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Why Acorns Ads Work: Advertising Advice for Fintech Apps

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By Brian Bowman, CEO of ConsumerAcquisition

We’ve analyzed the best performing fintech ads based on Facebook Ad Library data to see why they are working. Overall, we’ve observed:

  • Images are as, and sometimes more, effective than videos
  • Retirement/investment messaging performs better than advisor messaging
  • Provocative or question-based copy performs best
  • Vague headlines are not as effective as direct headlines 

Acorns, the micro-investing app aimed at democratizing investment, is utilizing several ad creative trends successfully. We go deep on how Acorns is tapping into unique user motivations in the fintech space. 

Tying persona-led ad creative to user motivation is what Facebook calls a “future-proof solution” for UA and creative teams. With the negative impacts of IDFA loss, including erosion of lookalike audience targeting and A/B testing, focusing on personas is the most efficient lever for sustained profitable user acquisition. To better understand why people hit that install button, our creative learning agenda incorporates intensive research into app genre, personas, and user motivations.

Fintech apps and sites we reviewed

Acorns, Fisher Investments, Lending Tree, The Penny Hoarder, Northern Trust Wealth Management, Dave: Banking for Humans, Current: The Bank for Modern Life, Coinbase, Crypto.com, M1 Finance, Finimize, Kabbage: Small Business Loans, DOSH, Edward Jones, Edelman Financial Engines, Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, myFICO, YNAB, Mint, The Balance, Personal Capital, Marcus by Goldman Sachs, Wealthsimple, Robinhood, Nerdwallet, Stash, Earnin, Motley Fool, WalletHub

FinTech ad creative trends we identified

  • App Overview/Feature Benefit: An image or video that communicates overall user experience and/or specific features. (Dave, Current, Coinbase, M1 Finance, Finimize, Edward Jones, Credit Karma, many others)
  • App Overview/Tips & Quizzes: Communicating app features and/or benefits through advice or quizzes. (Fisher Investments, Marcus by Goldman Sachs, Persona Capital, Penny Hoarder, Nerdwallet)
  • Testimonial: Focused on a user’s review and/or experience of the app. (Penny Hoarder, Dave, M1 Finance, Dosh, Credit Karma, YNAB, Personal Capital, Wealthsimple, Robinhood, Earnin)
  • Influencers: Utilizing influencers and/or celebrities to deliver the primary message. (Personal Capital)
  • Promotional: Contests, promotions, gift cards and other rewards for using and/or downloading the app. (Lending Tree, Current, Coinbase, Crypto.com, M1 Finance, Robinhood)
  • Current Events/Topical: Having to do with recent news or impactful events. (Lending Tree)
  • Social Connection: Involving people connecting on social media or via text. (Dave, Finimize, Earnin)
  • Meme: Comedic text on an image, often building on something that’s already viral. (Credit Sesame)

Motivational triggers that cause people to use fintech apps

  • Milestone birthday: Realization upon reaching a meaningful age that retirement is approaching, triggering a newfound sense of urgency and/or responsibility.
  • Job change: Change can evoke a sense of anxiety and need for financial security and control.
  • Sold/bought a home: Taking on more debt or suddenly getting an influx of cash from a sale can trigger overwhelm or a need for guidance.
  • Legacy: Receiving an inheritance or estate planning can trigger tax and investment questions.
  • Paid off debt: Increased cashflow from a lack of debt can trigger the desire to make responsible, future-looking decisions
  • Simply being proactive: Seeking guidance on budgeting, saving for retirement, planning for the future, etc.

Why Acorns Ads Work

“From acorns, mighty oaks do grow.” This is the promise Acorns makes to its users by offering investment accounts for families, retirement, checking, earning opportunities, and a knowledge hub. In their ads, Acorns uses simple phrasing that feels accessible and easy while leveraging many different creative tactics to appeal to user motivations.

Creative trends Acorns uses in their ads include

App Feature Benefit: Mapping a real-world example alongside a screenshot of user experience highlights the value of the app. This also appeals to the desire to be financially proactive (without having to do too much). 

App Tips: Pairing investment advice with outcomes highlights value. Using milestone birthdays triggers a sense of urgency and responsibility. 

Influencers: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s own financial story appeals to users and provides an opportunity to be proactive. Acorns also use Ashton Kutcher and Steve Harvey in their ads. 

Promotional: Receiving a monetary reward from the app itself shows it is a partner in creating financial freedom. Claiming the promotion is an affirmative, proactive step in that partnership.

Ad Creative Concepts for FinTech Apps


Trend: App Overview—Feature Benefit

Create concepts that focus on the overall site experience, as well as specific features

  • Appeal to different financial triggers (home buying, job change, retirement, college, etc.)
  • Try copy tied to a positive emotional benefit rather than fear-based messaging (e.g., “Retirement? You got this.”) 

FinTech companies utilizing trend:

  • Acorns, Dave, Current, Coinbase, M1 Finance, Finimize, Edward Jones, Edelman Financial Engines, Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, myFICO, YNAB, The Balance, Marcus, Personal Capital, Wealthsimple, Robinhood, Stash, Nerdwallet, Earnin, Fisher Investments


Trend: App Overview—Tips & Quizzes

Feature advice and/or quizzes

  • Communicates key benefits/features by engaging with the user
  • Appeal to different financial triggers (home buying, job change, retirement, college, etc.)
  • Explore a diverse range of user representations
  • Explore refined illustration in addition to portraits 

FinTech companies utilizing these trends:

  • Fisher Investments, Marcus by Goldman Sachs, Personal Capital, Penny Hoarder, Nerdwallet, Edward Jones 

Trend: Testimonials & Reviews

Feature user and media reviews

  • Written reviews are easiest to produce
  • Can test versions that feature independent media reviews and user reviews
  • UGC testimonials are a simple way to review the site
  • Explore individual user profiles


FinTech companies utilizing trend:

  • Penny Hoarder, Dave, M1 Finance, Kabbage, Dosh, Credit Karma, YNAB, Personal Capital, Wealthsimple, Robinhood, Earnin


Trend: Influencers

 Utilize celebrities or influencers to promote the site:

  • Inset or split-screen, combining influencer with site graphics
  • Full-screen influencer testimonial, before cutting to app use and end card
  • Can also work with static images/quotes from the endorser

FinTech companies utilizing trend:

  • Acorns, Personal Capital


Trend: Promotional

 Create a promotion where visitors to the website can register to win money or other prizes:

  • Creates an incentive to visit the site
  • Prizes could include:
    • money for retirement fund
    • Help with house down payment
    • Pay off of a credit card
    • Free financial planning from a fiduciary for a year

 FinTech companies utilizing trend:

  • Lending Tree, Current, Coinbase, Crypto.com, M1 Finance, Robinhood 

Trend: Social Connection

 Create concepts that leverage social platforms:

  • Used successfully by John Hancock in TV ads
  • Texting can be a good way to tell narrative stories in an inexpensive, easy-to-produce format

 FinTech companies utilizing trend:

  • Dave, Finimize, Earnin


Key Takeaway

The aforementioned are the latest trends and what’s working right now for FinTech ad creative. Leverage these ad creative trends successfully to optimize your campaigns and stay competitive in this market right now.

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