The thinking behind Nimble's new brand strategy and positioning

We chat with the marketing and product leader of Australian lender, Nimble, about the new brand work and the business motivators driving its transformation

Nimble's new brand work
Nimble's new brand work

Australian lender, Nimble, has debuted a new brand campaign, its first big external step to transform out of its traditional cash lending roots and into the wider near-time lending space.  

Nimble chief product and marketing officer, Oonagh Flanagan, told CMO the rapid ascendancy of ‘buy now, pay later’ offerings have shaken up the market Nimble has held a market-leading position in for the last decade, impacting consumer consideration around cash lending.  

In addition, real-time salary payment upstarts have joined the fray, further shaking up the market. As Flanagan noted, salary lenders are offering a similar proposition to cash lenders but are not currently subject to the same credit licencing structures and responsible lending rules as short-term credit players like Nimble.    

Add in the COVID-19 global pandemic and its impact on consumer confidence and the financial security of households nationally, and you have a perfect storm of reasons why it’s time for Nimble to set out on a new path.  

Pre-COVID, Nimble boasted of 72 per cent brand awareness in the Australian market, a significant figure compared to other non-bank lender competitors. For Flanagan, this awareness has been driven by a long-term commitment to brand building, a fast and simple product offering, and the company’s quirky and humorous approach.  

Then COVID hit, and the business had to pull back on media investments. This stung in terms of brand equity, pulling down awareness to the 60s.  

As an organisation, Nimble made the call to evolve from the short-term cash loans category into what the wider non-bank credit lending in near real-time. This will see the business going head-to-head with players like SocietyOne, Pepper, MoneyMe and Money 3.  

Flanagan said the back-end work to build out the product set has been done. New offerings include a new customer loan product and virtual MasterCard product, Nimble Anytime, allowing customers to pay and pay and make ecommerce purchases in a way Flanagan said should be a contender in the modern payments space.  

“It’s probably the space most normal Australians find themselves in,” Flanagan said. “When we compare to these players, we’re still scoring highly in terms of awareness and consideration. If we can influence perceptions of the brand to something that represents more accessibility for more people, we will be very successful.”  

Debate ensued as to whether to retain the Nimble brand or start this ‘new Nimble’ under a fresh moniker. Given the strength of awareness, consideration, humour and fun Nimble has built to date, the organisation opted to stick with its existing brand.  

“We’re very hopeful that what persists from the brand in a positive way will help us with this transitional period we’re going into,” Flanagan said. “As we move forward, the challenge is to get back to the brand awareness levels we enjoyed before but move the dial in terms of consideration.”    

Enter the new brand campaign and work. “The positioning for us is around this idea of more mindful spending,” Flanagan said.  

Unlike traditional credit cards, for example, often seen as a key trigger for debt spiral, the debt on Nimble’s Anytime product must be paid back within 12 months. There’s a higher minimal monthly spend than typical credit cards repayments as a result, a step designed to ensure such debt doesn’t persist.  

“We want to bridge the gap between buy now, pay later and credit cards,” Flanagan said.  

Nimble worked with the Genero platform as a more cost-effective way to source a new creative agency. It settled on Cyclone Creative, which Flanagan described as a business that’s a “breath of fresh air” driven by a largely female leadership team. Production was undertaken by Monster & Bear.  

“They were energetic, modern and contemporary and immediately I felt these were the guys that could bring to life the ideas in my head,” she said. “This ensured from early one, we started to set a new tone.”  

Brand tone and narrative

The latest campaign is designed to present Nimble as the ‘lender in your corner’ and introduces two fresh faces to do this: Millennial Ash, a quick-witted and relatable figure, and her pet rabbit, Rodney. The pair aim to illustrate the brand’s core promise of fast and simple finance to life and are supported by a refreshed bold colour palette, quirky humour and accessible language.  

“COVID provided the opportunity for this business to step back to ask what we wanted our brand codes to be, what we wanted this brand to stand for and where we need to be,” Flanagan said.    

While quirkiness and humour have always driven Nimble’s branding and campaign, historically advertising has skewed more towards male humour. Yet its existing customer base is almost equally split between male and female demographics. In addition, Flanagan said several growing segments are female-skewed, while research continues to indicate household financial decisions are still largely made by women.  

This meant the new brand campaign needed to be more accessible to all genders. “I wanted brand creative that was accessible to everyone… and to have good, clean fun but that didn’t take itself too seriously. And a platform that would allow us to start that process of education,” Flanagan said.  

Millennial Ash and Rodney are distinctive brand assets that will continue to feature across Nimble’s media and marketing program of work.  

“A refreshed colour palette then ensures solid contrast and impact against the Nimble orange, immediately striking the brand tone visually,” Flanagan said.  

Another must for Flanagan is an instantly recognisable sonic imprint. Nimble has created unique audio assets that will be not only used on TV and radio advertising, but also brought into its app when a customer completes a purchase, for example.  

“We tried to think about the characters, iconography, colour – everything to say this is the start of Nimble’s new journey and these are the elements that will persist through the work as we move forward,” Flanagan said. “Ultimately, we needed to draw a line in the sand and say this is what we now look like. Then from a messaging point of view, we needed to think about what we stand for.”  

Through brand tracking, the team understood Nimble held a market-leading category position as being fast and simple. However, in the wider lending category, fast and simple are almost housekeeping, Flanagan said.  

“We needed to change the narrative to say we’re not only fast and simple in short-term environments, we also have products to serve all your credit needs. This brand campaign is a deliberate step to introduce that,” she said.    

The initial campaign execution comprises of 30-, 15- and 6-second TV ads. A follow-up, more direct response-led asset focused on key product positioning will then kick off from mid-April.  

Above-the-line is a no-brainer for Nimble given its target market of 25-to-54-year olds, and TV is still a key channel to achieve reach. But over the past year, the group has also embarked on segmentation work to develop a better understanding of key customer segments. Flanagan said these segments present opportunities to create distinct content and social plays.  

“We have started using this segmentation in some of our direct response work and the differences we’ve had in terms of engagement has been incredible,” she said. “This is no surprise, but it has been brilliant for me to be able to show the power of segmentation to the business. There can be a tendency to think all customers are the same. And we were guilty of that.  

“Segmentation has been eye-opening as it has allowed us to think about how we could even use such information to change things operationally and in our products as well. It’s a whole customer experience play.”  

Flanagan is well aware the new brand platform will take two to three years to build. “What has been brilliant for me is I have a CEO and board who understand investment in brand is a longer-term play,” she said.  

“If you include branded search, 50 per cent of our traffic comes direct to site. That doesn’t happen by accident, it comes from a brand investing over time.  The business understands that what we invest in today will drive our business in the next 12 months and beyond.”  

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