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Early Warning Readies Its Launch Campaign for Zelle That Will Emphasize Awareness, Branding
March 7, 2017

By Jim Daly

The Zelle person-to-person payments service is about to take on a public face as bank-owned parent company Early Warning Services LLC readies a multifaceted marketing campaign for rollout in the coming weeks and months.

“I would say it’s a significant marketing campaign focused on awareness,” Melissa Lowry, vice president of marketing and branding at Early Warning, tells Digital Transactions News. “You’ll start to see pieces sooner than later.”

The campaign will have digital, broadcast, and other advertising and marketing components, says Lowry, declining to say how much Early Warning will spend on it. “It will be in a variety of channels.”

Besides direct advertising support from Early Warning, Zelle will get a big lift from its seven owner banks and the total of 19 banks participating in the network. The banks, which collectively have 75 million mobile-banking customers, will incorporate consistent Zelle functionality and branding into their mobile-banking apps, according to Lowry.

One of the first to do so was Bank of America Corp., which in late February updated its 10-year-old mobile-banking app with new features that include support for Zelle. “You’re going to start to see the Zelle brand in all the banks’ experiences,” says Lowry.

Besides accessing Zelle through banks’ mobile apps, consumers also will be able to download a standalone Zelle app for Apple and Android smart phones. Whether through the individual bank apps or the standalone app, users will “have the same experience” and be able to “do the same things, with the same features and functionality,” says Lowry.

For users sending money to a recipient with a demand-deposit account at a Zelle member, the system will enable settlement to occur “within minutes, typically even faster than that,” says Lowry.

In addition to the direct bank participants, Zelle has struck partnerships with processors Fiserv Inc., Jack Henry & Associates Inc., Fidelity National Information Services Inc. (FIS), and Co-Op Financial Services to give community banks and credit unions access to its service. And through agreements with Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc., Early Warning will leverage the Visa Direct and Mastercard Send platforms so that U.S. debit card holders can send and receive money through Zelle.

The marketing campaign will give Zelle a public persona that its predecessor service, clearXchange, never had. Early Warning bought the bank-owned clearXchange in 2015. Last year, Early Warning rebranded clearXchange as it prepped for battle with non-banks for a bigger share of the fast-growing P2P market, a market that features such powerful competitors as PayPal Holdings Inc.’s Venmo service. But it’s not clear yet if Zelle’s marketing campaign will take direct shots at the popular Venmo. There’s another clearly visible enemy.

“One of the things we’re really focused on is being a viable alternative to cash and checks,” says Lowry. “There’s a huge opportunity there.”

Early Warning is a risk-management firm based in Scottsdale, Ariz. Zelle’s main office is in San Francisco.

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