Monzo preps first major ad campaign as it looks to ‘supercharge’ growth

The digital bank has previously relied almost solely on organic word-of-mouth to grow the business but is now exploring how paid advertising could play a role, although the brand is adamant it must not become reliant on paying to acquire customers.


Monzo is preparing to launch its first major ad campaign to “supercharge” its growth, which has until now relied almost entirely on organic word of mouth, as it looks to improve awareness beyond its core audience.

The campaign, which will go live in the second quarter, will run across out of home and some other offline media, as well as Facebook and Google. It follows a test the bank ran on a relatively small campaign on the London Underground in October last year, which Monzo’s head of marketing Tristan Thomas describes as “pretty positive”.

Currently, Monzo sees between 50,000 and 100,000 users sign up every month. And while Thomas is “confident” it could continue growing at this rate over the next few years, he views paid advertising as a way to “short-circuit that to take us a year or two further down the line”.

“Almost all our growth comes through organic word of mouth,” he tells Marketing Week. “That’s either people referring friends and family through the Monzo app or telling their friends in person. That continues to be extremely strong.

“The next stage is, how do we grow that even faster? How do we supercharge that organic growth with paid marketing and advertising?”

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The campaign will be an evolution of the messaging it used in the October test, which had three simple messages. The first was around the colour of the card, the second around how many people had signed up and the third quotes from its community of users.

While Thomas was coy on investment levels, he called it “pretty big, relatively”. And while it retains a focus on direct response metrics such as sign-ups, it is “more of a brand awareness piece” as it looks to expand its customer base.

“Part of the reason we are going big on this campaign and into mass media as well is that it will help us to start to expand brand awareness outside our traditional demographics,” he explains. “That takes time, we aren’t going to jump to being a bank for everyone’s grandparents.

“We already see great growth outside London and our traditional age range and it’s about supercharging that and saying, how do we make sure we’re not just catering to millennials who live in East London? Because we’re already seeing that organically it feels like a really nice time to support that with spend.”

Almost all our growth comes through organic word of mouth. The next stage is, how do we supercharge that organic growth with paid marketing and advertising?

Tristan Thomas, Monzo

Monzo has been rapidly expanding its marketing team ahead of the launch. While six months ago it had a team of five or six in marketing, it’s now 20 and Thomas expects it to grow at that sort of speed for the next six months as well.

His team includes PR, comms, community, social media and advertising, with people having previously worked in a range of firms from startups to gaming companies to financial services. The paid advertising team has joined in the past couple of months and been subject to a “baptism of fire” that Thomas describes as typical at Monzo.

The launch of the campaign has also required creative agency support for the first time, although Thomas won’t be drawn on which agency it has worked with. While Monzo has a preference for doing things in-house, Thomas says the team needed external help for this first round of advertising, and will then decide whether to bring it in-house, work with an agency or a combination.

“[We have used an agency because of] a combination of the scale of this campaign, of us being earlier on in the journey of paid advertising and really wanting to bring in experts to work on it,” he says. “We have a preference for working in-house but you can’t bring everything in-house immediately, so it’s about saying, how do we work with world-class agencies to help us run these first campaigns and get a real feel for how we go about these.”

The campaign is Monzo’s first real test of paid advertising, with its success (or otherwise) determining its strategy for the next few years. If it’s successful in driving sign-ups and brand awareness, it would “pave the way” for Monzo to invest more heavily in marketing.

However, Thomas doesn’t want to get to the point where Monzo is reliant on paid advertising. It’s current split is around 80% word of mouth and 20% paid and while he concedes that in some months when it is pushing paid this will shift to a more 50/50 split, it won’t ever be the reverse.

“We’re very keen we don’t become a company that is hooked on advertising and that drives 90% of customers through paid acquisition because I think it’s quite an unhealthy way to build a business… and is just about shouting loudly,” he says.

“As much as possible we really want our growth to be because customers love the product, the brand and their involvement in the wider community and because of that they then tell their friends.”