Embracing ‘side bank’ status: 5 questions with Aaron Wollner, CMO of Quontic
- As a community bank turned digital bank, Quontic has its own unique challenges in sticking out of the crowd.
- In this Q&A, CMO Aaron Wollner talks about what’s new in the digital bank’s campaign work and how it’s been shifting its messaging to fit the current financial climate.
Quontic is a New York-based digital bank with its roots in community banking. Having shed its branches back in 2021, Quontic is still new to the digital banking world.
Nevertheless, the company has managed to stick out of the crowd by, among other things, finding new opportunities of being the first in line – whether it’s being the first community bank to go digital or the first digital bank to go meta(verse).
Leading Quontic’s marketing vision is CMO Aaron Wollner, who joined the company about two years ago.
In this Q&A, Wollner dives into the behind-the-scenes of the company’s marketing moves, including its launch of some recent campaigns and shifting messaging to fit the current financial climate.
What’s Quontic been up to in the past few months?
These past few months have been exciting. And that’s due to a couple of recent launches we’ve just had.
For example, about three or four months ago, we launched our pay ring, which is essentially a debit card that takes the shape of a ring so you can pay with the tap of your finger.
Launching and doing the marketing for the pay ring has been a ton of fun because there's all this prep and research that leads up to something like that. And then you have to pivot and learn quickly in terms of what resonates, what's working, and what's not. And so over the summer that really took up a lot of our brain power, energy, and money, quite frankly.
We've also done some splashy things like open an outpost in the Metaverse and throw a launch party around that. We came up with the idea, designed it, and quickly brought it to reality – or digital virtual reality.
Why tap into the Metaverse?
We try as much as possible to do things with dual purpose. The above surface reason we launched in the Metaverse was to be able to say that we were the first digital bank to launch in the Metaverse – it was flashy and we got a lot of coverage for that. And the below the surface reason was that we wanted to test it out.
We figured that if we're going to be a cutting edge digital bank we need to have an informed opinion on emerging technology. So coming into 2022, the Metaverse was probably one of the buzziest things in the tech space at large. And when we looked at each other, we realized we didn't really have an informed opinion about it, and that the best way to get one is to explore it ourselves. And so that's what we did – everything from just figuring out which plots to buy to finding a partner to design something in virtual reality, since Quontic doesn't have that skill set.
And that was all in about a span of 90 days.
And how do you go about marketing a wearable device?
Part of our campaign included influencers. We had some budget set aside, and we identified not just fashion influencers on, let's say, a platform like TikTok, where there’s no real play or brand connection there, but also a handful of really strong financial type influencers on various platforms like YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. And what outshined and what outperformed that was the user generated content that the early adopters – the first few 100 people that got the pay ring – were putting out on social media.
It was really inspiring to see – it's kind of a marketer's dream to have your customers do the marketing for you. There’s nothing like that.
What platforms are you exploring?
TikTok is one. The numbers have shown just how big it is and it’s certainly proven itself as a massive channel for brands to explore. And so we've come up with new ways and new partnerships to help us out with advertising on this platform – like how to put out content, videos, ad units and things like that that don’t necessarily look like they’re coming from Quontic, but from people who are fans of Quontic.
It's really so interesting to see how a campaign can take different shapes through different channels. One of the current campaigns that we have running is around being a ‘side bank’.
The campaign was basically about flipping the script. There are a lot of digital banks out there trying to take other banks’ customers. We don’t necessarily need to play that game. We've got incredible accounts that you can add to your current existing portfolio of accounts. And the fact is, more than half of people out there today have multiple bank accounts and bank relationships, and that's okay. We were sort of having fun with this idea of not needing to be monogamous when it comes to banking.
And the campaign ended up taking different shapes and different directions depending on which social platforms we were using.
What are some challenges you anticipate going forward?
I think from a digital banking standpoint, it's two things – one is sticking out in a crowded marketplace. There's a lot of good competitors out there that are doing similar things. And the other side of that coin is longevity.
I think for a lot of these fintech startups, the name of the game is just growth, growth, growth at all costs. But for us as a more mature business, we have to find a way to keep a startup mentality, while still holding ourselves accountable in terms of CPA and other efficiency type metrics. We can't really spend our way to big growth numbers – we sort of have to earn it and do it efficiently.
And then there’s also the challenge we’re facing within the mortgage industry, since Quontic is primarily a mortgage lender. We just got another rate hike from the Fed, and that impacts the whole economy: google ‘mortgages’ and ‘housing market’ and you’ll see a bunch of scary articles from really big trusted publishers. And they’re not wrong.
Outlasting this downward trend and finding new ways to grow that lending business is going to be the most important thing we need to figure out how to navigate over the short term.
How are you changing your messaging to fit the current financial climate?
When things are hot, I think that you can play it a little bit more fast and loose. But when things are cooling off, you need to make sure that you are coming at things a little bit more seriously and a little more honestly.
That’s not to say there isn’t still room for playfulness and cleverness but we're doing a lot to make sure there's something real underneath that playfulness.
And as far as mortgage lending goes, we have completely honed in on our self-employed audience, and mined our data to build up new personas so that we have a better understanding.
So rather than just thinking about gig worker, freelancer or self-employed small business owner – archetypes your brain tends to conjure up when you think of this audience – we're trying to use our historical mortgage data to build out more specific personas like, say, construction workers, chefs, drivers, etc. And that means setting up campaigns to more directly connect with those more refined audiences.
While in the past, we could succeed by being vague and going bigger, we just can’t anymore, because of the shrinking marketplace. So now we’re going more specific and smaller.