The digital broker is tearing up the finance marketing rule book
At Embrace, we’ve followed the visual evolution of Habito, the digital mortgage broker, with interest. The company launched in 2016, to provide mortgages without the stress and confusion. Using a mix of data-driven analysis and human interaction, Habito aims to make the process less hellish and more heavenly. After all, getting a house is a good thing, right?
Its new dream-like identity for 2021, by Uncommon, is created as a “beautiful, badass version of heaven,” combining an angelic logo with fantastical illustrations and ‘phantasmagoric’ gradient patterns. As a visual identity it is unlike anything any financial services business has done before, with an aesthetic more in common with psychedelic artist Pablo Amaringo, skate brands, and online fashion trends like ‘VSCO girl’ and ‘pastel goth’. And in March, Habito will sponsor Skateboard England’s National Championships, not a sport you normally associate with financial services.
Leaving the old world behind
Through our work with Foundation Home Loans and other clients in this sector, we’ve got to know the specialist mortgage lender landscape, as well as the brokers these lenders deal with. The best specialist lenders tend not to have the presence of high street banks, but are more focused on creating products for more niche needs, such as borrowers with a complex employment history, or those with a portfolio of buy-to-let properties.
So in terms of visual identity, even the best specialist lenders have often fallen back on the safe tropes of the finance industry, in order to appeal to brokers. At the same time traditional brokers have little marketing clout and very much belong to the ‘old world’ of financial services. Habito rips up the script for marketing in the mortgage sector with a look and feel that is literally out-of-this-world and as far removed from grey business-to-business marketing as you can get.
A history of Habito’s look
When Habito launched its first full visual identity, in 2017, working with brand agency MultiAdaptor, it conceived it’s brand purpose to set people free from mortgage hell. The visual identity reflected this, with a raised ‘O’ in the logo, a supporting graphic language of floating geometric shapes, expressing the concept of your mortgage worries being lifted. The geometric shapes, data-stream inspired graphics, clean, uncluttered layouts, and modernist geometric typography nodded towards the tech and data-driven platform Habito is built on, whilst the warm, natural colour palette, people-based photography, and friendly tone-of-voice all reflect the human focussed service they provide.
Then in 2018, Habito launched a new major OOH ad campaign, featuring work by skate artist Jimbo Phillips, dubbed ‘Hell or Habito’. Where the 2017 Habito brand was cool and pared-back, whilst remaining approachable and friendly, the ad campaign was bold, brash, and brilliantly bonkers. This campaign was shortly followed by a series of animated TV spots, running from 2018 into 2020, referencing cartoons like Rick & Morty and Itchy & Scratchy. They featured zombie hands, skeletons, deadly piranhas, tentacles and werewolves.
With this year’s phantasmagoric new identity, Habito has once again used fearless and entertaining design to break through to its audience, setting the tone for a customer experience that could even be enjoyable. Each new identity has managed to disrupt financial sector marketing afresh as Habito’s dream of heavenly mortgages evolves. This month, in another marketing first, the mortgage provider announced it was publishing an illustrated erotic novel. The Road to Completion is a raunchy tale that’s meant to help homebuyers reignite their sex lives in the face of passion-killing mortgage stress. Throughout all Habito’s marketing activity, the brand purpose of escaping mortgage hell has created a strong and coherent story.
Bold moves, big payoff
Habito have stated they intentionally wanted to push as far away as possible from anything a financial sector brand would do, partly to create impact, but also to maximise budget – in their minds there was no point wasting money on something most people would ignore. It’s hard to say whether it’s because of effectiveness of the advertising, the strength of the product, or both, but Habito have been enormously successful. In 2019 they expanded their business model to offer buy-to-let mortgages, by 2020 they had arranged £4 billion of mortgages for customers, and won ‘Best Mortgage Broker’ at the 2020 British Bank Awards.
Most mortgage brokers tend to be small firms, and they will need to find ways to keep up with Habito and platforms like it, in terms of product offering, marketing and visual identity. Lenders will still need to consider marketing to borrowers, versus marketing to brokers, but the profile of both the borrower and broker will change. Younger financial professionals will get started as brokers, which may well introduce the arrival of smaller data-driven broker platforms trying to rival Habito and their ilk, but on a smaller scale. Lenders will need to market with consideration for how they come across on these platforms.
With millennial brokers serving millennial borrowers via online platforms, and disruptor brands like Habito shaking up the market, the traditional world of mortgage marketing will look very different in future. We predict more B2C behaviour, visual identities that appeal to younger audiences, and more purpose-driven marketing, rather than product or service-based. Maybe not savage piranhas and deadly skulls, but more a more stimulating visual experience, and we’re all for that.
If you’d like to talk to us about financial services marketing, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org