaging
names for new account features.
Bank of America’s “Keep the Change” and “Add it Up”
products are two such examples. One is a forced-savings tool,
the other a cash rewards program, but rather than “Automatic
Savings” or “Cash Rewards” or similarly descriptive concepts,
the chosen names are more suggestive. They capture the function of the services, but in a way that asks the customer to
make a figurative leap. (Keep what change Add what up?)
And the reason customers are willing to spend that extra
moment to figure it out is the fact that the names are conversational and familiar. They aren’t typical bank-speak; rather,
they use language that’s casual and natural for a person to
use in the context of their money. By choosing names that
sacrifice descriptive clarity, Bank of America in turn piques
enough interest to encourage a consumer to open an email
or an envelope, and to continue the natural interaction that
these names invite.
Names shape expectations of the surrounding
2. Names should be friendly (remember your
‘plz’ and ‘thx’)
The best way to be perceived as friendly and authentic is by selling
products that feel friendly and authentic, like the PayPal name.
Emphasizing relationship over transaction is key.
Beneficial Bank (assets: $4 billion), a Philadelphia-based
regional bank, branded a white-label rewards program (from
RewardsNOW) with the name “Bank Thanks.” Rewards programs are another popular route to deeper loyalty and increased
card-based purchases, but to overcome common skepticism
of complexity and limitations, the right name should feel
easy, approachable and accessible.
And “Bank Thanks” does so by giving these rewards some
human personality. Beyond the benefit of the name’s ownabil-ity (only Beneficial gives you “Bank Thanks”), the name also
fosters approachability. Earning Bank Thanks is no different
from earning “rewards points,” except that a reward feels formal
and paternalistic, whereas “thanks”—more than “Thank You”
even—is a way we express gratitude to our friends.
Driving that familiarity home, Beneficial introduced a
“thx” identity—mimicking a common email signoff with a