Building a platform for future growth

Charles Schwab.jpg


Charles Schwab


Mark Barden

What we did:

— Identity

— Positioning

— Strategy

Charles Schwab is the original challenger brand in the investing world going all the way back to the ‘Main Street vs. Wall Street’ proposition of the 90s. But the market place has evolved dramatically since then, as has Schwab, which offers far more than its retail-driven discount brokerage heritage suggests. How could we revitalize Schwab as a challenger brand post financial crisis, remaining true to the past, while shaping the company as The Next Generation challenger?

Taking ownership

We began in retail investing, taking a cross-functional team through the challenger program. We identified the core truth — Chuck’s personal belief in taking ownership of one’s destiny through investing—and discussed how to connect that to a fresh insight about “The Driven” investor mindset that we had observed in research, and we felt was underserved. We aligned the team around the key challenge — the need to puncture the inertia that exists around investing behavior— and then defined our core belief, monster, and way of articulating the core offer of the brand. The emerging Lighthouse Identity drove the new creative platform ‘Own Your Tomorrow’, while subsequent product and service innovations and activations brought the core idea to life: The Schwab Guarantee, The Questions platform, “The Why I Left” microsite, Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, and many more.

Cascading the identity

Over the course of the next two years each business unit (Advisor Services, Institutional Investing, Retirement Planning etc…) would translate the over-arching Lighthouse Identity into a challenger strategy and action plan for their market, aided and abetted by the new VP, Brand Evangelism, created specifically to meet this need. Furthermore, Schwab has committed to bringing this renewed sense of challenger to the entire business. We host quarterly panel discussions with other challengers to inspire the organisation. The Challenger Award goes to the 60 top performing employees across the business twice a year, who are then invited to come help problem-solve with Schwab leadership on critical issues using the principles in from our book A Beautiful Constraint.

Out-performed peers

Charles Schwab significantly out-performed its peers from 2011 to 2015 in growth of Assets Under Management and improved “brand energy” across that same period vs. peers along with NPS. The ‘Own Your Tomorrow’ platform was adopted company-wide as more than just a marketing platform and in 2015 Schwab made Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies list.

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