Among the online brands offering to help you manage your spending and savings through account aggregation—that is, compiling information from disparate sources including banks, brokerages and credit card companies—is Mint.com, which moved out of the beta stage in late 2008.
(In this article we’ll be focusing on the online branding elements of Mint.com. Several other sources already have test-driven the financial-management features of the site.)
Because Mint is both new and independent—that is, not an extension of a respected and established brand in a sector like software or banking—convincing users of its efficacy and reliability is crucial, meaning it must address the following concerns:
1. Is it safe? I’ve revealed my Visa digits to plenty of websites over the years, but handing over the keys to my financial kingdom (even if the palace cupboards are currently bare) is a different situation entirely.
2. Does it work? I know I eat out too much—I don’t need a fancy pie chart to tell me that. What practical advice can you give me besides “spend less, save more”?
3. How much does it cost? These are lean times, so if the site requires a steep subscription fee, I’d rather save the money for something more practical, like eating out. And if it takes too much effort to register, update and use, what’s the point? After all, time is, well, you know.
Mint tackles these three issues directly on the comforting homepage, which more resembles a site for “green” living rather than greenbacks. Its tagline, “the best way to manage your money” is “amended” with the word free written above a caret to modify way. Below the tagline are positive blurbs, five benefits of the site and a button that doesn’t just say “Sign up” but rather “Sign up in under 5 minutes.” A few logos signifying the site’s security appear at the bottom.
The site’s comprehensive overview section should reassure the fearful (regarding security) and the skeptical (if the service is so good, why is it free?) and features both written and video user testimonials.
Mint’s brand message stresses that basic personal finance requires neither the education nor the tedious-math tolerance of your average CPA. Founder Aaron Patzer cites his own frustration with Intuit’s Quicken software as the reason he launched Mint, and his appearance in several videos, from media interviews to product walkthroughs, gives the brand a human face. (It doesn’t hurt that Patzer, who resembles comedian Jimmy Fallon merged with crooner Harry Connick Jr., is one of the more telegenic computer science/engineering majors you’ll likely meet.)
One of the more impressive aspects of the site is the section labeled, simply, BLOG. While this could have been just a repository for the words and wisdom of Aaron Patzer (who does contribute), the blog section is very robust, featuring practical advice from Mint staff and third-party sources, including The Motley Fool. The information ranges from the evergreen advice about car-buying to commentary on current economic events.
The site for Patzer’s bugaboo, Quicken, offers the same free services but is less welcoming, resembling the online home of an office-supply chain and promoting its retail products. Side by side the sites call to mind a PC/Macintosh contrast—Quicken the meat-and-potatoes budget balancer, Mint the elegant promoter of a “richer life.” Both homepages even feature images of Apple products, but where Mint displays the latest iPhone, Quicken shows an iMac monitor design that was discontinued in 2007.