Brands We Love: Up

Today's brand we love is Up! To be honest, I never expected a bank to land in this segment, but here we are.

I remember setting up my very first bank account— a Dollarmite account through Commonwealth—and I was so excited to have my own account, proudly waiting in line to deposit my birthday money.

The way customers use banks have changed a lot since then. When was the last time you actually visited a bank branch? For me, it's been months (maybe years). And there’s been a shift in sentiment too. There's a definite question mark over whether banks are trustworthy, and in some instances, even acting ethically. But, most of us avoid opening or closing bank accounts because it always requires digging through identity documents, a few phone calls and a long wait until it's complete. It's too hard.

It was about time for a shakeup, and Up has definitely given their audience of Gen Y & Z a flexible, fast and technology-led alternative.

Up is a neo bank (online bank) that looks, feels and sounds very different to any bank I've ever encountered. Here are 3 things we think Up are doing really well with their brand to stand out in a hyper-competitive industry.

1. It’s about money, not about banking.

Up's brand narrative isn't just about banking, it's about money. And not just how much is in your bank account— the human side of money. What money means and what it allows us to do. It's about finding a way to simplify how you organise your money, so you can design the lifestyle you want. It's not just about saving, it's about lifestyle. A belief that it’s easy to be smart with your money and save up for what’s important to you.

This aspirational future vision filters through everything they do, from innovative features that allow users to customise savings goals and track spending habits, to their livestreams that tackle bigger topics like financial literacy and money and mental health. 

When your narrative is future-driven and about the change you want to see in your customers (not just about a product feature) it forges a much deeper connection about how your brand fits into their lives.

Questions to ask:

  • Look at the future of your industry— what does it look like? And importantly, what will your customers care about? What’s your vision for a world that doesn’t exist yet but should? Make sure you’re telling that story, not just the one about your features.

2. They’ve deviated from the visual norms

It seems like Up saw the safe, professional, polished look of the big banks, and decided to do the exact opposite. They’ve chosen a bold colour palette that looks like it was inspired from your school highlighter set, fun (yet readable) fonts, and an almost chaotic collection of supporting graphics. 

The video drills into these elements in more detail, but the big takeaway is that they’re distinct from every other bank. When you’re trying to build memorability and recognition into your brand, it pays to zig when everyone else is zagging.

Questions to ask:

  • What visual styles are already tied to other brands in your audiences’ mind? How can you distinguish your visual identity? Is it a unique supporting graphic, colour combo, font or a combination of these? 

3. They don’t speak ‘bank’

Up’s brand voice sounds more like a lifestyle brand than a bank. They’re not afraid to use casual language like ‘smash your savings goals’, abbreviations like ‘IRL’ and emojis in their marketing and even have some of their own words like ‘Upsiders’ to describe their community. 

They’re not afraid to speak the same way their customers do. I haven’t seen another bank who does this and along with their visuals, it goes a long way to differentiating them from every other bank.

Questions to ask:

  • How can you mirror some of your customers' language in your brand voice to build trust and connection?
  • How can you infuse your writing with your brand personality? For Up it’s cheeky, conversational, playful— what’s yours?

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What stood out to you about Up’s brand? Let me know in the comments. If you have a brand you think we’d love, let us know! We’d love to check it out and analyse it here so everyone can learn from the brands who stand out in their industries.

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Written by

Kane Baker

Kane is a trained designer & illustrator who loves the science of marketing.

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