Yes, fintech can be pink. But what strategy is behind Klarna's extravagant color choice? And what does BlaBlaCar's isotype actually represent? And why is Glovo called Glovo? In this article, we will be analyzing three European startups that successfully transformed from early-stage to unicorns and are now top players in the market. From naming to branding—what is the secret sauce of their success?
- Country: France
- Sector: Traveltech
- Founded year: 2006
Founded in Paris, the carpooling platform operates in 22 countries across Europe, Russia, Turkey, Mexico, Brazil, and India. Its goal is to “bring freedom, fairness and fraternity to the world of travel” (blablacar.com) by connecting people in order to travel together and share the costs of the journey. The site and free mobile apps provide a range of features to create a secure, trust-based community, and easy connections between drivers and passengers. Up until now, the now-unicorn BlaBlaCar has raised $578.5M of funding.
In 2018, the company presented a revamp of its brand identity: The current logo and visual identity capture the connections that carpooling makes possible— whether closer access to distant places or loved ones or the social interactions that happen in the car itself. However, as they need to appeal to two distinct user personas, the drivers and the passengers, their overall communication needs to encompass these two needs: To reach this, they use the benefit of saving travel costs as one of their major selling points—a profit for both parties.
Also, they need to establish a trustworthy brand: trust between passengers and drivers, trust between passengers and the company, and trust between drivers and the company. This is reached through information on both sides of the journey, and also by providing detailed answers to FAQs on their Help Center. Another important pillar of their brand messaging is user-friendliness and ease of use, which they communicate on a verbal and visual level.
Originating from the French “bla bla” and also considered onomatopoeia, the word is used across a variety of languages to indicate chit-chat. This directly relates to BlaBlaCar's goal of creating smooth journeys, as members can specify how chatty they are on a journey—from “Bla” to “BlaBlaBla”. The inclusion of “car” establishes the connection to transport and carpooling. Overall, the company name is easy to remember, as it is a compound of well-known, short words.
Tone of voice
BlaBlaCar addresses its audience in a friendly manner, focusing on the benefits of using the platform. Their storytelling is based on communicating safe traveling, easiness of use, and low cost; one of their taglines is “The convenience of a car. Without having a car.”, which indirectly already conveys a bunch of benefits of BlaBlaCar. Phrases such as “Scroll, click, tap and go!”, using the rhetorical figure of climax, put emphasis on the speed and usability of the platform.
The logo of BlaBlaCar is composed of an isotype and the company name. The two “Bs” of the isotype can be interpreted in different ways: They come together like two people in a car, a departure and arrival point, or the speech marks framing a conversation—whether in the car or with others at their destination. BlaBlaCar's color palette is simple, with sky blue and teal green being used for icons, text elements, and illustrations, and a light green accent color, also present in the isotype for the union of the two “Bs”. The colors communicate a dynamic, techie brand, appealing to a generation that is not used to owning a car. The focus on a younger target audience is also visible in the illustrations; they depict happy-looking people of different religions and cultures, traveling in cars or buses.
- Country: Sweden
- Sector: Fintech
- Founded year: 2005
Following the “Buy now, pay later” model, the fintech startup Klarna provides online financial and payment processing services for the e-commerce industry, such as direct payments, pay after delivery, and post-purchase payments. To date, Klarna has raised $4.5B of funding, with a major peak in 2021, when the company was Europe's most valuable private tech company. However, this dropped significantly in 2022 due to the stock market situation.
With their rebranding in 2017, Klarna established a new brand identity, transforming from a more traditional “fintech blue” to an extravagant pink: including a new logo, graphic identity, typeface, and tonality. The new brand identity is called “Smooth”, an idea running like a red—well, pink—thread through each brand asset, visually as well as verbally, and associating the brand with a positive feeling.
Setting itself apart from the traditionally logic-driven and serious marketing tactics commonly employed in the fintech industry, this fresh approach allowed Klarna to establish a strong foothold in an otherwise saturated marketplace, creating a brand that deeply resonates with customers. With its rather light-hearted, playful imagery and tone of voice, the unicorn is looking to differentiate itself from other fintech brands, appealing particularly to Millennial customers. Across all the possible touchpoints where customers interact with the company, Klarna makes sure to reproduce metaphors of what creates the feeling of smoothness. This strong brand identity helps foster an emotional connection with consumers.
Founded in Sweden, it comes without surprise that the company name is also Swedish: “Klarna” means to clear, to become more clear and/or easier to understand with regard to situations. Although being a Swedish word, the company name is likely to sound familiar to a vast majority of its international target audience, with “claro” in Spanish, “klar” in German, “clair” in French all meaning “clear”. The fact that it's only composed of two syllables promotes its name recognition amongst its users. Besides its obvious positive connotations, it also has a friendly sound: the two “a” soften the harsher “k” at the beginning.
Tone of Voice
Klarnas's storytelling focuses on two major benefits: Users save money and are able to shop their favorites quickly and without friction. Short sentences and short text elements in general put focus on a smooth shopping experience. As mentioned above, the “Smooth” brand identity is omnipresent: “Klarna is the smooth and safe way to get what you love today”.
Klarna's logotype is simple and straightforward, yet bold and distinctive. The customized shape of the “K” and the dot at the end add uniqueness and recognizability; these elements are also represented in the favicon. The bold dot forms an important part of the overall brand identity, being used at the end of headings and text elements in various brand assets. By relying nearly completely on pink as its primary color, Klarna sets itself apart from other fintech startups, communicating a vivid, modern, and fun brand. In contrast, the use of black and white for backgrounds and text establishes trust and creates balance. As for the visuals, the vast majority are photographs of persons or consumer goods. Subtle yet colorful icons act as supplementary elements.
- Country: Spain
- Sector: Logistics/Retailtech
- Founded year: 2015
Users are at the center of Glovo's brand communication: Glovo focuses on getting a message across that establishes the company as quick, friendly, caring, and innovative. However, as on-demand courier services have been booming in the last few years, speed and efficiency in delivering orders might not be a unique selling proposition to go for. To set itself apart from the competition, Glovo aims to be a versatile platform that can deliver not only food but also other items, including groceries, pharmacy products, and more. The startup's vision is “to give everyone easy access to anything in their city” (glovoapp.com). This broad range of offerings differentiates Glovo from competitors and appeals to a wider customer base. Also, Glovo focuses on establishing a strong local presence in the markets it operates in, often partnering with local businesses and restaurants to offer a wide selection of options to customers. This versatility and the local approach are reflected in its brand identity.
Most likely, the startup's name is based on “global”, meaning “considering or relating to all parts of a situation or subject” or “relating to the whole world”. It derives from the Latin “globus” meaning “sphere, globe”. The use of the “v” instead of the “b” could be due to various reasons: First, it adds distinctiveness to the brand. Second, the “v” in a brand name can evoke the idea of success and sophistication due to its connection to “victory”. Third, in Spanish, the “b” and the “v” are pronounced the same way—hence, for the original Spanish audience, the pronunciation of “Globo” or “Glovo” would be the same. Glovo is short, easy to remember, and encompasses the “globus” concept by incorporating two “o”, reminiscent of the round shape.
Tone of Voice
The overall brand strategy of communicating its versatility and the broad range of products resonates with its tagline “You order, we get it!”, as it doesn’t only imply speed, but also that anything can be delivered. To emphasize the local aspect, phrases like “explore new restaurants nearby” are used in Glovo’s storytelling and CTAs. On their website, the first CTA, for instance, is “Enter your address to know what’s near you”.
Glovo's logo is composed of the company name and a simple isotype, both mostly used in green on a yellow background. The isotype can be interpreted as a location pin or as a hot air balloon, representative of the sphere, and is used as the favicon. Glovo's brand elements are friendly and bright, with the distinctive yellow implying innovation and enthusiasm. The green as secondary color serves to create a unique color palette, setting Glovo apart from the competition. Also, it evokes a notion of nature, relating to its goal to have a positive impact on the environment by reducing emissions and avoiding food waste, and resonating with the focus on local stores and restaurants. The combination of people photography and branded illustrations and icons creates a lively brand.
After having analyzed three of the major European unicorn brands, it is obvious that the relationship between strategic branding and the overall brand goal is crucial. A brand strategy that encompasses everything starting from naming, tone of voice, visual identity, and all brand assets is what makes a strong brand. Also, each of these startups has distinctive visual elements that differentiate them from competitors. Stay tuned for more startup success stories and have a look at the strategies behind our startup branding projects.