This is a tale of two businesses that want to make it cheaper for you to transfer money to other countries: WorldRemit and Transferwise.

Both do more or less the same thing. However, one is currently valued at $670 million. The other, at a $1.6 billion valuation, is worth over twice as much.

We’re talking millions vs. BILLIONS here

Calculating company valuations is not my world. I do know, however, that it definitely helps if you’re good at using your website to acquire new customers. So let’s turn our attention to something we all understand: website traffic.

How did this happen? (Source: TechCityUK)

Even here, Transferwise’s traffic numbers are way ahead of WorldRemit.

So what’s going on here? How did two businesses that launched within two years of each other end up in two starkly different places? What makes one business worth millions and the other worth billions?

A tale of two product messages

It might just come down to how they’re selling it. WorldRemit offers a perfectly sober explanation of what they offer: a better way to send money.

WorldRemit’s homepage is full of comforting words and smiley people.

On the other hand, Transferwise has taken the kind of ideas you and your coworkers come up with when you’re getting drunk together – and turned it into their real-life product messaging strategy.

Ads in the London Tube. (Source: Transferwise)

This is the kind of messaging that usually never makes it past committee. I can already hear the objections bubbling up at internal company meetings: “Should we tone it down a little? Are we risking putting off customers by shitting on their banks? Can’t we just market the same service without being so edgy?”

Sure, that’s one way of looking at it. But let’s look at the upside of Transferwise’s risky “banks are assholes” message. After the 2008 recession, who liked banks? Who thought bankers were cool or worth defending? (Other than bankers themselves.)

Transferwise’s message is visceral because it’s rooted in something we all agree with: Your bank has been ripping you off and we’re going to stop them.

And it all ties so beautifully into their product’s value prop that once you hear it, you never want to make an international transfer with your bank again.

How Transferwise nails its product messaging

The emotional factor: It gets you angry

What’s the difference between finding out your SO has been cheating on you vs. finding out your bank has been secretly skimming commissions off your international transfers?

All I can say is I was pretty &$*#in’ pissed when I found out how much of money I was losing when transferring USD to GBP through my bank. My bank had sworn to me they did free bank transfers. They didn’t tell me they were sneaking their fees into an inflated exchange rate.

Feeling cheated or duped brings out particularly strong emotions because all of a sudden, we feel like victims. And we hate feeling like victims.

Transferwise centers its messaging around this raw emotion, framing itself as a source of trust and credibility as we grapple with the discovery that we have been deceived.

It feels like a personal attack, as the marketing video above illustrates. How painful is it to discover that your bank has been stealing your own money from right under your nose? You worked hard for that money! That money was YOURS!

Not only does Transferwise provide us with the shocking truth, but the emotional pull of the message lends it a sense of urgency. We care about unfairness and dishonesty. We hate the feeling of being helpless to fight back. As the internal tension builds, we’ll do anything to regain our sense of control.

The brilliance of Transferwise’s message is that it barely sells its own service. Rather, it reveals information that makes it 100% impossible for you to continue using your bank without feeling like a total sucker.

The Robin Hood factor: It gives us a hero

You’d have to be stuck under a rock to not know how much people hate banks right now.  A 2016 Gallup poll shows that 8 years after the 2008 recession, consumer confidence in banks was sitting at just 27%.

Who can blame them? The bankers made irresponsible loans, brought on a global economic crisis that left people homeless and destitute and still got bailed out with taxpayer money. The only people who don’t hate bankers? Bankers.

In banks, Transferwise has found the perfect enemy – and the perfect opportunity to cast itself as the hero. A modern day Robin Hood fighting the frivolous excesses of douchey men in suits.

Playing Robin Hood gives it another strategic benefit: positioning itself against the massive banking industry, not just other money transfer services.

In fact, after raising $280 million round in November 2017, co-founder Taavet Hinrikus made it clear just how big they’re thinking. “£1 billion is just a slice of the market, which means millions of people are still being ripped off by banks and traditional currency brokers every day,” he announced.

Holy crap, do you want to root for this guy or what?

The trust factor: It shows (not tells) us its value 💰

Transferwise has us right where it wants us. Now that we’re painfully aware of the problem, we’re ready to hear the solution. And that’s when we head to Transferwise.com and see this currency exchange calculator on the homepage.

This header packs a punch. It shows us how much it costs to send money with Transferwise along with:

  • Exactly how much money your recipient will receive
  • A fee breakdown
  • A clear rate guarantee (with a link to more information)
  • An indication of how much you’re going to save by skipping the bank

What matters here is that Transferwise doesn’t tell us it’s credible, trustworthy and nothing like our skeezy banks. It shows us. When your value prop is that you save people money, this is exactly what you should be waving in our faces. And yet, as we’re about to see, Transferwise’s competitor doesn’t even get close to that.

So…why choose WorldRemit? 🧐

Now that we’ve been through a wild emotional journey with Transferwise, let’s take another look at WorldRemit. What do we see here?

No one changes an existing habit because there’s a “better way” out there. They do it because you’ve made their current habits feel completely unbearable, forcing them to consider another option. WorldRemit’s message does none of that. With each of these blockers, this page leaves me with more questions than answers:

  • Ethnically diverse people walking through the desert. Where are they going?
  • Painfully vague headline. Is this a PayPal or Venmo alternative? (Answer: no.) 
  • Words I like: low-cost, fast and trusted. How much cheaper? How fast? Who trusts them?

WorldRemit is built for sending money abroad cheaper, but they never put that message together for us.

A scattered message with no compelling call to action

Even in their video, WorldRemit fails to get to the point.

“From little sparks, big things grow. Beyond a simple idea into something with the power to change the world. We believe things could be better, brighter, faster, safer…”

  

Ugh, what? WorldRemit’s product message wanders aimlessly through the desert, much like the people in this marketing video. It’s anchored neither to emotion nor a real customer problem. It’s not even situated in a relatable geographic location.

It makes me feel nothing, except sadness. This high production value video was expensive to make and yet is so devoid of substance. What does the Sahara have to do with my bank account?

Two product narratives, one clear winner

WorldRemit actually has unique value propositions: instant money transfer as well as intra-African currency transfers. But this isn’t made clear on their site or within their marketing – only in a TechCrunch article.

And if these propositions aren’t clear, they are as good as not having them at all. In fact, it feels like their whole marketing strategy has been developed in complete isolation from the product and potential customers.

The younger (and, it seems, wiser) Transferwise has developed a message firmly rooted in customer problems and our political reality. They’ve found a way to communicate clearly who they are, what they stand for, and why you need them today.

And because of that, they’re winning – both customers and investment.