The Qonto Way
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The Qonto Way

Forging a new identity for the Qonto brand

Insight into how we managed a rebranding makeover

As humans, we change the way we look as we mature and our self-identity evolves; those grunge/goth/hipster/punk phases in our teens rarely last forever. We change our style to match who we believe we are at a given point in time, but also to please others and explore new horizons.

It’s no different for a company.

On one hand, the inspiration comes from within: the brand evolves in parallel with strategy and business priorities.

On the other hand, change is driven by the need to appeal to others. Brands must continuously adapt to keep the attention of clients or prospects. Every day, we encounter dozens of brands across a variety of media and, subconsciously, we assign a certain value to what we see. If it’s pleasing to the eye, we’re more likely to remember that brand. If it’s cohesive and easy to understand, there’s more chance we’ll trust it.

At Qonto, we’ve just undergone our most radical restyling yet. Our new look embodies both who we think we are and how we’d like to be seen from outside. It encompasses our visual, verbal and philosophical identity.

So, why change? Who did we enlist to help us in this process, and when? How did we go about updating our ‘look and feel’? And what’s the end result?

To answer those questions, we take a look under the hood at the mechanics of our rebranding. Starting with the ‘why?’

Why did we choose to rebrand?

One does not simply rebrand for the sake of it. Given the considerable amount of time and energy required, there needs to be a clear and compelling reason to overhaul your brand identity.

Qonto began the process in Q2 of 2020, when we reviewed our brand positioning from a strategic point of view and decided to shift our core offer from a business account for SMEs and freelancers towards business finance management.

We used our existing product as a template for updates to our look and feel, but the changes were too piecemeal and cosmetic to serve us in the long term.

A year later, in June 2021, we felt it was time for a more profound rebranding. We wanted to define a new aesthetic that would articulate our evolving mission as well as our core values. We needed an holistic, structured brand framework in order to remain coherent despite our hyper-growth.

The customer experience drives everything we do at Qonto. We know our customers are often time-poor and struggle to get everything done. Our goal is to be their partner and to inject energy into their businesses, and this was to be reflected in the way our new brand looks and sounds: we wanted to capture what they feel when they use our product.

If our customers are our primary concern, another ambition with the rebrand was to set ourselves apart from our competitors. Our ultimate objective was to become the most distinctive fintech in the world, a truly loved, iconic and inspiring European brand.

The rebranding would have impact across all platforms through an entire range of brand assets:

  • Logo and Wordmark
  • Color palette
  • Typography
  • Photography
  • Illustrations
  • Product (payment cards and applications)
  • Tone of Voice

Who would be involved?

Having made the decision to rebrand, we next identified the various stakeholders to drive the project.

Internally

The core team was made up of our co-founders along with the heads of Marketing, Design, and Chief Product and Revenue Officers. We knew it would be important to work hand in hand with the founders and update them continuously, as it was they who redefined the company mission.

Getting the other key teams involved was also imperative in order to empower them to ‘own’ the rebrand and to understand the magnitude of the task in hand. Therefore, the core team was supported by an extended unit comprising the Acquisition, Product, Product Marketing, Growth and International teams.

Externally

With our expectations high and a desire to move fast, we were keen to work alongside leading experts in brand definition and art direction. Therefore, we sought a third-party to work hand in hand with our marketing, product and design teams. After assessing several options, we settled on London-based creative agency Koto; several members of our team had previous experience working with Koto, who’d proven to be collaborative, agile and strategic and had already helped tech brands with a strong product mindset (Airbnb, Skyscanner, BackMarket, Blablacar, Malt…).

How did Qonto and Koto work together?

The collaboration with Koto began at the end of Q2, 2021 and was a constant throughout the process, from initial alignment, via ongoing iterations right through to the implementation stage and subsequent launch.

Brand definition and Alignment

After conducting a competitor analysis together and digesting the results of the core team workshops, we developed the idea of putting energy at the heart of our promise: Qonto’s overarching goal is to be the power pack for small businesses and to help them protect their most precious resources: time, energy and focus.

The initial definition and alignment can be broken down into two phases:

  • An Immersion Phase to allow Koto’s team to understand Qonto and its existing brand identity.
  • A Strategic Refinement Phase to define Qonto’s vision, mission, values and value proposition going forward.

Verbal and Visual Iterations

Koto provided concrete examples of illustrations and photographs (for the Design Team) and copy for the website and ads (for the Content Team). Qonto’s leadership team and Koto then refined the examples so that our operational teams could translate the new brand identity across the board and in all Qonto’s 5 working languages. Again, this was carried out in phases:

  • A Visual Identity Phase to iterate the new ‘look and feel’ assets.
  • A Verbal Identity Phase to develop new Tone of Voice principles aligned with the new visual identity.
  • A Brand Book Phase to consolidate the pillars of the brand framework.

Rollout and Implementation

Once the conception and iteration stages had been completed, we moved onto the Rollout and Implementation Phase where, still in collaboration with Koto, Qonto’s teams developed the assets to be rebranded.

We listed and prioritized those assets, choosing to focus on 80 high-impact website pages for the new copy and illustrations, while refreshing only the visual identity of the remaining few thousand pages.

For the Design team, this meant producing around 2,000 individual assets covering everything from the App on both iOS and Android, website pages, merchandising and print assets, as well as Qonto’s payment cards themselves.

For the Content team, it involved writing new copy in line with the principles of Qonto’s rebranded Tone of Voice.

It was at this point that the Website and Product teams became fully immersed in the project.

Initially, the rebranding launch was scheduled for Q1, 2022. However, we realized towards the end of Q3, 2021 that the work required on the production side was more substantial than first thought and so we set a revised rollout date for mid-February, 2022. And here we are.

What is the outcome?

Our new look and feel captures the spirit and energy of the brand strategy, with a freshness and dynamism that is elegant, modern and distinct in the fintech ecosystem.

Logoforms: Symbol and Wordmark

The Qonto symbol — the visual shorthand for our brand — remains unchanged. The four petals represent our core values: ambition, teamwork, integrity and mastery.

As for our other logoform, our Wordmark, we decided that it should never be used side-by-side with the symbol. However, to associate the two elements, we rejigged the tail of the ‘Q’ to match the curve of the petals in the symbol, creating an optical alignment.

Color palette

The colors we use help us to set the tone and rhythm. To build energy when we need it.

We settled on black as our primary color for all text use cases, but never as a solid background.

For our secondary colors, we chose to evolve Qonto’s purple by lightening the shade slightly to give it a more modern edge while maintaining brand recognition.

To complement the new purple tonally, we introduced mint, peach and mustard as secondary colors to balance the palette of warm and cool hues. To be used interchangeably, these secondary colors combine energy and zest with warm vibrancy.

Typography

To keep visual consistency, we wanted a typeface that is simple, versatile, utilitarian and able to work at both small sizes in the Qonto app and larger sizes for more expressive marketing moments*.* We felt that PolySans embodied our playful spirit with the function and clarity that underpins our communications.

There are instances where it is not possible to use PolySans (for example mailers), so we established alternative typefaces to be used in these cases: Manrope (Medium), Roboto and, as a last resort, Arial.

Photography

We didn’t want to feel like a traditional fintech brand. Rather, we were keen for our approach to photography to be rooted in the real world. Shot by renowned photographer Alexander Coggin, the portraits capture Qonto customers in everyday moments, along with the emotional benefit of using Qonto, such as the serenity and freedom it procures.

We opted to promote the use of flash photography to provide the brand with boldness and attitude. Above all, though, we opted for black and white treatment to our photography to add freshness to the brand, to elevate the product and to gel seamlessly with our color palette.

Illustrations

Our illustrations are a fundamental part of our brand and help us to articulate abstract ideas or specific product benefits. We wanted to create a differentiating style that Qonto could truly own and partnered with Lee Woodgate (Son of Alan) to create a set of witty illustrations to bring the ‘power pack’ idea to life. They depict energetic scenes of people and objects powering forwards.

We identified three illustration use cases:

  • Metaphoric: emotional and humorous designs to illustrate abstract concepts and evoke the themes of energy, power and kinetics.
  • Literal: more functional and descriptive designs that focus on the product and that guide the user step by step through a UX process.
  • Product UI: to make Qonto’s reality-rooted UI distinct from our world of illustration, we use a subtle drop shadow and a grey outline treatment on our components. We wanted to keep a good balance between showing the real product and focussing the users’ attention on what’s important to them, whether it’s one useful feature in particular or a whole screen presenting a range of powerful tools.

Tone of Voice

At Qonto, we pay close attention to the way in which we use language to relay our message. We already had clear Tone of Voice guidelines in place, but opted to allow this tone to evolve without undergoing a radical departure from what existed previously.

Qonto’s new Tone of Voice is based on three principles:

  • Snappy: conscious that our customers are time-poor, we wanted our messaging to get straight to the point.
  • Bold: whereas before we were grounded in humility, we realized there are big benefits to using our products. We decided to be more upfront about that.
  • Hands-on: Qonto exists to help our customers. Putting ourselves in the mindset of our clients comes as second nature. So, it makes sense that empathy comes through in our tone.

The Brand Framework: our North Star

Of course, all of the above considerations were driven by the brand positioning established in the alignment phase of the rebranding project. The Brand Framework serves as the North Star for all our communications, both visual and verbal. It sets in stone Qonto’s DNA: our vision, mission, proposition and values. Crucially, it allows us to remain coherent across all communications channels and in all Qonto’s languages.

Plan, collaborate, communicate

It is perhaps easy to underestimate the demands of a rebranding project and in particular the production and delivery phase, where obstacles not foreseen earlier in the process will inevitably emerge.

Our experience has taught us three key principles for overcoming the challenges:

  • Planning: developing an exhaustible list of assets early on will prevent nasty surprises and delays later. Beware also the ‘assets within assets’, such as screenshots within web pages.
  • Collaboration with external parties: Koto were very strong on explaining the rationale behind their proposals. Rather than impose their ideas, they favored the path of iteration and collaboration. The time spent on back-and-forth proved valuable.
  • Internal communication: the project requires significant cross-team alignment internally. Communication is key, so that when there are obstacles, everyone knows about them quickly and can react accordingly. Our working philosophy, the Qonto Way, along with our one-piece-flow operational process, was instrumental in making this a success.

Qonto’s rebranding project took 7 months of intense work. It was challenging, yes, but ultimately extremely rewarding. The results are tangible and there for all to see. As a company, we step out of our makeover with a brand identity we can’t wait to show off to the world.

It’s with great pride that we ask “How do we look?”.

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Stories and learnings from the team behind Qonto

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Marion de Robillard

Marion de Robillard

Director Marketing & Comms @Qonto

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