Is the Tech Tail Wagging the Marketing Mutt?


Asset Management

Jasmine Butler Burnham

Marketing Manager

The Financial Services Forum

Over the past few years, programmatic buying, content platforms and robo-tools have all entered into the competition for share of asset management marketing budgets. With a ripe DC pensions market on the horizon, the opportunity to engage with a new demographic of consumers is burgeoning. But is the cost of new tech driven solutions eating into budgets and providing little return? And more importantly, are tech solutions hitting the mark in terms of increasing customer engagement – will they ever replace traditional media and human interaction?

On Thursday 19 January, we were joined by a stellar line up of panelists, keen to share their viewpoint and expertise. Chairman Piers Currie, Group Head of Brand at Aberdeen Asset Management, was joined by Patrick Ingram, Head of Corporate Partnerships at Parmenion Capital Partners, Jeremy King, Publishing Director at Interactive Investor and Rupert Hodson, CEO and Co-Founder at Dianomi. A wealth of experience amongst the panel, each participant with a unique background.

Following a brief introduction from Piers, Patrick kicked off the debate by posing two questions to the panel. Firstly, is financial services marketing sufficiently well-funded? And secondly is the digital budget spent wisely? No, to the former and 6/10 for the latter, it seems. A quick observation of the live televised US Super Bowl highlights the difference between financial services brands in the US and the UK. In the US, big spend FS advertisers sit on traditional media alongside the likes of Coca-Cola and Hyundai, whilst in the UK, the majority of FS brands are noticeably absent from TV advertising.

Yet there is a market to be reached and brand awareness to be built. A new demographic of 40-60 year olds with a £200k pension pot seek a consolidated easy-to-understand solution that manages itself and is invested with a brand that they trust. Evidence demonstrates that baiting this audience online may not be the most effective way to engage, particularly when taking into consideration that there may be two decision makers in the household and yet rarely two seats at the iPad. And whilst robo-tools are undoubtedly a powerful part of the marketing arsenal, the nature of financial decision making means that many customers still report the desire to speak with a representative.

That’s not to say that there is not a time and a place for robo-tools. They have certainly improved the online presence of advisers using white-labelled tech to demonstrate the values and purposes of their firm. But as far as customers are concerned, the next step will always be to take the engagement onto the phone and speak to a representative who can handle queries, validate brand values and kick-start the admin process.

Building upon this, Jeremy King pointed out that whilst companies can certainly use marketing and brand tools to encourage investment, it may be too tall an order for financial services companies to expect to be able to ‘activate’ behavior amongst those without money to invest. Ultimately the role of customer communications remain to educate and to articulate the capabilities of the asset manager at a time that is contextual and relevant to the audience. And digital does indeed have a part to play in this.

In response to Patrick’s observations on US financial services companies, Jeremy noted that whilst a more generic approach to advertising has been adopted, this can be difficult to translate to the asset management industry in the UK. We are battling against a risk-adverse audience and offering complex products. Furthermore data and third-party providers mean that the relationship itself may not even lie with the asset manager.

With the advent of programmatic, Jeremy believes that context is more crucial than ever. Businesses must avoid ‘approaching customers in the dark’ and deliver messages at the right time by developing a greater understanding of when potential customers are making financial decisions. Programmatic means that you can indeed attempt to approach customers when they are shopping or watching a football game – but this should not be confused with ‘talking’ to people. Context is the bread and butter of the equation. We know that customers are likely to be making financial decisions from end-Dec to end-Jan so by recognising this and optimising both digital and traditional channels, therein lies the opportunity to begin a timely discussion.

Finally, we must not forget that a risk-adverse mentality sits across all levels of wealth, not just the lower mid echelons. Jeremy noted that it is crucial for asset managers to effectively articulate what they are good at to customers in order to circumvent this mentality. We know that most 30-50 year olds do not feel ‘together’ when it comes to their pensions. We also know that they want a 30-40 year retirement solution but lack the knowledge to consolidate their pots and build the pension they require themselves. Across all media, communications must focus on the ongoing journey to – and past – retirement, rather than the product or solution itself.

In the digital age, the advent of content marketing gives asset management brands the opportunity to demonstrate depth and distinguish their specialty against competitors in a way not previously possible. Context, clarity and relevance of content is crucial, as Rupert Hodson discussed. And as a content platform listing the likes of BlackRock, Fidelity, Barclays and Lloyds Banking Group as customers, Dianomi put context at the forefront of their agenda when considering how best to drive results.

With learnings from the US a commonly recurring theme in this discussion, Rupert noted that US firms are leading the way with their ability to execute ‘always on’ content campaigns, delivering highly relevant and targeted content whilst simultaneously monitoring audience engagement and scroll-through rates in real-time. Measuring content in a tangible way is key.

Whilst driving traffic to provider websites is one element, the end-game will always be engaging and educating the end user, with the aim of building trust and brand strength within that specific content field. Continuity and continuity of quality are crucial factors in achieving this level of cut-through with sponsored content, and furthermore it must always be relevant to the audience it is served to.

As such, optimization and testing remain an ongoing struggle – and asset managers must accept that they cannot follow customers throughout their sales journey, nor quantitatively measure levels of understanding amongst readers. However providing that the fundamental purpose of the content offered remains to educate, inform and improve understanding of the service offered by asset managers, it will never cease to be budget wasted. In fact, as Patrick noted, any concession towards increasing consumer understanding can only improve the overall quality of the asset management industry as a whole.

It is worth noting that the session was very interactive, with audience members influencing the direction of the discussion on a number of occasions. Thank you to Rupert, Jeremy, Patrick and Piers for an interesting, asset-management debate.

So, is the tech tail wagging the marketing mutt? Please continue the debate below by adding your comments.

Jasmine Butler-Burnham
The Financial Services Forum

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