Renewing Trust in the Dollar1 Aug, 2009 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response
The recession inspires DR companies to uncover creative new ways to reach customers in financial services.
Marketers have built campaigns around renewing consumer trust, while at the same time, offering up new products that may help Americans make more money and wisely save the money they already have. Agencies are putting new spins on traditional direct mail pieces, to create value for consumers, and using new digital media tactics, such as social marketing, to engage customers in conversation about their finances.
The biggest difference between marketing in the finance industry and selling hardware or electronics is the trust factor. With the recession, regaining trust means marketers have to convince consumers — via television, radio, mail or online — that their products are safe.
"Everything else is an object that you buy with your money, but in financial services, it is your money," says Tom King, principal and creative director of Malvern, Pa.-based 23K Studios Inc. "Often, products sold are based on material possessions that you have to decide, 'Do I spend the money for this item?' You're going after a desire. But financial services is the protection and growth of your money."
Intuit has found great success in marketing its well-known income tax support product TurboTax through online social communities such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. The company sees these communities as a fun and engaging way to get customers familiar with the brand.
It's not just about convincing customers that a blender or a blanket will make their life easier and more enjoyable, but it's about making money and saving money. "A year ago, everyone was sitting pretty with the standard way of doing things. Now people are eager to try something different because the old way isn't working," says Ava Seavey, president of New York-based Avalanche Creative Services Inc. "But I think it is creating opportunities for marketers to try something new."
Personal finance marketing is not about the yell-and-sell. It's about inspiring financial security. "Financial services products are more problem-oriented and address consumers' fears, anxieties and ignorances about money, [like] how to get more of it or how not to lose what little they have," says Malcolm Karlin, president of New York-based Karlin + Pimsler. He says that gaining trust means tapping into consumers' emotions. "It's about security, avoiding embarrassment and also greed. It's very emotional," says Karlin.
Bank of America's in-house agency, Creative Solutions, won a Benny — a DR award from the Philadelphia Direct Marketing Association — for this University of Georgia Checking Self Mailer.
Seavey contends, "When you're expecting someone to pay you, it doesn't have to be deadly serious, but the approach is of extreme importance," Recently, she hasn't advised her clients to use testimonials because she believes consumers distrust them. In addition, she anticipates that new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) testimonial regulations are going to focus heavily on the financial services and diet industries, causing her to wonder why a campaign would include testimonials that will have to be changed in the near future. However, she adds, "I think it's going to be good for our industry that we're going to have to tell a story in different ways."
Customers are not only looking for reliable products and services, but also ones that solve a problem and make something unpleasant a little bit easier. This is the idea behind Intuit's TurboTax, a product that was created to make doing taxes easier and help consumers gain a bigger refund. During its first 22 years in business, Intuit did no advertising and solely relied on word of mouth to help build its brand.
A lot of this recommendation strategy is what helps make the product a success in the online social community channel. Intuit has learned to make the customers its promoters, through contests and games in channels such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. For instance, last year, TurboTax created a campaign in which the company periodically posed tax-related questions to consumers as part of a contest. For instance, "If you were president, what is the one thing you would make tax deductible?"
To enter to win, contestants had to put their answers, along with TurboTax's name, in their status update on an online social network of choice. "It was a fun and engaging way to include the brand," says Scott Gulbransen, senior manager, public relations, consumer group at San Diego-based Intuit.
Last year, Intuit also did a major sponsorship with Facebook for six free secret concert announcements on MySpace. Basically, on the day of a show, MySpace would announce where a musician or band would be performing. It was a great way to get the brand out there, especially among the younger consumers, and to get them to spread the word and take a serious look at their taxes.
Beyond honesty and problem solving, consumers in this market are looking for hope. Karlin + Pimsler is currently running 14 short-form spots for companies such as J.G. Wentworth, OutOfYourLife.com, NetQuote.com and American Tax Relief, and believes that the audience does not need to be banged over the head with their problems because they're living with them. What the consumer wants is hope, both through humor and humanity. "We're recognizing their situations and delivering our clients' messages in ways that are engaging, upbeat, entertaining and irresistible," says Karlin.