Apres Mint, Intuit Must Freshen its Brands

Now that it’s bought Mint.com to spruce up its personal finance software, Intuit needs to protect a place in the market for its aging Quicken brand. It’s got to do that without making Mint seem stale.

Much of the attention on Intuit’s $170 million acquisition of online personal finance software maker Mint on Sept. 14 focused on how Intuit will use Mint’s site to attract a younger generation of customers who don’t cotton to PC software or tedious data entry. The deal was also a big win for First Round Capital, an early venture backer of Mint.

Intuit Chief Executive Brad Smith says Mint is a template for what personal finance software should look like: simple to set up, accessible anywhere there’s a Web browser, and designed to put money back in consumers’ pockets by spotting ways they can save on common expenses. “They were not only a potential challenge for us, but a real inspiration,” he says. “We had taken our eye off the personal finance portion of the business. We hadn’t stopped to imagine what personal finance software could look like for the next generation of consumers.”

Intuit executives say Mint will lead its efforts to attract new customers to personal finance software. “The question is whether the full-blown Quicken product still has a place in the market,” says Forrester Research analyst Emmett Higdon. “Quicken as a brand doesn’t resonate” with younger users, he says. “They say, ‘That’s my father’s way of managing my money.’”

Mint, popular with consumers in their twenties and thirties, claims 40% of its users are women. That’s a different audience than Quicken, whose average user is “over 40 and male,” Intuit says.

But Intuit isn’t forsaking the market for PC and Mac software. Baby boomers like the comfort of storing their data on a home computer, and the company sells about 1 million copies of desktop Quicken each year, according to Smith. A new Windows version of Quicken is due by early November, and a long-delayed new Mac version next February. Though Intuit doesn’t break out Quicken sales, at $40 to $50 a copy, 1 million units a year isn’t chump change. About half those sales come to new users who haven’t tried Quicken before, according to Smith. “There’s still value there,” he says.

To make Quicken more attractive, Intuit plans to overhaul its Quicken Online site to become a place where users can quickly check snapshots of their financial life, for example how an investment portfolio’s performing, through a Web browser or mobile phone. For Quicken users, the Web will become a place to get new functions that make the desktop product more useful.

Smith, who used to market Pepsi and Seven-Up, says the trick is to imbue the Mint and Quicken brands with “personalities” so customers can readily tell them apart, much the way avid TV watchers distinguish among HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax.

Mint CEO Aaron Patzer, who plans to join Intuit to manage its personal finance products, says the company will likely brand Mint.com along the lines of “Mint from Intuit” or “Mint from the makers of Quicken.” Yet Mint’s users are praying Intuit doesn’t mess with their beloved site. Some say they’ll quit using Mint now that Intuit owns it.

For Smith to revitalize Intuit’s personal finance franchise, he’ll need to make sure Mint fans’ negative associations with the 26-year-old Quicken brand don’t hold back the company’s march to the future.

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