Don't mention the M-word

Money is a sensitive topic. It’s awkward, people don’t want to ask questions. But a number of brands are challenging that mindset and helping consumers open up.

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE


Talking about money is awkward, especially if you’re British. How much you have, what you spend it on, whether you have more than your friend or parent or partner. People don’t want to talk about it and so, for years, we just haven’t. We’ve changed the subject, become embarrassed, angry, or simply got up and left the conversation.

When talking about finances, the word anxiety springs up a lot. Recent YouGov research commissioned by Lloyds Bank revealed that money is an even more sensitive subject for families to talk about than sex, politics or religion. 1 in 3 people reported money-related stress or anxiety in the last month while 63% said they “felt better” after speaking to someone about their financial concerns.

Most families, couples and friends will talk about all manner of private and personal matters yet never embark on a financial discussion. For some, it’s the last taboo. But now, a few financial brands are encouraging people to open up about money, aiming to instil transparency and honesty in the conversation.

We have seen many a banking start-up appear over the last few years. They are helping the sector change its tone of voice by making the conversation friendlier and more open, suggesting that finance is a sector that can be understood by everyone. Gone are the days of lengthy jargon and murky concepts. In their place come clarity, humour and even a little bit of irreverence. For example, Monzo’s tone of voice guidelines officially endorse the use of emojis as part of their copy style.

Although this informal style mightn’t work for every brand, those like Monzo who operate with generally positive content, are having a productive impact on people’s willingness to talk openly about finance. They are bringing clarity to the market and demonstrating that your finances are something that should not cause anxiety but instead, should be something you have better control over.

UK adults believe talking about personal money matters is taboo
have lied to family and friends about personal finances
have felt embarrassed talking about personal finances

Don’t mention ‘The M-Word’

We all have them, those words that you weren’t allowed to utter at the table. Most of them were swear words or words you heard adults say and then quickly retract. But what happens when that word isn’t an expletive but rather a subject that could actually do with a bit of airing?

This stigma is something Lloyds Bank is exploring in their latest campaign from adam&eveDDB, ‘The M-Word’, which sets out to examine the family taboo of talking about money. The 30-second launch ad sees families skirting around a subject saying things like “we prefer to keep it private” and “this is a touchy subject.”

The campaign’s aim is to stop families evading talking money, putting off the conversation or simply shutting it down altogether. Lloyds wants consumers to feel more comfortable handling this subject and to recognise that sometimes it’s those difficult conversations that are the most important ones to have, especially with your family.

Lloyds have partnered with Relate, a charity that specialises in relationship support, to help find ways to make conversations around money easier for families to have. This includes being prepared to listen as much as you are to talk, as well as remembering that conversations about money can in fact help strengthen relationships. Within the partnership, they are also launching a series of ‘The M-word Courses’ to help people broach the topic of money at key life stages like marriage or leaving home.

Lloyds is also training all their in-branch and telephone banking staff members to help support customers with conversations around the topic. The bank’s goal is to destigmatise the subject because, as the campaign says, “It’s good to talk about money.”

adam&eveDDB, London
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Nestlings gamifies saving

To most people, the idea of saving money is a stressful one, often causing more guilt than enjoyment. But a new app from Thought Machine Labs, an experimental arm of fintech company Thought Machine and Glitchers, a London-based game studio, has been designed to make money-saving more delightful. Nestlings connects securely to your normal bank account while little creatures called nestlings squirrel away small amounts of your money for you. You choose your characters and each one performs different money-saving tasks; Rai-N puts money away if it’s raining, a tall dark creature pops some in if you spend after dark and Wonda, a little bird, saves if you avoid public transport for the day. The app is about slow investment, growing your nest egg ever so slightly every day and diversifying the opportunity to put some aside. To keep users engaged with the app, the creators designed milestones within the game that feel like you’re moving up a level. Slated to launch in late 2019, the app is another example of how gaming is being valued beyond its principal purpose, that of entertainment.

Thought Machine, London & Glitchers, London

Searching for ‘money calm’ with Moneysupermarket

We know that money means headaches. Anyone who disagrees is either lying, has the luxury of a personal accountant, or has just won the lottery. For Moneysupermarket, they want to take their consumers “From aagh to aaah” in their latest campaign from Engine, ‘Get money calm.’ The relaunch of the brand includes new advertising, logo, visual identity, website, app and CRM programme. The more personalised and painless offering helps consumers feel increasingly in control of their finances. The relaunch comes as the brand expands its offering to include personalised services like bill management and credit monitoring. The TV campaign, voiced by comedian Matt Berry retains the entertainment that the brand is so known for, adding a degree of humour and light-heartedness to a traditionally serious subject matter.

Engine, London
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Individual anxiety sees the Big Issue & Monzo ‘Pay It Forward’

How people shop and what they read has changed. No one has change in their pockets anymore. Big Issues sellers know this as on average their vendors sell just one copy of the Big Issue per hour. In an increasingly cashless society, how will their jobs survive? Partnering with Monzo, the Big Issue worked with FCB Inferno on a campaign entitled ‘Pay It Forward’ to create the world’s first re-sellable magazine. When you’ve read it, you can then sell it on using the QR code printed on the cover. The money then goes straight back to the original vendor, eventually helping sellers get off the streets and into further training.

FCB Inferno, London

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