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Graduation Ceremony

Sallie Mae Bank: Brand Re-invention

Agency: Something Different


Sallie Mae, the nation's largest private student lender, wanted a compelling new brand purpose. One that created an emotional connection with their customers and positioned them for the future; not for today.
The CMO's challenge to us was to re-invent the brand in a way that would make them "a little uncomfortable."

Our Solution:

  • Started with deep dive into the complex student loan category and SM's long history, and conducted interviews with the CEO and product and marketing leads.

  • Spent time understanding Millennial and Gen Z's different and complicated relationships with finance.

  • Led an input briefing workshop with CMO's leadership team; to identify key issues and challenges, define goals and align on tangible outcomes.

  • Participated in consumer focus groups led by WhatIf! Innovation and worked alongside them to shape a new digital product offering.

  • Developed a point-of-view beyond marketing communications, outlining how SM should navigate the cultural context because student loans had become a hot button issue in the upcoming election cycle.

  • Presented new brand architecture and future-facing vision with clear roadmap articulating what was required internally and externally in order to shift brand perception, driven by positive customer experiences.


We presented three strategic territories the brand could own in the future. Each territory offered an increasing level of 'discomfort' and stretched what was needed by Sallie Mae to deliver on the stated aspiration. They loved our strategic thinking and signed-off on one of the territories.

NOTE: we began to executing the campaign until Covid-19 put launch on permanent hold.

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