The Challenge Of Making Remarkable Content

Five, maybe six, years ago, many asset management marketing communications teams were fairly satisfied with their approach to their work.

Mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) firms had corralled the words and numbers that populated their run-rate communications, mapped the review and approval processes, and implemented systems designed to assure consistency, timely automated output and even cost-efficiencies. Comparisons to donut-making were not far off.

All of the hard work invested to get to that place was by no means wasted, and enables a significant communication effort today. In the years between 2008-ish and now, a content factory-like approach has also been put in place to support the heightened demand for firms' thought leadership content pieces.  

But, our work is never done. In 2013, the marketplace’s expectations of content have advanced. Increasingly, the requirement is to create content that’s “remarkable.”

What’s required to create remarkable content is too new to be scripted, let alone engineered. Unlike the routine production of largely text-heavy communications for physical and virtual literature shelves, it's exception-based. The pursuit of remarkable content typically extends time to market (except when market conditions require accelerating it!), taps random groups and individuals not typically part of the communications creation chain, invariably increases costs and yields inconsistent results. 

If most other communications are donuts, think of remarkable content as souffles. But oh, the rush (and rewards) when a piece of content satisfies!

The Formula

There is no prescribing a formula for what makes content remarkable today. It’s likely to be visual, more likely to be non-text than text, may tell a story and may strive to move the content consumer, whether in laughter, empathy or sympathy. It’s often ambitious and in that ambition runs a very real risk of falling flat.

Sorry, this doesn’t help much, does it? If you’re like most people, you know remarkable content when you see it—whether you find it yourself or receive an endorsement of it from someone you know. In that spirit, here are three examples of non-industry content that I (along with many, many others) have LOVED or otherwise found remarkable lately, along with some comments for you. 

Help Us Experience Something

Horse races can be thrilling, but watching them on television or even in person is not a wholly satisfying experience.

Two days after this year’s Kentucky Derby, the digital sports information company Trackus published this video of the winning horse’s path from an over-the-shoulder perspective behind the jockey. It’s exhilarating to view, especially for those who watched the race and saw the jockey making his move right around the 1:17 mark. More important, it adds to the spectator's understanding of how thoroughbred races are run.

Simulating the experience of an investor is tough stuff, which is partly why this industry for so long defaulted to photos of silver-haired seniors on sailboats. In form and substance they're anachronisms and fall short of the kinds of communicating that's called for today.

Starting with Web-based portfolio tools and calculators, the industry has been trying to help investors visualize. Last year Merrill Lynch produced its Face Retirement Tool, which enables people to age a photo of themselves. And, Vanguard’s My Life Ticker campaign, released this March, aims to help investors focus on why they invest and the key factors in their investment success.

There is still lots of room for your firm to offer its own take.

Share Data That Only You Have

I challenge you to bounce off the YouTube Trends Map—you can’t, you won’t! Google’s sharing of the most popular YouTube videos right now, as filtered by location, gender, age group will keep you riveted well longer than five seconds. And then you might bookmark the URL or email/social share to others. It is remark-able.

We see limited data sharing in this space. Every quarter Fidelity produces an analysis of its 401(k) accounts as sort of a time and temperature report on workers’ readiness for retirement. PowerShares shares its ETF inflow data as well as its most viewed Website pages for the week.

I’d be surprised if there’s much LOLing at the asset management content being published today, but smiles and chuckles? It's still slim pickings when trying to find content that’s created to amuse. A few examples include the efforts made in Wells Fargo Advantage Funds' Daily Advantage e-newsletter, SEI’s sharing of photos in its annual ugly sweater contest or the occasional asset manager (namely, @AdvisorShares and First Trust’s @Wesbury) tweets. 

Humor is essential to relationship-building. It’s not just other industries that are incorporating humor into their online communications, it’s financial advisors and firms that serve financial advisors, too. Check out this video from Bob Veres, editor/publisher of Inside Information.

For how much longer can we avoid humor, even while striving to produce more natural investment communications? The introduction of levity is a next frontier for asset managers seeking to optimize and humanize the reach of what they have to say. 

As a matter of fact, just in case this post didn't evoke any emotion on your part, I will close now with an amateur video that I am certain will endear itself to you as something remarkable. In your content planning, don't be too quick to rule out turning to animal videos. Just don't dwell on the words in this one.

Bonus update: Compelling content was the focus of a May 30 Webinar I participated in, along with Morningstar’s Leslie Marshall and financial advisor marketing consultant Kristen Luke. The discussion “Social Media Content Beyond 140 Characters,” as moderated by Blane Warrene of RegEd, covered a lot of ground, as you'll hear in the replay embedded below.