LendingTree Casts Consumers as Superheroes

Who needs a broker when you can be your own financial savior?

A $40 million LendingTree campaign from Mullen that breaks nationally today rebrands the company beyond mortgages, stressing services such as money management and credit cards while emphasizing consumers’ own ability to manage their finances with the tagline, “You to the rescue.”

Marking the client’s first strategy shift in 10 years, the campaign uses images of people in superhero costumes and a voiceover by iconic ’60s Batman star Adam West.

The general mistrust people have of financial institutions and the uncertainly they feel about current economic conditions prompted the new positioning, said Darren Beck, chief marketing officer at LendingTree parent company Tree.com. “We wanted to return to our roots of truly empowering the consumer,” said Beck. “The market is in turmoil and consumers don’t know who to trust.”

LendingTree, which sports a new green logo also designed by the Boston-based IPG agency, relaunched its Web site with new services that allow consumers to aggregate all their planning tools in one place. “We want LendingTree to be the financial dashboard for your life,” said Beck. Consumers can manage their own finances but, he said, “They just need some assistance.”

“LendingTree has always been a brand that has empowered the consumer,” said Mark Wenneker, executive creative director at Mullen, the agency that introduced the company’s previous tagline, “When banks compete, you win,” 10 years ago as the brand was launched. “With the downturn in the economy, it is something we can own now.”

Three TV commercials cast the blame for “a wave of financial tomfoolery” on “corporate mischief” and “bank tycoons in fancy suits.” LendingTree’s services are portrayed as weapons consumers can use to navigate the “dark days” we are currently living in.

In one spot, a white-collar type dresses for work at the start of the day as West’s voiceover begins, “Well Scott, seems like we are all in a pickle. A wave of financial tomfoolery has been unleashed upon us, but fear not, these corporate mischief-makers will meet their match.” In the bedroom mirror, the man’s reflection wears a Batman-style costume, green mask and cape. The voiceover concludes: “For today, you are not just Scott, today you are Great Scott.”

Wenneker explained that the tonality of the commercials, directed by Stacy Wall, had to be carefully crafted to paint an accurate picture of the harsh economic climate while also striking a humorous tone. And West’s recognizable voice and pitch-perfect performance made it possible, he said.

“The emotion I wanted to hit was not a laugh, but I wanted to make you feel goosebumps if possible with a little wink, where you feel good about yourself,  [and say] ‘let’s get over this hump and start fresh,'” he said.

The campaign, which includes online and offline advertising, will also feature radio and an iPhone application.

LendingTree spun off from Barry Diller’s IAC in 2008 and joined the newly formed Tree.com, which is the parent company of online financial and real estate companies such as GetSmart.com and RealEstate.com.

Nielsen Business Media