Ten brand-advertising lessons for financial firms

I recently heard a senior marketing executive at a top global investment firm discuss their highly successful brand-advertising campaign.  (He addressed a group of about 300 people, but I’ve kept him anonymous as I didn’t have permission to attribute his remarks.)

His lessons are noteworthy, and so is the campaign, which has been very visible for well over a year – a remarkable commitment considering the financial crisis is still fresh in the minds of investors and volatile markets are an everyday occurrence.

Here are the ten lessons he shared.

1.  Advertising in a down market pays off.  The campaign has helped the firm capture market share and assets, and it leads its nearest competitor by a wide margin in consumer tracking studies.

2.  Powerful ideas matter.  The best campaigns have a strong point of view. They change perceptions and drive clients to the firm.

3.  Engage employees.  The campaign played as well inside the firm as outside. And by getting employees involved, they became powerful ambassadors who told the firm’s story every day.

4.  Involve media partners early. The firm came up with the core idea for the campaign, but used the talents of its agency partners to develop specific applications.  It allowed the firm to benefit from their agencies’ best thinking while keeping a unified voice.

5.  Leverage all channels. The campaign was applied to everything the firm said or did – a 360-degree approach to marketing that covered public relations, website design, customer service, training, even building signage. 

6.  Take risks.   To get a successful campaign you need to take risk.  The status quo won’t cut it, nor will least-common-denominator approaches that seek to please everyone. 

7.  Measure continuously.  Research doesn’t stop once the campaign is launched.  Metrics are crucial to knowing campaign’s impact.

8.  Spend big or don’t bother.  Reaching customers today requires many channels – print, television, digital – and a substantial budget.  A great campaign without an adequate media budget won’t get off the runway. 

9.  Stay the course.  A great campaign can keep going and going, raking in new customers and assets along the way.   Most firms end their campaigns too soon, even successful ones.   

10. Marketing is just one part of the delivery chain that touches the customer.  Marketing can do a lot but it’s no substitute for great customer service.

These are great lessons for companies in any industry, but they’re especially powerful for financial services firms.  Many have scaled back their brand advertising, both in terms of spending but also ambition.  That’s to bad.  Advertising – as one part of an integrated communication plan – should get more investment, not less, at a time when financial firms need to engage their audiences, redefine their strategies and create an alternate narrative to counter the popular view that finance is somehow “evil.”  I don’t see many institutions pursuing that course, although the recent “Progress” campaign by Goldman Sachs is a step in that direction.  Perhaps others will follow.


One thought on “Ten brand-advertising lessons for financial firms

  1. Pingback: BofA: Advertising or Action? | Risk Matters

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