VSC Wins Silver Stevie PR Award for: Turning Machine Learning Tech into Financial Independence for Generation Z; How VSC and SelfScore Designed the Deserve Credit Card

SelfScore was a next-generation fintech company that uses machine learning and alternative data instead of relying on FICO scores to determine credit-worthiness.


We engaged with SelfScore when it was solely offering credit services to international students in the US lacking a social-security number, which is a requisite for most traditional credit cards.



The company aimed to build a brand with students and expand outside of just foreign students to all Americans that didn’t have traditional FICO scores due to lack of credit and financial history.



We recommended building a more consumer friendly brand than its existing name SelfScore, which felt functional and not aspirational in nature.


We brought in branding partners and participated in the process around a rebrand to Deserve because students deserve better.  


After research, it became clear to VSC that many credit cards focused on consumer segments and that positioning the card for millenials would be a crowded space. Thus we worked with Deserve to own the narrative around building a credit card for Generation Z, a new segment that was gaining popularity with the media, and overlapped with Deserve’s consumer segment.


By owning a new consumer segment, we believed Deserve could have a unique position in the crowded credit card industry and find opportunities to be included in ‘best of lists’ which were major customer signup sources.



Our campaign had two phases, we first launched the new Deserve Credit Card and then focused on credit card lists to maintain visibility.


The narrative around both phases was based on two pillars:


We expanded Deserve’s audience to Generation Z in the US who don’t have a credit history by showcasing how they ditched the antiquated FICO scoring model and use alternative data to measure credit potential for new users.


We also suggested and leveraged a rewards system that would appeal to this generation after speaking with college students about what they want. Deserve formed a partnership with Amazon Prime Student in which card holders are reimbursed for a year of subscription fees and receive additional rewards like free music and video.



We earned a total of 120+ stories with a combined reach of 672.6M for 2017 and 196M for 2018 so far, including stories in Forbes, TechCrunch, and NerdWallet. We secured briefings for the CEO with key media including the Wall Street Journal, Quartz, TechCrunch, Inc, Mashable, Forbes, Buzzfeed, and the Los Angeles Times.


25+ of the stories we earned were reviews and inclusions in ‘best credit cards of 2018’ lists in key finance and credit affiliate listing publications like ValuePenguin, CreditCards.com, and NerdWallet.


We partnered and collaborated with social media influencers in the college, fintech, and parenting spaces like Catherine Goetze from Cath in College and Rachel Ritlop from The Confused Millennial.



We successfully positioned Deserve as the first credit card designed specifically for Gen Z. Deserve earned the highest share of voice in 2017 at 34% when compared to competing student credit cards like Discover It for Students (at 30%), Capital One Journey Student Rewards (16%), Bank of America (at 13%), and others. Deserve has been able to maintain 28% of the share of voice in Q1 of 2018 and were just selected as a Fast Company World Changing Ideas 2018 Finalist.


Our efforts resulted in a 200% increase in credit card applications from young adults and college students, and Deserve recently raised a $50 million round to fuel overall company growth.


Here are a few of our favorite quotes:


Now [Deserve has] created a credit card that it hopes will appeal to Generation Z, or college-aged teens… ‘Our mission is to provide access to fair credit to deserving but underserved populations,’ CEO and co-founder Kalpesh Kapadia told TechCrunch… ‘Most of these kids do not have credit history. They cannot get credit cards without having credit scores.’ He believes that better indicators of creditworthiness are ‘reliability, discipline, education, employment.’



If you lack a credit history, getting a credit card or loan can be next to impossible. But one credit card issuer is aiming to change that.


[Deserve] launched new credit cards for students and employed individuals who lack a credit history or are looking to build or expand one.



One factor that distinguishes Deserve Pro from other credit cards catering to the underbanked, like for example Petal, is its rewards features. According to Kapadia, these rewards are picked specifically to appeal to Deserve Pro’s target audience of 18-29 years of age.

Banking Innovation


Here are some of the American Business Awards judges’ comments:


A very important initiative for both local and international students community.


Very well thought out strategy and approach – excellent campaign!


Great example of rebrand and product launch. Creative mix of social and traditional PR.


Great work and excellent media coverage results!


This is an impressive campaign with impressive results. Well done.