Some Encouragement To Keep Working On The New Stuff

Inside your company, I know there’s lots of discussion about the rationale for the new social stuff. That’s good because outside, the drumbeat continues—for mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketers and for all marketers. The old stuff isn’t as impressive as it used to be.

I submit two pieces of content for your consideration today.

First, specific to the investment industry, is I’m Not A Financial Professional, But I Play One On TV, an I Heart Wall Street blog post published yesterday. The blogger is Scott Bell, a financial advisor who runs a California-based RIA but keeps his blogging and wealth managing separate. In aggregating six YouTube videos of celebrity commercials over time, the point of the post is to challenge the SEC’s position prohibiting the use of clients in testimonials.

Just to give you a taste, here’s one involving an introduction by Betty White to life insurance policy settlements.

“…The regulators don’t want actual clients on an Investment Adviser’s Linkedin or Facebook page saying stuff like, ‘He’s honest, OR he always takes my call, OR he took time to explain everything…' That would constitute way too much of an endorsement. Conversely, hiring Mike Dyczko (Dtika’s real last name) to shill an annuity? Totally kosher,” writes Bell.

Uh-oh, A Dumb Marketing Idea?

When I landed on the post and saw what it was about, the first thing I did was search for “marketing.” Because we all know that a Marketing team was behind each and every one of those videos. Somebody in Marketing made the argument, secured the budget, was the staff point person in the celebrity negotiation, went to the shoot, led the celebration of its first airing, maybe drove the posting to YouTube, etc. Luckily, this post didn’t comment on Marketing’s responsibility (culpability?).

Marketing was implied, however, in this line: “And it must work, or else why would companies keep doing it?”

The success of celebrity endorsements across-the-board is an under-studied topic and I have no contribution to make here. But I will opine that for many companies, the authority and budget to execute a celebrity endorsement has represented a coming of age, almost a vote of confidence in the brand that would no doubt be enhanced.

Do the endorsements “work” against articulated goals? It's a valid question to ask today. And, does the return on investment (ROI) calculation take into consideration the extent to which they “turn off” important constituents? I Heart Wall Street is not alone in his sentiment. Follow some financial advisors on Twitter and you’ll see plenty of snide remarks about the current crop of endorsers.

Authenticity: An Enterprise-Wide Project

Never mind the SEC (easy for me to say, right?), I believe celebrity endorsements are quickly becoming an anachronism. They reek of fakeness at a time when authenticity is what builds trust. With all due respect, did Betty White embody the vision and commitment of the insurance company she’s vouching for? Or, was she available and at the right price—as she was when she also endorsed Q-Tips and Tyco Toys?

And this is pretty much where I ended this post last night until I watched the following video this morning, which you too might find relevant.

In the almost 5-minute video, Nate Elliott, Forrester Research vice president, principal analyst, says he believes there’s a difference between the development of a “new-fashioned” brand and an “old-fashioned” brand. Listen for the different role that Elliott believes Marketing plays in the collaborative building of the new-fashioned brand—and the timing of the branding messages. Not to be a spoiler but where do you think celebrity endorsements fit into a new-fashioned brand model?