OPINION As the 2022 ISA deadline looms, how can financial services brands cut through the noise?

Dan Fernandez

By Dan Fernandez, Co-Founder & Executive Creative Director of EveryFriday, which created the new Barclays campaign ‘Wake Up Your Money’.

As we approach the end of the financial year, banks across the board are taking steps to encourage customers to think more seriously about how they manage their money and – crucially – to pay more into their ISAs.

The challenge here for marketers is how you ensure your brand stands out from the competition, especially when you’re faced with the same brief year after year and every player in the market is trying to say the same thing.

The job at hand is simple – to remind people that they need to make the most of their money before the end of the tax year. This is cyclical, turning up every year, just like Santa and the Easter Bunny. But how can financial services brands rise above the noise and not add to it?


Stay Relevant

The key is relevance and tapping into the mood of the moment, because, while the product might be the same each year, the world changes and people change.

When looking at how to make your marketing relevant to how people are thinking and feeling right now, it’s important to reflect on the past two years of lockdown, which have created a whole new cohort of savers who are sitting on cash that they haven’t spent due to the pandemic and the restrictions on daily life. Consider the money that may have been spent on holidays, socialising and even the daily commute. Many of these people will feel they should be investing their money, but they don’t know how or even where to start.

At the same time, a sense of financial anxiety has emerged that has led to a situation of paralysis, with job insecurity, rising living costs and interest rates all coming together to stop people in their tracks. Whilst they know they should invest, they are nervous about making the wrong decision and consequently don’t do anything with their money.

FS brands looking to rise above the noise should be looking at ways in which they can give people the shake they need, a friendly financial slap in the face, to wake them up to what’s possible. It should be a far cry from the nondescript portraits of customers that you often see driving the marketing for many of the banks.

As long as you’re focused on how people are thinking now, you should land up with an original campaign that stands out from the crowd.


Don’t forget the regulations

It’s important to note that, for an industry such as Financial Services, marketers find themselves faced with restrictions on both sides – not only in terms of the wider regulations from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which released the new Financial Advertising Code in November last year, but also restrictions relating to the brand itself, its proposition, values and narrative.

ASA regulations are not to be ignored, as a number of cryptocurrency firms found last year after getting slapped for marketing promotions that were misleading about the risk associated with their investments. Companies including Coinbase, eToro and Luno were among those who were criticised by the ASA for “irresponsibly taking advantage of consumers’ inexperience and for failing to illustrate the risk”.

Facing both internal and external restrictions, marketers must overcome the increased challenge of how you do what every other brand isn’t doing. The bottom line is you don’t want to blend in, because if you don’t get noticed you might as well not exist.


Build trust

For the creation of outstanding marketing campaigns, the relationship between brand and agency is fundamental, and nowhere is this truer than in Financial Services.

Trust is the pivotal ingredient in this relationship, because the reality is there will be difficult conversations to have along the way, and as agency partner our job is to provide the ammunition for you to get the work through your internal approval processes.

Our job is to gain brand attention, but to do that you may have to do things that you may not be comfortable with. There is a lot at stake and there are many parameters about what you can and can’t do. Make no mistake; going to the edge is tricky, but absolutely necessary. We must stay aware of the concerns that naturally exist and be mindful of them, but through a trusted relationship, it’s possible to take people along with you.

It’s also crucial not to allow the work to get diluted. The truth is it’s easy to get chipped away by different people from different departments within your organisation, the result of which can be a campaign that simply won’t get noticed. Simply put, defend and protect the work as much as possible.

Make no mistake. The work has to be on brand and respectful of its values. But it’s about taking your marketing to the edge of what’s possible to get the attention you need, in order to win the financial race.

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