Most of what we focus on is the incremental communication. We assume that our target “audience” of financial advisors, investors and the media has a basic foundation. Our work largely involves adding to a stream of communications that build on what’s already known and understood.
More often than not, communications energy goes into the market update, whitepaper or product communication. Social media posts also tend to be incremental, appropriate for their length and the medium.
Investment basics? We leave those to the junior staffers, giving them the responsibility to periodically update the evergreen pieces, which we make available online or via PDF or in print so advisors have something to distribute.
That approach may warrant some rethinking as mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) companies get increasingly serious about engaging investors online and specifically the digital natives (loosely defined as people born after 1980).
Nonlinear And Less Structured
First, there is the issue that all established (dare I say “old school”) brands have—the need to update their communications style to better resonate with these defining characteristics of digital natives:
- Less textual
- Very creative
- Less structured
- Extremely social and predisposed to sharing
And, the investment industry has a greater distance to travel, given its reputation for producing dry, predictable and uninviting communications. No offense.
Take a look at the following videos that reflect an updated approach to introducing some basic concepts. Three are by investment companies (T. Rowe Price, iShares and Franklin Templeton on a more advanced subject). One is published by the Guardian U.S., the other by a UK filmmaker discussing European ETFs. Even if none of them is your cup of tea, you can’t deny that these video producers are making an effort here to tell a story and to keep the viewer engaged.
T. Rowe Price's What's A Mutual Fund?
iShares' An ETF Is Like A Camera
Franklin Templeton's Availability Bias
The Guardian's Your Mutual Fund
Think Tall Films' ETFs: What Investors Should Know
Do You Really Have To?
Over the years, we’ve seen investor education Web content evolve from all text to text and graphs, glossaries, calculators and quizzes. How much has any of that really done for you?
In my experience, there’s no dustier place on an investment company Website than the Investor Education pages. Most of these communications harken back to a day when only the no-load fund companies invested much energy in investor education. That's because they had to. "Load" fund companies relied on advisors to introduce and explain concepts.
That was before. Before the power of content marketing in brand-building was proven. Before online content was actively shared and discussed online. Before digital immigrants became pretty darn proficient at using the Web to extract information previously available only through other channels. Before consumers (including investors) relied more on peer recommendations than professional (including advisor) recommendations. Before investors could be assumed to do extensive online research before presenting themselves to an advisor. And before digital natives accumulated assets sufficient to attract your and your competitors' interest.
Maybe all fund companies "have to" think about how they educate investors on their sites and elsewhere today.
How? Test this yourself: Watch a digital native visit a sampling of five Websites that are new to him or her. If there’s a colorful, engaging video on the home page—talking heads not included!—that’s where the digital natives goes first, nearly every time. Video is the obvious "new" medium to be considering for investor education.
Can You Afford Not To?
Introducing video to your mix is far from a slam dunk. Significant time, thought, creativity and budget needs to be invested to create something worthy—and then promoted. (All the while Sales can be counted on to be asking, “Why are you doing that? What about what we need?”) There’s also the undeniable fact that asset manager videos distributed via YouTube continue to suffer from low viewership. Video works for every other industry and not this one? The next videos need to be better.
What are the chances that you could create such a likeable, helpful video (or series of videos) that could make a difference (prompt Website exploration, drive interest and inquiry, foster sharing, etc.) to your brand’s awareness?
Sorry, that’s the wrong question to ask. Here’s where I'd start: How important are newbie investors (and the advisors they’ll turn to) to your firm’s growth plan, including Sales' objectives? How appealing is the way you currently present yourself to this up-and-coming set of investors who learn differently?
What are you communicating by not freshening your approach?