Home Ownership Investments
FirstREX was the name of a financial technology company that introduced equity-based financing to home buyers and homeowners. Unlike a traditional loan from a bank, FirstREX would pay homeowners a percentage of their home’s value for the opportunity to share in the gain or loss in price when they sold – up to 30 years later. This would enable buyers to get the house they want, reduce their monthly payment, or enjoy greater financial flexibility. Or it would enable existing homeowners to convert a portion of their home equity to cash without borrowing.
While this model provided many clear benefits, its newness raised skepticism among real estate agents, homebuyers and homeowners. “What’s the catch?” they would ask. The fact that the name FirstREX sounded somewhat like a bank did not do much to dispel confusion, and the company found itself facing a market education burden. Marshall Strategy was asked to clarify the brand promise through positioning, naming, and messaging.
Through extensive interviews with realtors, loan officers and consumers, we discovered a surprising openness, even favorability, for the service once the basic benefits were understood. Rather than relying on financial terms such as “equity,” we recommended conveying the three key benefits provided through the service – opportunity, flexibility, and control. All benefits were provided via the investment partnership and aligned interests between FirstREX and its customers.
We concluded that partnership was the overarching idea that the company needed to convey. We recommended a name change to Unison, with the descriptor line “Home Ownership Investments,” to clearly, simply and unthreateningly say what this partnership was meant to represent. We supported the new name and positioning with clear, benefit-oriented messaging for consumers and realtors in several market categories.
Unison was able to claim leadership in this new category, in a way that created much greater clarity as to the benefits they provide. The value has become apparent to lenders, regulators, and institutional investors, enabling Unison to become the largest home ownership investor and expand nationwide. Our design partner, Jerry Kuyper, created a new graphic identity to convey opportunity and flexibility, and the new name, identity and website launched in November 2016.