Daily Insights

Robinhood’s Role Reversal

By: Alizah Asif Farooqi | Feb 01, 2021

No one could have predicted the economic rollercoaster that Reddit and Robinhood embarked on just one month into 2021. Here’s what the aftermath might mean for Robinhood, once a fintech darling, through a marketing lens.

As its name suggests, Robinhood is a company built on the foundation of lifting up the “little guy”. When the app announced it would be blocking users from continuing to buy shares of GameStop, AMC, and a slew of other hot stocks, the situation soured. Users felt that by cutting them off, Robinhood was going directly against its mission in favor of big bucks from Wall Street bigshots. 

Whether this is what the app intended or not is irrelevant in the world of marketing, where Robinhood had earned a reputation as a company that perfectly balanced customer service and brand strategy in a way that made it synonymous with the phrase “Democratizing finance for all”, the slogan that headlines its site and its social media platform bios to this day. This attention to its audience is especially noticeable in the way Robinhood began. For example, Robinhood launched @AskRobinhood on Twitter, arguably the most customer service-centric platform, on the same day as the company itself. It was this move, along with the helpful GIF tweets with step-by-step paths for frequent issues and new features that gave Robinhood its playful, relatable, yet informed edge and earned it a spot in Gartner’s Digital IQ Index: Wealth Management

That said, it should come as no surprise that angry users took to Twitter to voice their loss of trust, sense of betrayal, and overall disappointment with Robinhood, often using the brand’s own previous tweets to further clarify their point. Backlash ensued in a myriad of ways including an influx of one-star reviews on the Google Play store, a list of lawsuits from r/WallStreetBets users, and declarations of war from major social media players Mark Cuban and Dave Portnoy of Barstool Sports. Even politicians felt the move was unacceptable. Now, not only had money been lost, a mission had been marred. A promise had been broken. 

When Robinhood first stepped onto the fintech scene, it made a shining impression on the evolving financial consumer that served as a model of customer service for older financial institutions to copy. Now, the narrative has been reversed as Robinhood becomes the Sheriff of Nottingham.