Putting purpose into SME banking

A bold story and new identity champion the SMEs at the heart of the Recognise proposition, delivering a purposeful edge in this undifferentiated market.

The challenge

Recognise is on a journey to build a challenger bank to better serve the needs of UK SMEs. “Not another one” we hear you cry. Yes, another one, but Recognise is different. And it was our challenge to elevate this difference and communicate it with conviction through a compelling story and meaningful visual identity. Putting Recognise in the best possible position to succeed with its banking licence application, fundraise, market launch, and beyond.

The solution

Our discovery activity revealed a strong sense of injustice driving the team at Recognise. Having run their own small businesses, and with careers spanning high street banks and challengers, they were all too aware of the chronic lack of support available to the SME sector, despite its undisputed contribution to the UK economy. Specifically, Recognise wanted to challenge the way other banks approach SMEs as a homogeneous community, ignoring their diversity and unique needs.

Embracing this strong sense of inequity and clear intention to address it, our strategy was to give the Recognise brand a championing and campaigning feel. Acknowledging three truths about the SME community – 1) it makes the biggest contribution to our economy; 2) it is the least well supported; and 3) it has the most untapped potential – we created an emotive story for Recognise, pitching SMEs as the heroes and Recognise as the driver for change.

“Recognition + Delivery” became the brand promise, reflecting core principles of respect, empathy and admiration for UK SMEs. It also speaks to the Recognise mission and inspired the new strapline: Driving prosperity, one ambitious business at a time.

The visual identity brings the story and culture to life, putting Recognise customers at the heart of the brand.

Central to the identity is a marque that visually captures the close and supportive relationship Recognise has with its customers. A distinctive circle, representing the SME, is ‘hugged’ by a lowercase ‘r’ for Recognise, forming a stylised ‘R’ for a meaningful, confident, and immediately identifiable asset.

Brand photography also heroes SME owners and leaders, in the context of their businesses. This confident imagery captures the true diversity, tenacity and potential of this community, and spotlights the individual personalities, needs and ambitions behind every venture.

A wider design language – including flexible colour palette, bold iconography and playful patterns – comes together to offer a rich and distinctive aesthetic that supports the dynamic Recognise personality across communications.

The results

The new financial services branding has been rolled out internally and will launch externally alongside mobilisation of the bank in the latter half of 2020. At that point we will begin to understand the full impact of the work. At this early stage it is fair to say that the brand strategy and identity has been exceptionally well received and fully embraced, and is already enabling the Recognise team to talk about the organisation with greater conviction and clarity.

mark-making* very quickly got to grips with the nature of Recognise and our aspirations for the Bank. Through a rigorous and methodical process they guided us towards razor sharp brand clarity and focus. Our principles, values and purpose have been crystallised in a manner essential to provide the foundation for success, and brought to life in a brand identity we have no doubt will resonate with all our audiences. We couldn’t be happier.

Jason Oakley CEO, Recognise

Having been integral to developing the Recognise brand strategy, mark-making* have continued the exceptional work in bringing the brand to life. The brand identity work has been incredibly well received by all stakeholders and provides us with the robust foundation we need for the Bank to be a success. We are delighted with how our purpose and personality is being reflected in the way we look and sound, as we continue to work with mark-making* to develop key marketing and communications collateral, from our website to customer-facing lending documentation.

Sapna Kandukuri Head of Marketing, Recognise