Robin Hood, the ‘stonk’ market and terms of use

Last month, Reddit banned together to take the Stock Market (or stonk market, as they call it) for a ride. They identified gamer-centric stocks that were being shorted by big hedge funds and banded together to inflate the price. This effectively caused some hedge funds to lose billions when they had to buy back the shares at a higher price. As a result of this market volatility, Robin Hood and several other trading platforms used by private investors, restricted trades of these stocks. People got mad. And Robin Hood got sued.  Later, they revered their decisions and allowed limited trades to return. Why did people get so mad at Robin Hood in particular? Well, we think it comes down to branding. We’ll discuss this whole mess with Robin Hood, the ‘stonk, market and terms of use from an online branding perspective including:

  1. Defining your brand values
  2. Creating a tribe
  3. Aligning your processes, procedures and terms

Brand values

“At Robinhood, we believe the financial system should be built to work for everyone.” At least that’s what it says on their website. Maybe watch their advert to see them reinforce this idea. They’re building a brand proposition. You should believe they’re on the side of the little guy. They promise to be for everyone. However, the recent restrictions didn’t align with their brand values. And people got angry. That’s why it’s so important to create a brand that your organisation can live up to, even in the hard times. Think about who you are and what your goal is at your core. Then, determine if the market you operate in will allow you to remain consistent.

Creating a tribe

Because Robin Hood’s brand values were so attractive, they easily built a tribe. Fans of the platform (prior to the ‘stonk’ market debacle) were honest about its drawbacks but had warm feelings for the brand. They bought into their ‘rob from the rich and give to the poor’ narrative. Many were open advocates for their software. But when they restricted trades, the Robin Hood mob bit the hand that fed and 1-starred their reviews on Google. Building a tribe is great. It gives you powerful advocates for your brand and great word of mouth advertising. But beware, fail to live up to your tribe’s expectations and you could be in for a world of hurt.

Aligning your processes, procedures and terms

This is where Robin Hood really fell down. Based on the brand values and beliefs instilled in their tribe, it came as a big surprise when they evoked restrictive clauses in their terms of use. Most people never read terms and conditions. So, it’s no shock that users were aghast to find this: “You agree that, without notice, Robinhood may terminate these Terms and Conditions, or suspend your access to the Service or the Content, with or without cause at any time and effective immediately.” Stopping the little guy from investing seems quite at odds with their brand values, doesn’t it? And that’s where aligning your terms, processes and procedures come into play. It’s no use to have brand values and create a tribe that you can’t support in good times and bad. So, when creating the nuts and bolts of how your website/service will operate, make sure it marries with your stated goals.


If you want to learn more about online branding, check out this page or speak to our helpful team.