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In today's “Market like a fintech” episode, Araminta is chatting with Patrick Stal, Vice President of Global Marketing at N26. Before moving into the fintech space in 2020, Patrick was previously a member of Uber’s EMEA leadership team, and has a decade of experience working with world-renowned brands like TomTom, Asics, Gucci and Abercrombie & Fitch. Earlier this year, Patrick was also recognised as one of the 30 most influential fintech marketers of 2021 on our annual honorary list.
Founded in 2013, N26 is a global, 100% digital bank based out of Berlin and active in 25 markets. They serve over 7 million customers and was recently voted as the best bank in the world. They also recently raised $30 million at a $3.6 billion dollar valuation.
During their conversation, Araminta and Patrick talk about some of the lessons he's learned by working for big brands, how to localise your product and marketing and why N26 decided to focus on partnerships as a growth method.
This episode is brought to you by VC Innovations.
VC Innovations is a full-stack marketing services agency dedicated to innovation industries with a special focus on Fintech. They work with businesses across 3 key areas of marketing infrastructure, demand generation campaigns and event properties including the must-attend Fintech Talents Festival. Check out www.vcinnovations.co.uk to find out more.
"I think, a couple of key learnings [at Interbrand], not so much around channels, but really around how to do global branding - part of it was based on the world's best global brands and some of the brand valuations that we did and the insights they gave us. And what we really found there was a number of key learning elements:
1) brands have value ... you can value them on the balance sheet. They add value because they fuel growth, strength and loyalty, they protect and stabilise a business. And that's how you should manage the brand.
2) global brands come to life locally. This sense of, yes, we're a global brand, but we don't exist, there's no global customer, there's not a country called 'Global', right? We exist on the ground, in the cities and in the streets. We talk to people in the places where they live, where they love, where they educate, and we have to understand that. So yes, we can build global brands, but we can't do it without all those local insights and understanding how we come back to life relevantly and you see that in activations you see that in the best work that we do."
"So we are a global brand. We're coming to life globally, but we understand local insights. And the best global brands are built on those human insights."
"If, as a global, we can focus on building our brand around those [human insights], then we can take them into local communities and activate those global insights in a way that is relevant within that local community. That's the formula. That's all you got to do."
"There's a lot [of marketing trends] around us happening that we thought would never happen."
"We have to have people in our teams that reflect our audiences, that bring multiple ideas to the table that are then comfortable speaking up with those ideas. And then together, we look at what we want to execute on. But it also has to happen with people on the ground ... I guess one of the best ways to explain is a hub and spoke model. So I have teams centrally, that really execute for our markets, where we scale talent, where we scale specialisation, we bring people in house that can work across multiple markets. But in every market, we have people on the ground, that are ambassadors of our customers that understand the marketplace, specifically understand competition [etc]."
"I think if you build a team of people that think they know, you're onto the wrong thing. You have to build a team of people that are curious, that are hungry to learn, hungry to understand."
N26: Be bold and stand out from the crowd. Read more
"And I think what we need to localise or the point where we need to free up is the ability for people to come to us in different ways."
"My point of view is very much that customer-centricity is a democratic thing. It's not something that sits with one function. We may have a customer insights function because of the nomenclature in general. I think this is one of the big advantages of younger companies, potentially tech companies, but specifically the age and maturity of a company where everybody still has access to how the product is scaling and how people are using the product. And those early stages, those companies tend to be more customer-centric, not because of a structure or because of a mandate of how information is shared, but because they're small, and people see how their customers interact with the business across different functions."
"[Customer-centricity is] not my remit, it is everybody's responsibility."
"I think at the end of the day, [customer-centricity is] building a culture. It's not about one way of working. And it's really making sure that people don't look in one place for customer insights, but they understand that it's part of their own day-to-day, not a responsibility, but just the way of life, the way of working that they take. That curiosity, they bring it and they execute on it by getting close to customers."
(When speaking about the pandemic's hindrance on N26's ability to conduct in-person focus groups)
"There's nothing quite like a physical interaction with the customer."
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(What does N26 do to ensure that it's for that everyday person?)
"Really just thinking, what do we stand for? Who are we looking for? Who are we building for? What is that audience? And, anybody can come to this business, but who do we have in mind when we build?"
"As a tech-enabled business, early stage, you're always going to find quite a high proportion of chest-thumping, tech-pro audiences, early adopters, and has nothing to do with tech-savviness. But it's kind of early adopters in this space. And that's great ... but indeed, we've always set up to build a very democratic business, a very diverse and inclusive business."
"I'm seeing that the diversification of our user base is really coming through, and I'm excited about this because it means that our messages are carrying more broadly, and I think more sustainably. What are we doing to do that? Yes, the brand, yes, our tone, how we show up and how we speak. Yes, the product, of course, making sure that the product is approachable ... This is about user-friendliness, and really making sure that the people we speak to enjoy the product experience."
"Inherently, I think people's relationship with money is broken. It's a stressor, we spend a lot of time earning an income, and then we don't have enough, we don't really know how to manage it, we don't feel confident about that. And it deteriorates our self-confidence. And so I think how we can make a difference is, if we turn that tide around, we can make people more self-confident, and more self-confident people will go out in the world and feel better about doing what it is that they want to do, how they want to live their lives. Now, if I can help with that, we're going to change the world a little bit. And I'm excited about that."
"I think partnerships are key ... We look at partnerships through the lens of the customer, and how do [the partnerships] add value to our customer base ... [and] then there's [other] partnerships that we look at, because they create a better or associated product experience ... and so those are very strategic."
"So I think partnerships are a way for us to expand the horizon of what we can do for our customers and how we can generate value in a broad sense, for them."
(When asked how N26 decides on one partner and not the other?)
"This is the amount of value they can generate for the customers, and [their] fit with our brand."
"And it's such an interesting point that, to some degree, people live these hyper-social, open lives in the physical world. But their banking, their financial life, has been usually very siloed, very alone, very restrictive. And the relationship that they've had there has usually been with a bank that's made them feel stupid at best. [If] you come to N26, we're going to give you a very different feeling."
"We're promising you that we're different and radically different from traditional banks, that we won't cheat you, that we'll be transparent, and that our product is better to use."
"I think that keeping the product fresh, keeping the experience fresh, making sure that people can see that we're hungry, not just to get them as a customer, but to keep them as a customer, that there's always innovation, [and] that the price is right [helps ensure that the relationship with the customer doesn't go stale]".
(When asked if speaking multiple languages has made Patrick a better marketer)
"I think it has. Not because I market in those languages, but because marketing is inherently a crazy fun, cross-functional, diverse function ... All the way from the hyper-analytical to the unbelievably, amazingly creative, and everything that sits in between, I see those as different languages. And so it's not the fact that I speak four languages, but the fact that I'm able to switch between them swiftly that I think, or I hope, has made me more empathetic to the people in my teams, although they all speak English."
For more tips, listen to Patrick's complete story below.