The Drum Awards Brand Strategy Monzo

How Monzo plans to ‘win the hearts and minds of every living room’

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By Hannah Bowler

May 28, 2024 | 6 min read

The British challenger bank just dropped its first above-the-line campaign in five years. Its newly appointed marketing chief AJ Coyne, a judge at The Drum Marketing Awards 2024, tells us why.

Man on a sunlounger

'Money Never Felt Like Monzo' ad campaign / Monzo

Monzo set up shop in 2015 as one of the first digital-only challenger banks in the UK. Nine years later, the business boasts 9 million users, but it needs millions more to reach the next stage of growth.

AJ Coyne, vice-president of marketing at Monzo, says that, in the past, it relied on word of mouth and organic growth to add customers (it has repeatedly topped YouGov’s most-recommended brand list, for example). Now, though, Monzo needs to invest in above-the-line marketing.

“The best vehicle for us to introduce the Monzo message to as many people as possible is brand and, to do that properly, we need to invest in above-the-line advertising,” Coyne says.

Coyne joined Monzo in January after spending three years at the buy now, pay later brand Klarna, where he most recently served as vice-president of consumer marketing. Coyne, a Monzo user since the bank set up shop in 2015, says he came in “to take Monzo to the next part of its journey.”

“Monzo has got all of the wonderful ingredients to make a truly iconic British brand. You’ve got the distinctive assets, you’ve got this wonderful tone of voice, you’ve got a product that’s redefining a category,” he says. “But there’s a job to do to win the hearts and minds of every living room in this country.”

The ‘Money Never Felt Like Monzo’ campaign, created by Uncommon, marks the bank’s first above-the-line campaign in five years. The minute-long TV spot, which dropped earlier in the month, juxtaposes negative thoughts about money with empowering, positive ones. It is supported by out-of-home ads and a takeover of the Financial Times.

According to the brand performance platform Kantar Marketplace, the ad was extremely impactful and viewers were very likely to remember Monzo after watching it, building on long-term equity for the digital bank.

“I am a firm believer that creativity is one of the biggest multipliers for any business or brand,” Coyne says. Color and tone are critical to Coyne’s strategy to win over new customers through creativity.

The campaign was born out of the customer insight that money feels different when using Monzo compared with other banks. “So how do you bring that emotion that the users feel and bring that to life? One of my principles in marketing is show, don’t tell,” he says. It’s easy with banking to fall into the trap of just telling product stories and functional communications, but “isn’t going to move the dial,” Coyne says.

“Money, for most people, is quite fraught with emotions. It can be an uphill battle; it can make you feel anxious and you don’t want to look at your bills,” he says. But Monzo’s pitch is that managing money can be easier.

Painting the UK hot coral

Coyne is a big believer in the power of color to help build a brand. He previously spoke to The Drum about how important Klarna’s pink branding was as part of its challenger status to the traditional banking colors of blue and grey.

At Monzo, Coyne says his mission is to “paint the UK hot coral.” “People talk a lot about distinctive assets; you’ll hear it from pretty much traditional FMCG more so than any other category, whether it is McDonald’s Arches, Coca-Cola red, hot coral for us is a distinctive asset.”

Hot coral is a main feature in Monzo’s above-the-line campaign, but for its lower funnel marketing, the color has been used as a “connecting thread.” “It’s not always going to be as explicit as you would see in more high-reaching media,” Coyne explains. “It will be a little bit more considered as we go through the other channels, but there will always be this consistent hot coral or thread to tie it back to the Monzo.”

Monzo’s color is a Pantone, which doesn’t exist as a digital color, adding a layer of complexity when using the hot coral in marketing materials. For its FT takeover, the publication had to change its printers, while on its taxi wraps, Monzo had to source new metals to get the color right. With the FT deal, Coyne says: “It was a battle for us to get it to do it because an easy thing for it not to have to do.”

Although the campaign is mass reach, Monzo has an idea of the types of users it is hoping to attract with its new messaging. “The decisions we made in the above-the-line investment is to match the 9 million user base we already have,” Coyne explains. “Monzo wants to grow with similar users that it already has but add more.”

Monzo’s average user base is 34 with a large proportion in London. Growing users outside of London is a key priority for Monzo, so the campaign has big media buys in other key UK cities.

“It is a really exciting thing to be able to do is coming in as the chief marketer to introduce that Monzo message to every living room and really win those hearts and minds properly.”

The Drum Awards Brand Strategy Monzo

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