GUEST COLUMN: What SJP’s big brand campaign says about ads in financial advice

Lucian Camp

Brand & Marketing Consultant

Lucian Camp Consulting

Lucian Camp is a financial services brand consultant, copywriter, author and blogger. He co-presents the On The Other Hand podcast.

In the wake of SJP launching their new brand campaign, Lucian discusses why financial advice ad campaigns are so hard to land.

It’s coming up to 30 years since the first big, proper TV campaign for financial advice arrived on our screens – Allied Dunbar’s excellent “Let’s Face The Music And Dance” campaign from Bartle Bogle Hegarty, which launched in 1995,

I was impressed.  It seemed clear to me that we were witnessing the emergence of an important new sector.  Before long, other advice brands would surely emerge, from acquisition or consolidation or whatever, and with the assistance of more multi-million pound ad campaigns would come to dominate the market.  Who knows, perhaps my agency could even win one of them.

Well, we’ve waited rather longer than I expected for a second big, proper ad campaign to put alongside that first.  St. James’s Place’s first TV effort just launched today.

It’s not bad.  It’s a thick, quite nicely observed slice of life, featuring 20 years or so in the development of the relationship between a tousle-haired, widowed architect and his daughter;  at a couple of points in the story he benefited from good advice from his SJP partner, but to be honest I didn’t notice quite what the advice was and I don’t suppose it really matters.  The version I saw is 90 seconds long, and I suspect it won’t be easy to tell the story in much shorter time-lengths:  nevertheless, the budget will dwindle away awfully quickly without some ruthlessness in the edit.

But anyway, be all that as it may, finally, it’s here.  There are  now two big, proper TV campaigns for financial advice in this country.  But why on earth has it taken so long?

Allow me to refer you to Page 1 of the Beginner’s Guide to Brand-Building. Page 1 says that the first essential requirement, long before you start with the ads and the logo design and all the marketing flim-flam, is a consistent and differentiating proposition = some kind of aspect which your product or service can own, and which can enable your brand to stand out from other brands.

In financial advice, pretty much every firm which has considered this brand-building business has fallen at this first fence.  So far from having a consistent proposition, most firms with numbers of advisers don’t even have a consistent name.  Last time I looked, over half of SJP partners don’t actually do business under the SJP brand at all.  I doubt if it would occur to many clients, or prospects, of Clearwater Wealth Management, or Peter Harding, or Fortress, or any of the other hundreds of firms with quite different names, that these firms are embraced within the brand promise embodied by the nice woman who advises that tousle-haired architect.

I must be honest, and say that this does strike me as a fairly fatal flaw.  There are many quite complex ways that brands can fail to make a strong connection with their advertising campaigns, but doing business under a completely different name does seem like one of the more avoidable ones.  Still, on the upside very roughly half of SJP partners do do business under the SJP brand, so I suppose that’s OK them.

Now that the number of big, proper advice brands advertising on TV has just doubled, are the floodgates about to open?  I think not, and for this same reason.  In recent years quite a lot of firms of one sort or another have embarked on plans to scale advice businesses, mostly by acquisition of one sort or another – but almost all of them have proudly announced, as a positive and fundamental principle, that they have no intention of consolidating their growing organisations’ brands or marketing activities, and that on the contrary, they’ll leave all that under the control of the micro-businesses they’ve been busy consolidating.

To a brand and marketing person like me, that sounds as nuts as announcing that your new consolidated hairdressing firm, for example, is going to succeed and expand without scissors.

But what do I know?  I’ve already admitted to being 30 years out on the timing of the SJP campaign.

Previous article

Janus Henderson Investors appoints new EMEA marketing head

Next article

St James’s Place launches Sky Arts sponsorship

Get access to valuable thought leadership from the financial services marketing industry

Keep up-to-date with current trends and changes across marketing and financial services is vital in this fast-moving business environment.