How this CMO brought B2C and B2B marketing teams together

A global rebrand to Zai and merging of companies presented a big opportunity for the teams behind CurrencyFairs and Assembly Payments for growth - but employee engagement was crucial to success

Andrea Linehan
Andrea Linehan

It’s a truth increasingly acknowledged that human beings only have a finite amount of decision- making power in any given day. And it’s minimising the mental cost of switching from B2B to B2C decision making Zai global CMO, Andrea Linehan, was keen to avoid when she set out to orchestrate a global rebrand bringing two such teams together.

Zai is the new overarching brand identity for two fintech businesses that merged last year: B2B payments player, Assembly Payments; and Dublin-based, consumer-oriented peer-to-peer currency business, CurrencyFair. Both companies were originally established by Australian founders but with very different product sets, customer bases, technologies, geographic reach and go-to-market propositions.

Brought together off the back of investments made by Standard Chartered Bank, a repositioning effort inside and out was clearly necessary. Debuting in November 2021, this resulted in a house of brands approach: A fresh name, ‘Zai’, for the overarching parent company and Assembly Payments B2B brand; and retention of CurrencyFair in the consumer and business payments space.

Supporting this is a central services model featuring digital, content and product marketing functions, with time apportioned to different brands depending on the strategy required. While a couple of specialist roles specifically cover B2B and B2C content, the majority of staff have a leg in both camps, Linehan tells CMO.

“It’s therefore really important to remove as much non-value add decision making as possible, and to have things as streamlined and operationalised as we can,” she says. “This is often where marketing teams get tripped up. As marketers, we’re probably the slowest to operationalise our departments. It tends to be something introduced at a certain size, and often a mandate driven down by the company, rather than a purposeful decision by marketing.

“What I want to do is leave as much room for creative decisions from everyone in the team by removing reactive decision making. Because the mental switching costs between brands is enormous.”

B2B versus B2C marketing

The delineation between B2B and B2C marketing is something Linehan was thinking about well before the merger happened. The trigger for her appointment two years ago was pivoting CurrencyFair from a mission-based consumer approach to a consumer, SMB and enterprise proposition.

Credit: Zai

“We were going to essentially have one brand and three very different customers,” Linehan says. “I used the analogy of Toy Story, where you have shiny new toy, Buzz, versus old favourite, Woody. The question was how I would handle the people in the team that would end up working with the new brand versus those focused on the existing brand.

“My thinking was more from a team morale perspective rather than specialist skills. One thing I did know, however, was I wasn’t going to be able to build out two teams specialising in each area. We had to be hybrid and we were restricted by headcount.”

It was a scenario that made hiring particularly challenging, Linehan admits. “Just by virtue of having worked for longer, you’ll have senior people who have been exposed to both sides. But when you’re looking for those for more junior roles, you don’t expect them to have been exposed to both sides,” she says.   

The shift also meant changing marketing technology so attribution and churn models based on the consumer side could be supported by more permission-based, content-oriented inbound marketing for longer lead nurturing. It was a shift that saw the business adopt HubSpot’s platform.

Having undergone the rebrand of the merged businesses to Zai, Linehan is even more keen to ensure her team gets as much cross-exposure as possible.

“With those specialising on the B2C side, I’m ensuring 10 per cent of their time is being exposed to and getting involved in projects on the B2B side, and vice versa. That’s not only because I want them to expand their skills, it’s also smart from a diversification perspective,” she explains. “If we do need to backfill, all can get involved and they don’t feel alienated in every way.”  

Finding the right rebrand strategy

The sense of alienation and emotion that can come with a rebrand has certainly been top of mind for Linehan as she’s worked to combine Assembly Payments and CurrencyFair.

From its foundations in peer-to-peer lending, CurrencyFair had been building out a footprint with banking licenses, partners, currency corridors and a broader product roadmap. Assembly Payments was a largely domestically focused business with a focus on enterprise technology.

“We looked at typical M&A brand strategy from conservative to aggressive, and what could cause alienation with our customers, stakeholders and employees. We also looked at how to signify a shared future while not prompting that alienation, and to sustain brand equity,” she says. “That’s a challenging thing to measure unless you have big investments with the brand equity agencies or a big liquidity event.

“The other piece was trying to understand what we were going to be going forward. We were going through the delicate pieces of merging two companies together, so cultures and all the pieces that go with bringing two infrastructures together was already sensitive. We knew the symbolism of a rebrand could help with that. But it also could hinder us.”

Minimum viable branding

Enter the concept of what Linehan calls ‘Minimum viable brand’ (MVB). “The one thing we couldn’t do is drag this out in terms of a big brand journey. It can take 12 months to do a rebrand properly,” she continues.

Step was of the process was building a clear understand what the group’s intrinsic brand was, going back to the foundations of vision, mission and values, personality and what it stood for. Linehan orchestrated an array of workshops, pulling people from across both organisations into a rebrand taskforce and working with a human behaviour expert to facilitate activities. Names and logos weren’t mentioned during this stage: It was intrinsic identity first.

“These were to tease out what we wanted to maintain from the separate companies, and more importantly, who we were going to be,” Linehan says. “It was transformative for lots of reasons. It helped fostered relationships that had to be fostered quicker than was happening organically and across time zones from just having meetings.

“We used a human behaviour specialist to take us through our workshops because there was so much emotion and built-up beliefs over many years. That was about drawing the best out of everybody’s thinking.”

The next step was to look at the visual and brand identity and whether it was fit for purpose. Having considered a merger of names, reverse horse forward or backwards and more, the team went for something that was “more transformative than just trying to shoehorn into each other”, Linehan says.

“It’s one thing to bring together CurrencyFair Enterprise and Assembly Payments – they have a shared customer,” she continues. “But the consumer business had a very different customer. The brand equity there, and time, investment and marketing spend required to build a consumer brand is enormous. We know we have a very strong brand, sitting beside the likes of WISE when it comes to FX review sites or discussions. We had to strategically consider the future, or if we eventually wanted to spin off the consumer side, do a trade sale – so a lot of considerations.

“So we parked the CurrencyFair brand and said let’s keep that as standalone and adopt a house of brand approach.”  

By contrast, Assembly Payments had been assembling pieces of technology and infrastructure that took it beyond a payments proposition. The term ‘assembly’ was also felt to be too reflective of automation rather than the agility and humanised values the overall business was looking to exhibit.  

Working with Bangkok agency, Brand New Day, and looking to avoid a predictable fintech approach, teams eventually landed on Zai. The key value supporting the new brand is ‘Transforming financial services into an ecosystem of limitless opportunity’, while the moniker is ‘Agile, humanized, progressive’.  

Employee buy-in

“The buy-in for all teams in creating this was transformative,” Linehan says. “It’s not a blank slate though – we were taking everything we had built over the last decade across both businesses and using that as a strong foundation. It wasn’t just customers or stakeholders but the culture we’d built across both. We wanted to carry that forward and we feel we have achieved that.”

Credit: Zai

Throughout the process, Linehan says she’s focused on employer brand as much as corporate identity. One initiative staged was a competition to come up with a new employee slang term. The winner was ‘Zaitans’, and a logo has debuted on various items of swag for staff.  

“This was a fun thing to do but it’s more meaningful than that. Artefacts are an important anchoring mechanism for building and bedding in the culture of an organisation,” Linehan comments. “A re-brand effectively takes away the visual identity, the tribe, that employees had attached themselves to. So it’s vital to provide a new identity that represents belonging and gives reassurance a stronger tribe has emerged from the merger.”  

Interim brand guidelines have been another key element of Linehan’s MVB approach. “We are exploring our visual identity in a live environment while we develop our full set of guidelines,” she says.

As an example, she pointed to Zai’s Season’s Greetings visual, which saw the design team experimenting in real time. “These experiments will inform the ‘rule book’ before we create it,” she says.

It’s also seen the team reskin Assembly’s digital footprint so that it became Zai’s minimum viable footprint. “This was sufficient to allow us to launch and build brand awareness without sacrificing time building for perfection,” Linehan says.

Different markets and differing levels of brand recognition will also require localisation as Zai tackles 2022.

“I am a big believer in being brand-led but marketing formed. We are going to be cognisant of what each of the markets is telling is in terms of how they want to be spoken to and approached,” she says.

“As we go into the US for example, I expect there will be some aspects of how we position ourselves that we will have to localise. It’s the same for the UK market. We’re more focused on localising the product and technology for the British market right now. But as we start to plan the go-to-market for the UK, we are going to have to do a deeper dive. It’s not going to change the name, but it’s how we position ourselves, talk to people, language was us.”

In Australia, where both brands were well known, initial marketing efforts focused on re-educating the market on the story from Assembly Payments and CurrencyFair to Zai by plotting out the progression of both companies side by side.

“Australia is our prime market, and we want to regain our position as a market leader, which Assembly Payments once had. A major piece is to win that back in 2022. That’s not just about revenue or customer, it’s going to be driven by brand,” Linehan says.  

“It’s so easy for people to forget all the people, touchpoints, events to get us to Zai. I want to keep the story alive so we’re always adding to it.  

“But from January onwards, it’s going to be about thought leadership and marketing that’s heavy on content and inbound. We’re taking over digital publications, and it’s about being on the ground to work on the relationship building and meeting people. Too many companies think this isn’t a scalable way to get the brand out there, but it’s the most future proofed, significant and material way you can build brand. It’s all about people.”

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