FINANCIAL AGENCY PERSPECTIVES
Gramercy Institute has invited a select group of top financial-specialized agencies to come together to form what Gramercy Institute calls its “Financial Agency Short List.” This agency group is strictly by invitation-only and is limited to about 20 different financial agency brands. This group spans a wide selection of expertise/focuses (i.e.: media, communications, branding, PR, full service, digital, etc.). Their common bond, of course, is deep expertise in financial services marketing and communications.
Gramercy Institute invited leaders at these financial agencies for their individual perspectives on how the financial marketing industry will (or will not) change in the next 12 months. Here’s how they responded:
EMI STRATEGIC MARKETING
Anthony Nygren, EVP, EMI Strategic Marketing
A year ago, many of us thought things would look more like a pre-pandemic “normal” today. Instead, we have an “almost-post-pandemic normal” that lives up to the cliché that the only certainty is uncertainty. There are as many economic predictions for 2022 as there are predictors; every week seemingly brings news of a new merger, acquisition, consolidation, or disruption. We're in the office then remote then back again.
Amidst all this uncertainty, the one certain thing about financial services marketing in 2022 from our perspective is that success will require getting serious about clear, transparent communications that help customers solve the problems of their own uncertainty. This means:
Not simply “focusing on benefits” or “selling solutions,” but using a deep understanding of customer challenges to craft and tell a story of how your offerings can alleviate them.
Being smarter about who your customers are as individuals and shifting through terabytes of data for insight that enable effective segmentation and personalization.
Anticipating and adapting to their changing circumstances and attitudes with speed and agility by continuously gathering intelligence and interpreting what it means for them and what they need from you.
Communicating not only across standard marketing channels (email, social, web) but across all potential customer touchpoints—webcasts, OOH, platform sponsorships, chat, social direct messaging, sales and support channels.
In the past, marketing has tended to be one of the first budgets cut in a time of uncertainty, but it is this context of uncertainty and challenges that makes us believe this time may be different. Marketers’ success in stepping up to meet the needs of their organizations during the unprecedented disruptions of the last two years, combined with the ongoing uncertainty, should drive marketing investments—provided that we as practitioners deliver on the promise of reaching customers where they are with messages that resonate.
Kevin Hearn, Director of Strategy, Editions Financial
We’re seeing an emphasis on doing more with less, necessitating more precise funnels and routes (fuelled by data where possible). There is also the issue of Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) rankings by Google, with particular scrutiny on financial websites for their authority and trustworthiness of information – what you say, how you say it, and where you say it are all under the microscope. If financial marketers didn’t put much stock in longform content, they should now, as this format is being actively used in algorithm ranking – and a suppressed website is an unvisited website.
Many of our clients are wrestling with ESG messaging as they may have specific aligned products but have weak spots elsewhere in their organization. And as many client organizations are large and diverse, finding a cohesive, consistent and authentic messaging framework for ESG factors is a challenge we are helping to solve.
Audiences are increasingly savvy to any type of ‘washing’, so if you have a statement to make, ensure it is backed to the hilt with iron-clad evidence and case studies. The same goes for transparency – anything that is on an improvement journey should be recognised and addressed, with a timeline of how and when it will be achieved. Mission statements need to become mission timelines.
And finally, financial marketing is more likely to become more human / customer-centric over 2022 – the story is not what the business can do, but how it exactly benefits, serves and improves the lives of their customers.
Andrew Chesney, President, NA, Fundamental Media
With the sunsetting of 3rd party cookies on the horizon in the next 18 months, marketers will have to find alternative ways for targeting, attribution and performance tracking. Brands will need to revisit tried and tested targeting tactics which are based on legacy analytics platforms like Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics. They will require new technologies that provide accurate audience targeting that aren’t reliant on 3rd party cookies, and therefore are compliant and respecting of privacy.
There is a growing awareness around the detrimental impact of the demise of 3rd party cookies. Attribution is being severely compromised by the use of cookie based legacy analytics platforms which are not able to make adjustments for cookie consent platforms, privacy settings, ad blockers and bots. It’s essential for any business that their decisions are based on true and accurate information that is not powered by 3rd party cookie data. Financial marketers should be looking for enhanced technologies that can be easily integrated into their existing platforms to provide accurate means of tracking advertising effectiveness and website performance.
GATE 39 MEDIA
Sarah McNabb, Chief Marketing Officer, Gate 39 Media
With the pandemic still a factor, the pivot to digital should be fully in place. So, while not new to 2022, it is worth emphasizing that financial marketers must learn to be masters of data collection and analysis to inform strategy. From establishing KPIs, to directing the creation of personalized prospect and customer experiences, to measuring ROI, data is the essential starting point, end point, and iterative point. And with the incredible number of data points available, it will also be critical for financial marketers to understand what their most relevant data points should be.
Financial marketers will need to keep pace and continuously educate themselves on the changing needs of the financial industry, particularly as it relates to the pervasiveness of blockchain and cryptocurrency. With regulation, Google policy updates, and a myriad of market changes, financial marketers must continue to educate themselves to “know thy customers” and the issues important to those customers in order to better serve them.
With a likely increase in digital ad spend across the board, in terms of spending trends for financial firms seeking to engage with the next generation of investors, we foresee more spend on channels such as Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok where financial influencers and large financial brands are getting creative to deliver tailored content.
Andy Seibert, Managing Partner, Imprint
Over the last two years, many industries have gone through a digital transformation. Financial services, included. On both the B2B and B2C sides, delivery of product information and the ability to make informed transactions have gone through radical changes. The digital transformation will continue into 2022, which will demand the attention of marketing, as companies strive to make customer digital experiences truly one-to-one. In addition, there is another radical change coming for financial services marketers: open banking. As consumers are introduced to open banking, marketers will need to be prepared to maintain brand loyalty among customers. The client will truly be in charge, having easy digital access to all of their financial information, and marketers will need to add value and create distinction so as not to be seen as a commodity.
Paul Leibowitz, Owner, Leibowitz
Digital. Digital. Digital. The pandemic has taught us, or reinforced the idea, that successful outcomes can happen with limited or no human interaction to initiate the conversation. Our clients’ target audiences are much more receptive to providing contact information and receiving automated responses than they were two years ago, and I see this trend continuing. In addition, I’m seeing clients become more comfortable with using their CRMs to their intended functionality and this is also enabling more targeted digital marketing.
Culture. Culture. Culture. With little actual differentiation in financial services products, how a financial institution presents itself and their culture is a true differentiator. Firms that are successful with this are those that have been able to eliminate the gap between their internal perception and the external perception of their firm. This is difficult to achieve because it requires corporate introspection and an effort to align all employees.
Andrew Goldberg, EVP, Chief Growth Officer, Makovsky
Feedback from our clients indicates that Recalibration of brand and product strategies is the marketing theme of 2022. We are seeing the convergence of heightened international tensions, changing Fed policies, and increasing scrutiny of of the underlying performance of recently hyped investment sectors (tech shares, underperforming IPOs, and poor ESG performance). This environment makes 2022 a time where financial marketers will face even tougher investor questions around volatility and performance.
Robert Powers, EVP, Financial Services Lead, MERGE WW
2022 will bring us yet another phase of the pandemic and marketers will need be ready for what that will demand. In the first phase of the pandemic, marketers made do with ad hoc solutions and unfamiliar technologies to keep connections with customers and prospects alive. In the second phase we had opportunities to use dedicated technologies and well-crafted tactics to communicate without the normal human touch. In 2022 marketers in the financial world will need to find ways to merge storytelling and technology to return the human element to how we communicate with and serve our customers. That may mean traditional human interactions. It may mean supplementing virtual interactions. In either case, we can be certain that success means meeting consumers where they are and in the ways that make them feel most comfortable. To be a successful marketer will mean providing choice and flexibility—but also ensuring that the human element is always available. To support greater loyalty. To grow trust between consumer and provider. To enhance cross-sell. To make consumers feel valued and understood.
2022 will be about defining and codifying the new-normal. The most successful marketers will find unique and unexpected ways to deliver a human touch as a core part of their brand and of the experiences they deliver. This goal won’t necessarily be cheap—we see companies making new investments to develop breakthrough marketing approaches. We don’t predict record budgets–and maybe even flat year-over-year– but we do see organizations making strategic investments that can help drive growth and support both retention and acquisition.
Kevin Steen, Principal, Sullivan
As 2022 ramps up, we’re seeing some trends across our financial services practice that we expect will have staying power:
The elevated role of marketing and branding at specialized firms. We’re seeing more activity than ever across private equity, real estate and other alts-driven managers, along with independent wealth managers. These firms are investing heavily in marketing talent, along with the time and money to ensure their brands feel differentiated, authentic and future-facing.
A heightened sense of urgency around employer brand and recruitment marketing. Even the most prestigious firms are racing to hire the talent they need to keep up with record growth and make meaningful progress on DEI initiatives. We’re seeing HR and marketing teams come together to crystallize messaging around culture and purpose, and arm recruiters and managers with the resources they need.
A busy year for product launches and expansion. Last year’s M&A activity, media announcements and regulatory filings gave us a preview of what’s to come: established mutual fund firms venturing into ETFs; traditional players dabbling in alts; wealth managers buying up fintechs and launching new digital offerings. It’s going to require marketing focus (and significant budget dollars) this year to make these new products stand out in such a crowded space.
Major tech investments taking shape to drive better customer experiences. After a couple of years of playing digital catchup, marketers now feel more confident promoting products and services formerly seen as sub-par, and investing in plans to aggressively test and evolve new features and benefits.
All signs point to another transformative year, with the role of marketing crucial in helping firms venture into new markets and attract more discerning customers and talent.
Joanna Carlish, Managing Director of Financial Services, Tag
In 2022, brand marketers and their creative partners will be further challenged to elevate marketing to meet rapidly evolving standards set by out-of-industry leaders. To maintain a competitive edge and take the overall customer experience to the next level, we believe smart marketers will allocate resources to address these trends in the year ahead:
1) The pace of digital transformation will continue to accelerate, building on the momentum necessitated by the pandemic.
Financial marketers will continue to improve virtual services within a hybrid suite of offerings. The digital experience will extend beyond the website to include optimizing apps, envisioning virtual reality, and digitizing aspects of the in-person experience through QR codes and video for greater personalization and convenience.
2) Nimble, fintech companies will begin preparing for the metaverse while more traditional financial institutions will take a watch-and-see approach, further widening the chasm between them.
Forward-thinking brands will explore more interactive marketing channels and techniques that bridge the gap between the physical and the virtual worlds. They’ll identify how they want their brand’s physical spaces, people, and resources represented in the metaverse and work with companies like Tag to start digitizing products such as credit cards, ATMs, and other key products and tools.
3) Consumers will increasingly judge and choose financial services organizations based on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria.
Financial brands will evaluate the tangible outworking of their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) and sustainable solutions. Working with agency partners and vendors that have shared values and accountable practices will enable progress toward those ends.
Cheers to an exciting season of continued transformation.