ZenBanx gets real

The former ING Direct CEO's new banking app launches with a campaign centred on freedom.

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New banking entrant ZenBanx is kicking off its wide launch in Canada, with an OOH and experiential campaign this summer aimed at introducing itself as a credible financial services option.

ZenBanx, a subsidiary of DUCA Financial Services Credit Union, was created in 2012 by Arkadi Kuhlmann, who founded ING Direct (later purchased by Scotiabank and rebranded as Tangerine) in Canada and the U.S.

Centred on the idea that money should be able to move as freely as people, the mobile banking app launched in wide beta in January, and became available in the Apple and Google app stores earlier this month in Canada. It will be rolling out in the U.S. and other countries later.

The product allows users to hold up to five currencies (out of nine available) in their account, with free transfers among ZenBanx users. When transferring out of network (to a non-ZenBanx customer), fees apply, but at a more competitive rate than Interac or other wire transfer services, says Deryk Clark, marketing director for ZenBanx Canada.

“We’ve been building this product for two years and we’re ready to go to market with it,” Clark says.

ZenBanx is targeting a tech-savvy demographic between about 18 and 40. International students and first-generation Canadians, particularly from China and South Asia, looking to send money back and forth with friends and family, are a key target. It’s also targeting people who travel frequently, either for personal or business reasons, who transact in multiple currencies.

Its first major marketing push, which began with teasers saying “freedom is coming,” kicked off earlier this month. The campaign is being led by Cummins & Partners, which opened its Canadian office in Toronto in April.

Focused in the Greater Toronto Area, the campaign is mostly using what the agency’s partner and president Dave Carey calls “high-impact out of home,” including transit wraps and building takeovers in high traffic areas like the city’s Yonge-Dundas Square and commuter routes in and out of the core.

“The real goal of ZenBanx was to say we’ve arrived, we’re legitimate,” Carey says. The agency also is handling social media and media buying for ZenBanx. The brand also engaged Toronto agency Stone Canoe to launch its website and early online brand videos explaining the product.

The brand’s launch also includes an experiential component that launched last week, led by Toronto’s Jam Van, to promote the banking app through summer in the GTA. The van, wrapped in ZenBanx’s branding, opens up to reveal custom-made tables with zen gardens, along with offering consumers a selection of five teas, reflecting the currencies that can be held in a ZenBanx account. Brand ambassadors will also be on site to facilitate sign-ups to the service.

ZenBanx’s U.S. launch is set for later this month and the plan is to eventually have it be a truly global bank, launching in Asian markets and then worldwide. “We’re coming into market [and] we need to establish credibility and trust,” Clark notes. “We’re talking about people’s money and security.”