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New clothes – building our equipment finance brand..

by Eamonn McMahon

In the last post I discussed what kept me busy in December/January. Today, I’m going to elaborate a little on the branding stuff because I think, for those of us from a finance background, it’s probably one of the more challenging aspects of starting a business.

Finance folks are generally cynical of investing time and money in branding and identity. This stems from a training that is drilled into us at an early stage; we accept a theory or ‘code’ that beyond the world of numbers and quantifiable objectivity, the remainder is mostly ‘fluff’ and should be left to the jam jars.

Branding isn’t a huge part of any business..it’s merely the clothes that dress the business but it is important. The name, colours, style and emotional background that sum to the branding ultimately set the tone for every single business engagement.

We tend to imagine a world of rational beings who judge a company on the merits of its product or service and it’s pricing. Unfortunately, people tend to make judgements instantly and subconsciously ( read ‘Blink’ by Malcolm Gladwell) and for a business primarily online this is an almighty [insert profanity of choice here] problem. It takes a user about half a second to click on the back button so you need to make a solid first impression. Btw if you don’t it kicks you twice because google remembers when it next refreshes the ranking of search results.

So first step of any branding mission. I started thinking about the audience… Unlike many P2P and direct finance platforms, I’m convinced that the real competition between platforms in the future, as alternative credit becomes ‘less alternative’ and as funding becomes more systematic, will be attracting the right borrower base. I will discuss this further in a future blog post. Anyway, my audience are typically CEO and CFO of small and medium sized, capital intensive, businesses across the UK and Ireland. Most are men in the 35-65 age group and most are sucessful business people who live typically outside the big cities.. so no cosmopolitan dressing but a well structured meaningful message is required.

First off was deciding the guts of the dish: I needed a brand that represented Equipment and Machinery that is well rooted in the engineering and manufacturing lingo. Core industry brand values were determined to be:

  • Robustness – important for any business involved in finance.
  • Clarity – Whenever money is involved the user wants absolute transparency. Anything murky and they head for the hills.
  • Trust – Related to the two above but driven by integrity. Integrity is everything.

Names like Asset Forge, Asset engine and Equipment Edge were bounced around. EquipmentEdge we liked a lot but unfortunately it had too much online competition.  EquiFund was another that sounded good.. short and sweet but there was an asset manager in LA with that name.. Didn’t seem to do a whole lot but its America so i’m sure they could reach for their lawyer when and if required.

Then came FinanceSmith. FinanceSmith was easy to pronounce being short with just three syllables. However, it was the symbolism of a blacksmith working away in finance that caught my imagination. I decided quite quickly, too quickly to fix on this name. I loved how accessible the idea of finance being practiced as a craft was. Also, there was a nice background connection to the mostly metal equipment machinery that the platform would finance. Above the early version logo of FinanceSmith.

Two problems became apparent later though. Firstly its personal in nature,  A ‘FinanceSmith’ is an individual rather than an enterprise and was ultimately born more out of an idealistic self reflection than out of any business image. Secondly my insistence on using a hammer and anvil was well…er… uncomfortably close to communism.

In the end I went back to the drawing board. What is simple to understand, free from too much online competition, and does what it says on the tin? What am I ultimately aiming to achieve.. Inspire and excite? Nope. Get the job of financing done easily and more efficiently? Yes. equipmentconnect is of course short on imagination.. but lets face it, imagination is for fashion and consumer discretionary products. Finance is about trust, clarity and solidity. For me, equipmentconnect just worked. The finance element isn’t in the name but with the right tagline and ‘connect’ it all comes together quite nicely. As for the link symbol.. well I have to give to credit to a certain online music channel for sponsoring that line of thought.

The primary colours are purple, blue and white which represent innovation/boldness and security respectively. The name is purposefully understated so that the brand is associated with background effectiveness.

The designer will refine it slightly in the future, perhaps add a little more edge.. until then, I’m glad to be back in excel and out of adobe.