The Challenger Bank Marketing Playbook: Virality, Community, Education & Design

Jackie Vullinghs
Apr 5, 2018 · 6 min read

Revolut, Monzo, N26 and other challenger banks have astonished traditional marketers with the speed of their growth over the last few years. Not only have they grown rapidly, but they’ve also done so at very low cost, with Revolut declaring that it doesn’t spend a penny on paid marketing.

No consumer just LOVES their Westpac account, but early adopters of Monzo and Revolut can’t wait to tell you about their latest features, or why you need to sign up yesterday.

So how is it that these challenger banks have developed such strong communities of raving fans? And what can traditional financial institutions and fintechs learn from them when developing their marketing strategies?

Built-In Product Virality

The challenger banks know that social proof is a strong driver of consumer adoption, so they have built into the product ways for customers to tell their friends about the company.

Splitting Bills like Dropbox

Much like Hotmail and Dropbox’s viral marketing strategies in the past, startups like Monzo and Revolut can spread the word simply by people using their product.

When splitting a bill at a restaurant, you can request money from friends directly through the app.

By clicking on the company-branded links, the friend can not only pay the user directly, but learn about the product and sign up themselves.

Creating a Revolut Payment Link


There is also a more obvious referral marketing strategy — the app prompting you to invite your phone contacts to join.

Monzo Contacts page prompting you to invite friends

From the Contacts screen in Monzo it’s easy to invite your phone contacts who don’t use Monzo yet.

By showing your friends who do have Monzo at the top of the screen, it reminds you how much easier it would be if your other friends had Monzo, and encourages you to hit ‘Invite’.

Waiting Lists & Golden Tickets

Monzo understands that consumers want a product more when they know it is scarce, and so introduced waiting lists for their cards.

Monzo Waiting List

To further encourage virality, you were able to jump 4,000 places in the waiting list by inviting friends.

And to battle the inertia that inevitably follows when you suggest someone changes their bank, they hand out golden tickets for customers to send their friends, allowing them to skip the waiting list.

Monzo Golden Ticket

Knowing that the opportunity to skip the waiting list is rare encourages people to sign up immediately when they might have delayed otherwise.


These apps have their community at the core of their marketing and product development.

While we’ll go on to discuss why the community serves as an extremely effective marketing channel, it’s important to highlight that the core purpose for developing a strong community is customer development. These companies want their community to flourish so they can listen to their customers and know what to improve and what to build next.

Revolut has recently started for help choosing the names for new features, while Monzo had 12,000 people submit responses when they asked their email subscribers what to name the company after they were forced to change from Mondo in 2016.

Even their , so users can upvote or downvote specific feature requests on the timeline, and know when new capabilities will be ready.

Developers have their own slack group at Monzo where they can discuss integrations with Monzo’s public API as the marketplace develops, as well as hackathons to come up with new ideas for future features.

These elements serve to inform product development for the challenger banks and ensure they are creating a product their customers love, while at the same time building a sense of attachment with their followers.

Once you’ve helped name a product or request a feature, you feel a sense of connection to the product, and you want to do more to help it succeed (this is also known as the ).

Challenger banks further encourage this by getting a more tangible buy in from their users through crowdfunding. In February 2016, Monzo broke world records for the fastest crowdfunding of all time by raising £1 million in 96 seconds. In July 2017, Revolut had 40,000 customers from 55 countries pre-register to pledge £17 million for their funding round, a huge oversubscription for their £4 million raise.

As investors and committed users, customers are then much more likely to help spread the word about the product. Revolut in particular uses social sharing very effectively, and recently launched a campaign asking users to share a link on social media to help the company hit 1.5 million customers. If my social media feed is anything to go by, it was a very successful campaign!

By bringing users into their tribe, using terms like ‘us’ and including community members in videos and photos, challenger banks mobilise customers as brand advocates using their personal networks to spread the message organically.


The community building continues offline with company events throughout the countries they operate in. Revolut hosts RevRallies throughout Europe, while N26 hosts regular events at its offices in Berlin and Monzo travels around the UK to meet with customers.

These occasions further solidify the feeling of commitment and reciprocity for the community members who participate.


Revolut’s Educational Resources

Another way to create a committed follower is to give them value that extends beyond product functionality. In banking, this includes resources to help consumers improve their financial literacy. Revolut has their , while Monzo has . By teaching users, they encourage a feeling of reciprocity, where users want to give back to the brand for the help they’ve been given.

The educational resources also encourage a feeling of transparency that most consumers feel is lacking from the big banks. For decades consumers have felt the worlds of credit scoring and cross-border payments are opaque and unfair; by exposing how these processes work challenger banks establish themselves as transparent companies who put the customer first.


As the marketplaces of each challenger bank develop, new customers will start to arrive from their partners’ customer bases. So when Revolut partners with Trussle to simplify mortgage applications, or N26 partners with AuxMoney to lend customers money, those partners will let their customers know, encouraging those audiences to learn more about the product.

The number of marketplace partners is growing rapidly


Why not make your card part of your marketing effort? People regularly ask strangers what their bright coral card is when seeing them make a payment in a shop or bar.

Image result for monzo card delivery

Or that black card N26 are offering….

Design doesn’t just extend to the beauty of the card though. It also encompasses the gorgeous packaging the cards come in, and the wonderfully quick and easy onboarding process once you receive the card.

As traditional financial institutions and startups look for ways to engage with a younger demographic, they should look to the challenger banks for a masterclass in using virality, community, social proof and reciprocity in new ways to acquire customers at very low costs.

For more on how to use the persuasive techniques described above in sales & marketing,


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