At first glance, rebranding might seem like refreshing the touchpoints that comprise a brand — the visuals, the name and its other identifiers.
But it’s more than that. When you pull all of its elements together, the rebrand unveils itself as a tactical, coordinated effort to channel value, ethos and voice into a compelling narrative to reach and retain an audience.
In the case of the company formerly known as Freedom Financial Network, which launched in 2002, shedding its decades-old moniker for a new, recently announced name, Achieve doesn’t just signal where the company is now, but where it wants to go.
“The new Achieve identity captures the ideas of empowerment, humanity, and forward momentum that are at the foundation of what we do for our members,” said Tanya Peterson, VP of brand and the leader spearheading the rebrand effort. “It expresses the empathy and partnership that has been at the heart of two decades of hard work and innovation on behalf of everyday people, and which Achieve will continue to embrace. We put a lot of research, thought and effort into the development of our new brand, and we’re already seeing positive impacts on our business.”
“The name Achieve is a rallying cry for all of us. It’s aspirational in the way that we want to be for ourselves and on behalf of our clients and our members,” said Carlyn Lamia, VP of strategic initiatives and chief of staff to the CEO. “We truly want to help them get to a better place financially because we know that debt affects their entire lives — and we care about their entire lives. We’re focused on one part of it, which we know has an impact on the whole thing.”
As Lamia, a 10-year company veteran, and her colleagues explained, that “aspirational” vision is to build a symbiotic relationship: To make good on the mission of helping individuals (which VP of Product Management Ed Park described as the “struggling-to-striving population” ) improve their financial health, the organization needed to more tightly convey how members could benefit from its services.
“We have been a very disciplined company in how we've grown up; our heart-plus-dollar-sign philosophy means we’ve balanced both taking care of people and building a profitable business,” Park said. “We have a number of things that put us on really good footing. I came because the raw ingredients for greatness are here, but we haven’t yet achieved the state that we want to get to.”
The company has always offered various debt-relief solutions, but, according to team members, it wasn’t always readily apparent. The new Achieve identity — developed by world-renowned firm Pentagram to steer the rebrand — endeavors to reflect those various separate solutions while also conveying the digital capabilities that can link those together.
“We are still who we were. Our core values didn't change. The heart-and-dollar-sign philosophy didn't change. But what did change is how a member can benefit from all of the solutions that we have to offer, versus that one-at-a time type of silo,” said Vice President and Head of Talent Acquisition Heather Marcom, who’s been with the company for five years.
“We are still who we were. Our core values didn't change. But what did change is how a member can benefit from all of the solutions that we have to offer.”
Park said that, for the name ‘Achieve’: “We wanted something that was not stiff and formal; something that was aspirational.” He also explained that, in addition to the name change, the company now aims to keep consumers engaged with other solutions that they might find beneficial — a journey that includes typical debt-relief solutions as well as on-the-horizon apps and tools that help people better manage their finances on a daily basis.
“What I was told by Ravi Keswani, our head of enterprise product and technology, was that pre-Achieve, we gave people a graduation cap and just wished them ‘good luck.’ Our goal now is to say, ‘Congratulations, you’ve completed this program, you paid off this loan. Here are some other areas around your finances for perspective,’” Park said. “Over time, we’ll anticipate the financial needs coming up based on tracking how they’re doing or when they’ve previously come to us with needs, and we’ll be there to care for them.”
And the new-name-same-goal philosophy touches all parts of the business — even seemingly unrelated efforts like hiring remote workers, helping maximize growth potential by widening the talent pool. At a high level, it’s about excelling internally to best empower those they reach externally.
“We are a very ambitious group of people. We want to do big things. And our new Achieve brand is big: It enables us to grow and to reach as many people as we can help, which is 123 million Americans,” Lamia said. “We have a big target. We can offer a lot of value.”
Below, Lamia, Marcom and Park gave a deep dive into what gave rise to Achieve — and what the road ahead looks like.
To start, what prompted the rebrand?
VP of Strategic Initiatives and Chief of Staff to the CEO Carlyn Lamia: From a consumer perspective, we’ve developed three different business lines with successful consumer outcomes. Over time, there are many consumers out there in the world who could benefit from multiples of our products. For example, they want our debt-resolution product first. For many of them, we’ve ended up offering loans, but we have other lending products as well. In the future we will have debt-management products, an app with self-service and budgeting capabilities, banking capabilities — things that will really enrich their financial lives and help them get to a better financial future.
But if we remained in a world where consumers don’t understand that we, as one company that they already trust, is offering all of these things, we make it hard for the consumers to get the value that we want to offer them. So, from a consumer-heart perspective, it’s about getting more great outcomes for more people. The people who are already getting good outcomes from us get even better outcomes by being offered, understanding and wanting a deeper relationship with us via our expanded set of products and services.
It’s not like: “We're handing you to a sister company.” We are one company. Having that be more obvious and easy to understand for the consumers will help them.
“From a heart-dollar sign perspective, it’s delivering expanded — and even better — outcomes to consumers. From a dollar-sign perspective, it’s being a lot more efficient with our customer relationships.”
The reason it will help us as a business is because, in that old world, we would offer a service, develop a great relationship with somebody, and deliver a lot of value. But then they didn’t know about, or have an easy transition into, our other products and services. We ended up spending marketing dollars on the same person multiple times, having to communicate, “There’s just one brand; it’s the same company.”
We don’t want to have to use that language. But in fact, it is true. We are one company, and we have the same culture within ourselves. We have the same drive to deliver good consumer outcomes across all these products.
From a heart-dollar sign perspective, it’s delivering expanded — and even better — outcomes to consumers via multiple products and services. From a dollar-sign perspective, it’s being a lot more efficient with our customer relationships.
What does it mean to you and the teams you lead to have this new identity?
Vice President and Head of Talent Acquisition Heather Marcom: My team is on the front lines trying to encourage talent to join our organization. I think the rebrand adds another element of being able to talk to talent about the real impact that they can make here — being able to help a certain type of consumer who is extremely underserved in the market — and to uncover the talent that is truly here for this and wants to be a part of this.
Lamia: We’re staying hungry, motivated and passionate as employees within this brand. There’s a lot of room to grow. Ed is at the forefront of figuring out those additional experiences, products and services that we need to offer to our consumers so that we can collectively realize this ambition, which is really big.
VP of Product Management Ed Park: There are a lot of areas and room for growth, and to me that’s what makes us really compelling as a company. We’ve been at this for 20 years — optimizing and getting really efficient with what we do. We have a foundation of profitable businesses with solutions that we know work and that customers really value.
The Anatomy Of ‘A’
What is the importance of hiring remote workers? How does that align with the rebrand?
Marcom: It opens the door to talent that we may not have had access to before. What we really focused on over the last few years is: how do we maximize that and leverage it as a competitive advantage? We are exploring what it could look like to expand our location strategy to increase our technology, member service and sales employees located across the United States while maintaining the hub model that we’ve evolved to at this stage.
Park: It has enabled us to get the best talent regardless of where they're located. I hired a principal PM who lives in Richmond, Virginia. We recently hired a phenomenal front-end engineer who lives in San Diego. That’s the number one thing: We want phenomenal people who are strong cultural fits and who are passionate about what we’re doing.
Lamia: If you are a learner and you are a curious person, Achieve is the place for you, because we’re constantly learning new things. We’re constantly evaluating how to make best use of what we know. We want really smart and really curious people who can help us make more of what we have and learn the next best thing so that we can make the next best decision.
What will define a successful rebrand?
Marcom: On the talent side, our hope is that people become more aware of who we are, who we help, how we do that, what the future looks like — and that we will continue to see an increase in talent that is interested in joining us.
Park: We will be looking for lifetime relationships with consumers so that we become their day-to-day trusted advisor and advocates. The proof will be in the pudding if we’re the first brand that people think of when they need financial help or guidance.