The biggest driver of digital advice over the next five years will be the conversion of clients from traditional brokerage relationships to robo-advisors. That’s what Cerulli Associates reports in its 2018 retail investor survey that found a whopping 59% of investors aware of not a single digital-advice platform of the 10 presented in the questionnaire.
Meanwhile, large financial services firms continue running expensive television advertising campaigns aimed at further expanding their global brand awareness.
The companies, however, are wasting their money trying to beef up awareness, says Ken Schmidt, former Harley-Davidson communications director, who helped turn around the motorcycle maker when it was near death. “What the financial firms don’t need is awareness — what they need is preference. They clearly need to be engaging at a different level from what the other firms are doing.”
Whether companies are attracting new clients via TV commercials, only proprietary metrics will reveal.
ThinkAdvisor recently asked Schmidt and other marketing experts to share their views on firms’ current TV ads.
Fisher Investments’ commercials seem ever-present on TV — and on radio and on the internet, too. Some commercials depict a client physically leaving their existing money manager for Fisher, which “tailors portfolios to your goals and needs … and calls regularly,” so intones a voice-over.
“Ken Fisher is often called ‘The King of Marketing,’” says Marion Asnes, president of Idea Refinery, which creates marketing strategy and custom content from Westchester, New York. “He’s the only person who’s been able to bring the concept of fiduciary to life without saying the unpronounceable, incomprehensible F-word.”
Charles Schwab’s “Techy” ads featuring an Alexa-like device and a frustrated FA trying to prevent a client from moving to Schwab, also stands out from the pack, according to Schmidt, author of “Make Some Noise: The Unconventional Road to Dominance “ (Simon and Schuster-Nov.2018.) and who is based near Washington, D.C.
“Schwab is saying, it’s not who we are — it’s who we aren’t,” Schmidt says. “They use a little bit of humor but also attack the primary fear people have of the financial services business — that these guys are all out for money, and it’s more about them than about [clients].”
At this point of uncertainty and wild market swings, firms are hoping the ads will reassure investors. But it is critical that each commercial message resonates with the target audience. And, certainly, because a decade after the financial crisis, folks remain skeptical about Wall Street, the messages need to be credible.
“The most effective commercials appeal to people’s dreams and aspirations,” says Marie Swift, president and CEO of Impact Communications, a Kansas City, Kansas-based marketing firm serving advisors and financial services firms. “The best elements play to their emotions without looking like they’re trying to be manipulative. They have to be a real story, not one that feels contrived or inauthentic.”
Sometimes advertisers attempt to reach two birds with one stone, as it were. For instance, with at least one Fidelity ad, “The message is for boomers, but the music — ’70s and ’80s rock — is for Gen X people in their 50s,” Asnes remarks. “Now the retirement industry is going after their money, too.”
“Trust us” is what the firms try their utmost to convey in TV ads — but success in concept and execution vary, according to the experts.
A Wells Fargo commercial that apologizes for the bank’s scandalous behavior, then says you can trust them again, garners a low grade.
“Why should we trust you now?” Swift comments. “Did you not hold yourself accountable before? The proof is in the pudding: Let’s see if you’re trustworthy now. Current news about the company doesn’t look that way.”