Snoop Dogg isn’t a stranger to working with brands and releasing odd but lovable ads—or even to working on projects with unlikely partners such as Martha Stewart. But when Klarna, a fintech company that offers consumers a buy-now-pay-later option with more than 1,000 U.S. retailers, rebranded in 2017, Snoop wanted to join (and eventually became a minority shareholder).
The Stockholm-based company, whose competition ranges from Afterpay to PayPal, and its agency partner DDB Stockholm wanted to pivot from a “boring” blue-color scheme and male-driven financial-type company chock-full of legalese to something that spoke to consumers and made them feel like they could trust the brand, according to David Sandström, Klarna’s CMO.
“The industry itself is losing the trust of an entire generation, and that is obviously affecting retailers. But it’s also affecting individuals, and people feel cheated by these companies,” Sandström said. “[We did the rebranding to see if] we can find relevancy again, become part of people’s lives [and] pop culture. Can we make people trust us? Can we find completely new ways of reconnecting with the biggest shopping generation around?”
And with that, the “Smoooth” campaign (yes, with an extra O) was born in conjunction with DDB Stockholm (Sandström was CEO of the agency and in charge of the Klarna account during his time there prior to joining Klarna). The unofficial rebrand started with three ads, directed by MJZ’s Perlorian Brothers, and featured a fish, cheese and a dog swimming to describe an overall feeling of “smoooth.”
“In the rebranding, we asked ourselves: What if we had a financial company but led with design—how would that look?” Sandström said. “What if we were a financial company that leads with emotion [and] pop culture?”
Klarna began as a “classic b-to-b company,” Sandström said, but pivoted after its research showed that banks and financial institutions ranked among some of the most distrusted brands. Klarna needed a way to differentiate itself, not only from its competitors like PayPal, Affirm and Afterpay, but also from global banks. To do so, the company shifted its thinking: away from existing as solely a business-to-business brand and toward being a b-to-b with a focus on selling a consumer experience.
Sandström said the company is measuring the more obvious KPIs, such as brand awareness, net promoter score and usage. But Sandström also said the campaign has helped in other areas Klarna didn’t anticipate, such as the number of people applying to work at the company after a new ad rolls out.
The company debuted three ads in 2016 and officially rebranded using variations of those spots during the 2017 holiday season. The company returned with a strange but beloved ad in April 2018 that showed sound waves hitting a man’s belly (the video has more than 15 million views). Snoop Dogg joined the “Smoooth” campaign in 2019 with three different ads, including a “coronation” ceremony, in which he became Smoooth Dogg. Simultaneously, the company joined Instagram with the “Smoooth” campaign and now has more than 18,000 followers.