Quick: Which image captures the life of perfection the average American is seeking?
The well-heeled couple clinking champagne glasses on their private yacht, with the wife’s finger sporting an Elizabeth Taylor-style rock?
Or an older couple holding hands, with no visible jewelry, and both wearing jeans they could have bought at K-Mart?
Financial advisors are probably apt to choose the former, but “financial services companies get it wrong,” said Frank Luntz, best known as a political pollster but whose Luntz Global provides language consulting for corporate clients.
Luntz spoke at a session on Tuesday at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles on “The Words to Use and the Words to Lose,” which touched on both words and images his testing finds effective. Luntz, the wily wordsmith and famed focus group master, commented that the downhome image selected by his test population represents the freedom Americans are seeking.
The second couple’s handholding represents the simple companionship Americans crave, while the imagery laden with material things like champagne, yachts and jewelry hint at the burdens of financial pressure.
“Financial services companies and corporations in general have horrible evaluations,” Luntz told the overwhelmingly financial crowd, including asset managers and wealth managers.
Images that work in today’s marketplace show relationships and interactivity, but financial services firms still show cubicles and people sitting behind screens.
The pollster had more to say about effective images, as well as words.
But it is worth noting at the outset that the top phrases he rates as having impact in 2015—Luntz says his words and phrases lose impact after they become commonly adopted, which generally takes two years—all pertain quite specifically to the business of financial advice.
Luntz’s top phrase for the new year:
“You work hard for your money. We’ll work hard to protect it.” Luntz says a strength of this phrase is that it personalizes relations with the client.
Coming in second in his polling:
“A more efficient, more effective approach.”
A third top business phrase, which he says would be equally effective for government:
“Business practices that are transparent, accountable and open.”
“Making sure you’re protected and prepared.”
That last one touches on a key concern of financial advisors with a retirement-focused clientele. Luntz surveyed people on what kind of retirement they wanted.
Overwhelmingly, Americans want a secure retirement—more than “happy,” “worry-free” and other alternatives.