Move over pinstripe suited bankers, there's a new kid in town. Monzo is the fluro coral-coloured prepaid debit card, with an intriguing name and major ambitions and social considerations.
We had a chance to meet Naji Esiri, the Community Manager for Monzo, when we attended a Campus London AMA (ask me anything) session a few weeks ago. We heard about how Monzo utilised their in-house team and very active community to build their brand person-by-person.
Monzo's vision is to become the 'world's bank' and to serve one billion customers through their mission of financial inclusion. They felt that there was a human element missing from the banking experience, and decided that this needed to be changed. They worked with The Money & Mental Health Institute to find out how they could both better understand and help people to manage their money and deal with financial hardship. Monzo advocate responsible lending and debt management. The Monzo card also offers zero fees, and free and instant transfers between users, making it easy to use on the go and when traveling abroad.
Building a bank from the ground up has not been easy or without hiccups. Naji was very keen to emphasise that Monzo feel that every negative experience is an opportunity to do better next time. On occasion, there have been some teething problems with their systems but the communication lines always stay open and Monzo keep their customers updated in real time. Monzo realised early on that people are entrusting a very important aspect of themselves (their money) into the company and that they needed to be very transparent in how they deal with their customers.
Last year Monzo had a serious issue with their brand name. This led to a rebrand during the very crucial scaling-up stage of their enterprise. They discovered through this process that their brand could withstand the loss of their current name as long as they stood by their values of community, transparency and diversity. In the past, they had relied on their community for feedback on their products and services, and even to do user testing for them but this was a different brief.
It is interesting that Monzo's rebrand was built entirely in conjunction with their community. We have seen great examples of when communities have been asked to provide input during the rebranding process to good effect, but in this case it seems that it has been a 50/50 partnership, both in bringing the problem to the community and then working together as partners to resolve it. With only a team of about 12 staff, and no external agency brought onboard, Monzo were able to rebrand with a strong visual and design led approach. They even asked 1,000 community members to check to ensure that the new name did not have negative connotations in their native tongue or in other languages.
Originally, the company's name was 'Mondo', which means 'world' in Italian, but this was changed to 'Monzo' due to a legal challenge. We contacted Naji after the session to get more clarification on the process and the outcome.
Naji: ‘So with regards to the name change, it really was a blessing for us to be able to hand this problem to our community to help us solve. The root cause which prompted the name change was a legal challenge by an organisation with the same name. We weighed up the options and decided it wasn't really something we had the resources to contest.
Our final choice of name came down to a combination of things. Although we didn't have a brand guidelines book, we had to ask a few questions Does it fit certain design based considerations? We didn't want to change the 'M' logo for example, so we knew the name had still begin with M…
The secondary filter was the question of availability - the name needed to be free for trademark not only in the UK but in the majority of other countries around the world (the last thing we wanted was to run into the same trademark problem in years to come!)
The final shortlist of a few hundred names were shared across the company (then around 40 people) for feedback - do any of these names have a negative meaning or connotation in other cultures for example. The final decision came down to discussions involving the design and marketing teams along with the founders.
Not everyone liked the name and there was plenty of feedback from people who felt we'd made the wrong decision - in the spirit of transparency, we published two blog posts to help explain the process and exactly what was involved.’
The loss of Monzo's old name could have caused a branding disaster but instead it actually seemed to help the bank go from strength to strength and to build stronger ties with their community. They have now started to preview their first fee-free current account.
A special thank you to Naji for taking the time to answer our questions in detail. Please check out these blog posts from the Monzo blog here and here for further information on the naming process.
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