Why doesn’t financial services marketing work?

Financial Services score lowest of the ten sectors measured in this year’s Most Connected Brands Index.

And that’s no surprise.
We’ve all got used to the perceived wisdom that financial services is seen as boring.

Banks are the personification of boring.

Insurance is the classic “grudge purchase”.

The investment industry speaks a different language.

But it shouldn’t be like that.

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The financial services industry enables many of the joys of life. The joy of buying that first house.

The ability to enjoy a better retirement. Survival when things go horribly wrong. The sweetness of seeing money turn into more money. The industry should be better at telling its own story and better at being relevant and connected to its customers.

Although you can no longer see it, money still does make the world go round.

The part of the industry that most helps people live their best life, namely payments, has the easiest job. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The top-rated brand, PayPal, has made sure that it never seems like a bank and that shows in its ranking.

And if you go to festivals and gigs, you’ll see Mastercard alongside you, striving to give you a customer benefit. It can be done.

Underlying the industry’s problem is its inability to define its purpose and value to society.

Problems with public perceptions of executive pay, gender pay gaps and attitudes to diversity have silenced many of the industry’s leaders and left the industry timid. This will not wash in the modern world.

Businesses that look and sound like the establishment are out of favour.

People will soon want to know what a business is doing to combat climate change and balance inequality.

It won’t be long before Greta Thunberg and her fellow travellers turn their gaze to financial services.

The presence of Nationwide at number 56 in the top 100 validates this argument. One of the UK’s last remaining mutuals, Nationwide has deployed the whole range of marketing and communications techniques to articulate its social purpose. And it has worked.

The elephant in this particular financial services room is the price comparison industry.

As anyone who’s watched television recently will know, between the betting and car advertising they will be urged not to be confused, or to strut or to go to the cinema for half price.

The absence of price comparison businesses from the top 100 is a sign of brand failure, rooted in highly repetitive, hollow marketing, that has worked commercially but has not connected with the people.

Ten years on from the financial crash, all of Britain’s major banks, with the exception of RBS/NatWest, nestle at the lower end of the rankings, between 81st and 106th.

This reflects their creditable response to political and societal pressure. However, it could be judged as a poor return for the huge changes and investments in brand that they’ve each made.

In future years it will be fascinating to see how these banks fare against the challengers Metro and Starling, not to mention Monzo and Revolut.

My suspicion is that to survive and prosper, the major financial services brands need to shed their timidity, explain how they benefit society and engage with the key issues affecting their customers.


2019 Most Connected Brands Index by Opinium

Full report downloadable here >>


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