Founded in 1998, PayPal is now the leading digital payment company in the world, with over 237 million active accounts in 23 currencies and over 200 markets, and with an annual payment volume in 2017 of $451bn. The founders and early employees of PayPal have gone on to found and develop companies such as LinkedIn, SpaceX, Tesla Motors, Yelp, Yammer and YouTube – and six have become billionaires. They are folk who know a good thing when they see it.
So it’s no surprise PayPal was a success from the start. In 2002 it was acquired by online giant eBay and became its primary payment service. This partnership ensured financial growth and stability, and established PayPal as one of the leading online payment services in the world. But inspire innovation and expansion it did not. The branding was at best unimaginative and often just lazy. In 2014, however, PayPal made moves to establish itself as a giant in its own right.
This began with a foundational change of direction: to begin supplying an entire suite of services which, in the words of CEO Dan Schulman, would “blur the lines between physical, online and mobile shopping.” An accompanying rebrand, though not exactly radical, did however mark the beginning of the end of PayPal’s time with eBay (the split completed in 2015) and the birth of a newly ambitious outlook.
“We want to reimagine money,” says Schulman. “Enabling new ways for people to securely and affordably manage, move and spend their money.” With the introduction of such services as One Touch, Peer2Peer payments, and Money Pool, PayPal has gone beyond simply supplying a product (albeit a very successful one) that facilitates online payments, and has created a platform that hopes to fundamentally change people’s relationship to money.
To reflect this new innovative outlook PayPal released their first ever Super Bowl ad: “There’s a New Money in Town”. With a modern movie-trailer vibe and Kanye West-esque soundtrack, the ad pits a PayPal world of convenience, speed, security, and inclusion for all (New Money) against the inconvenient world of paper, closing at five, endless forms and elitism (Old Money). It makes clear that, as well as being faster, easier and more convenient, what PayPal is really about is progress, innovation, and the future.
The “New Money” ad marked a new epoch for PayPal, and their branding ever since has been expansive and daring, while simultaneously witty and human. In a time when the world still remembers vividly the financial crash caused by big banks and their inhuman greed, PayPal focusses on people and human relationships, that its priority is not pure profit but to make the lives of its customers easier and better.
The old banks, however, are learning fast from the likes of PayPal. They are adopting new services and eradicating much of what PayPal criticises in the “New Money” ad. Their vastly improved online and mobile presence has done away with endless paperwork and antiquated closing hours and no one could claim contactless payment isn’t quick and convenient. The one problem the old banks still have though is the fact that they are the old banks, and thus a heavy cloud of distrust still hangs over them. This contributes massively to why PayPal’s branding is so effective and why the FinTech industry in general is so lucrative at the moment. PayPal really is contributing to a new world of banking that, as they claim, really is changing the way people use money. The internet is bringing the old world to an end. Public memory is short though, and with the right branding the old banks will be trusted again. That is when the battle for the new world will begin.
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Picture credit: © PayPal