Brand Alignment for Advantage Capital
Since 1992, Advantage Capital has been supporting businesses, technologies and jobs in communities that have historically lacked access to investment capital — all the while managing to generate competitive returns for their investment partners.
The company’s unique approach to investing is a type of public-private partnerships that stimulate the flow of long-term private capital into underserved communities across the U.S. by leveraging various governmental tax credit programs.
“Advantage Capital has built a 25-year track record of facilitating the flow of billions of dollars of investment capital into underserved communities. Our approach allows us to work with small- and medium-sized businesses that might not otherwise have access to flexible capital.” – Ryan Brennan, Managing Director
With a sincere desire to help, Advantage Capital was approaching businesses traditionally underserved by investment capital. To their surprise, their message wasn’t always received as readily as expected and, over the years, they’ve noticed a growing gap between what they were saying and how they were perceived by their target audience.
In the very first meeting, Advantage Capital told us that a big chunk of their customers — farmers, small entrepreneurs, family business owners — were sceptical of investment companies, sometimes perceiving them as having sinister intentions, trying to take away their hard-earned equity. At the same time, Advantage Capital didn’t want to completely overhaul the brand, losing recognition and goodwill acquired over the last two decades.
Although the intention was there, it didn’t translate into a message that resonated with the target audience.
Softening the Voice
After receiving the brief, we flew to St. Louis to meet Advantage Capital’s top management to gain a deep understanding of the company, as well as opportunities and challenges they were facing. After days of conversation and interviews, we proposed to start with restructuring their verbal identity to successfully align their brand communications with their target audience.
A company should speak in a way its audience can understand; otherwise, no message will get through.
We started by studying and refining the descriptions of the target audiences: potential portfolio companies, investment partners and legislators. What were their needs, wants and fears? And how could Advantage Capital help resolve them?
At the intersection of the audience’s needs and the company’s offering lies a unique value proposition, which when expressed in a compelling way serves as a pitch to entice potential customers.
Working closely with the client, we helped craft and refine their blue-sky vision, the mission to focus on, guiding values and finally a positioning statement pinning them firmly in the competitive landscape.
Empowering businesses and supporting communities in underserved markets.
With the core of the verbal identity ready, we captured the voice and tone with which the company would address its target audience and also communicate internally. We oriented Advantage Capital to imbue confidence and trust in its potential portfolio companies.
As soon as the verbal identity was in place, we proceeded with subtle evolutions of the company’s visual aesthetic, without changing the logo or conducting a complete rebrand. Our Creative Director retained the original character of the company in the ‘navy’ and ‘gold’ treatments, but complemented those with a friendlier ‘blue’ to be used as a primary colour on most applications. Lato Regular and Sophia Pro Bold typefaces were selected for the brand — both sans serifs with a modern look and high legibility — to represent the new, fresh and poised direction of Advantage Capital.
The new brand identity wouldn’t go far without a real business application — namely, a website centred around customers’ needs.
By far, the main reason for potential Advantage Capital clients to visit the website is to establish trust. They want to read all the information for themselves to gain enough confidence to even proceed with a meeting, let alone sign up for a long-lasting partnership.
In planning the website structure, we emphasized the stories from current and past portfolio companies, investment philosophy, the company’s vision and, of course, its people.
Building a human-centred website required a thorough understanding of the customer’s needs, predicting how they would enter, move through and leave the website. The web experience then ceased to be a sequence of pages and turned into a continuous flow, taking each customer on a unique journey.
Web of Growth
Today, our web work doesn’t stop with building a website — we have to consider how and why the customers would find that website and what they plan to do after.
Along with the new web experience, we’ve launched multiple search-optimized advertising campaigns, targeting exact customer profiles. For months after, we monitored and optimized the advertising spend, guiding the traffic toward optimal results.
We also knew that our target audience relied heavily on human connection. So we made sure that at any point on the website, whether it’s the bottom of the page or description of an investment category or even a team member’s bio, they have an option to contact someone directly. In a matter of weeks, hundreds of people contacted Advantage Capital through newly setup funnels, with the conversion rate increasing multifold in some markets.
We convinced and subsequently showed Advantage Capital that to change their brand perception, they didn’t have to go through a full rebrand process or dissolve their hard-earned recognition and brand equity.
By recognizing the gap in communicating with the target audience, we saw the need to recreate Advantage Capital’s brand voice, craft a more approachable identity to appeal to their customers and manifest it in a human-centred website. Every such engagement is an opportunity to realign the company’s vision internally and then convey it to new audiences externally. The culmination of this work for Advantage Capital is a brand that infuses trust and a website that effortlessly guides visitors to begin their investment journey.