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"CMO talk" with Amabel Polglase of Zilch: Europe's fastest ever double unicorn

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"I hope we start to see more fintech brands acting like consumer lifestyle brands and connect emotionally with customers. I am all about blending the old with the new when it comes to marketing."

In today's edition of our #CMOTalk series, we chat with Amabel Polglase, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Zilch. Zilch, founded in 2018, is a London-based Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) fintech company that allows customers to purchase products by paying a 25% upfront fee and then split the subsequential payments over a six-week period - with Zero interests, Zero hidden fees, and Zero surprises. In just over a year, Zilch has managed to gain over 1 million customers and become Europe’s fastest ever double "unicorn", with a valuation of $2bn.

Amabel joined Zilch at the beginning of this year and she's been instrumental in the company's scaling journey in the last few months - since her joining, customer sign-ups have grown 40% month on month.

With a diverse background in business, marketing and entrepreneurship at giants like McCann-Erickson and Facebook, she also has a strong track record in fintech, having led marketing for brands like Curve and Gather over the past 4 years.

In September, Zilch launched a new brand campaign featuring its first-ever TV ad. For the creatives, the fintech worked with the London-based creative agency, St. Luke's.

The ad features freestyle dancer Sharifa Tonkmor, who appeared on BBC Young Dancer, dancing for joy as she finally gets to wear a long-awaited pair of trainers. She is then seen getting her hands on the trainer – and taking a bite out of it, which is then revealed to be a cake, identical to the brand-new pair she’s wearing.

A sense of euphoria takes over as she enjoys the delicious treat, representing how you’ll feel when you discover the benefits Zilch can bring to your life. She then discovers a trolley filled with items (also made of cake) appealing to the Gen Z audience: headphones, make-up, and games controller which can all be bought with Zilch. A voiceover states: ‘So finally with Zilch you can truly have your cake and eat it’ with the message at the end encouraging downloads of the Zilch app to get stuck in.

The aim of Zilch's new campaign is to encourage people to sign up for it by celebrating the brand’s benefits and highlighting how Zilch offers freedom from fees and spiralling interest payments.

Here, Amabel joins us in discussing Zilch's new brand campaign, as well as the development process behind it and Zilch's big plans for the future.

What is Zilch's new brand campaign all about?

Zilch is a Buy Now, Pay Later product that offers customers several ways to manage their cash flow. This campaign is all about our 'Buy Now Pay Later' product that comes with 0% interest and no hidden fees. We give people the freedom to buy what they want without the worry.

The creative idea behind the campaign communicates that Zilch takes the pain out of payments, liberating people to experience the delicious, un-adulterated thrill of getting what you want without the worry. With Zilch you can literally have your cake and eat it!

Can you walk us through your campaign development process?

My background stems from both Ad agencies as well as tech startups. I am a firm believer in using the "old" CPG Marketing tools and blending them with Growth Hacking for a successful startup to scale up. I also believe that brand building is as important as sales activation at the very birth of a business.

We have been in the fortunate position of having had successful fundraising rounds this year, which has meant we have had the cash to invest in our brand. We started with a proper qual and quant customer segmentation study to glean insights into our target. We then worked with two top London agencies, St Luke's for Creative and MNC for Media buying. We are delighted with the campaign and will be measuring its success with proper brand awareness studies.


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Besides TV, what other channels will the campaign focus on?

We have used Social Media and Ads appearing in the Daily Mail and Metro to amplify the campaign.

We also ran a really fun campaign on Instagram asking people to bake something they really wanted, and we bought the items for the winners. The winning cakes were a designer handbag, a Dua Lipa concert ticket, and a trip to Paris. We had some very happy customers!

Brand building is as important as sales activation at the very birth of a business

What's next for Zilch?

We are fortunate enough to have just become a double unicorn, so I think we will be spending money!

We are launching in the US shortly and that is a major focus for the business. Brand building in the US is a lot more expensive, so I am working with our US Marketing Team to ensure we spend money efficiently.

What trends do you think will be shaping the fintech marketing space in 2022?

I am not a huge fan of typical Fintech branding. It all feels like a sea of pastels and the current trend leads us towards uniformity rather than originality. Brands are blending in when they should be standing out.

I hope we start to see more Fintech brands acting like consumer lifestyle brands and connect emotionally with customers. As I said, I am all about blending the old with the new when it comes to marketing as I believe it is the best way to get long-term growth and increase a company's valuation.


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