Where's The Fun In The Investment Business?

In real-life some of us can be quite the cut-up. Do investment marketers, and other communicators at investment firms, really have to check their humor at the door?

Before digital, before social, the answer was uh-huh, yes. On a rare telephone conversation a few weeks ago (who needs to talk when you can tweet?), InvestmentWriting’s Susan Weiner and I laughed about the days when something as informal as contractions were frowned upon in investment commentary.

Money management is serious business. Tomfoolery isn’t something that endears a brand to financial advisors or investors. But here and there it is possible to spot some signs of lightening up. Over the last few years (!), I’ve been bookmarking some noteworthy examples. Finally, a few items surfaced this week, bringing my collection to enough of a critical mass to share.

Enjoy these now and I will continue my life's work of funspotting in the investment business.

ETF Tickers That Tickle

Not taking oneself too seriously is a sign of a contemporary communicator. As exchange-traded funds (ETFs) positioned themselves as mutual fund challengers/disruptors early on, it was natural to show a little sass in the selection of their ticker symbols.

MOO (Van Eck Global Market Vectors Agribusiness), DUST (Direxion Daily Gold Miners Bear 3X) and TAN (Guggenheim Solar ETF) are just three ETF tickers representative of the naming creativity among issuers. 

One of my all-time favorite product names was from the now-defunct Claymore Securities (a former employer but this naming predated my stint): the Claymore/Zacks Yield Hog ETF, which perfectly communicated the fund’s objective to traders. Sadly, it was later renamed to Guggenheim Multi-Asset income ETF, defaulting to words believed to appeal to a broader audience.

When A Cartoon Can Capture The Culture

We're all familiar with the difficulties of finding imagery to communicate the features and benefits of the non-tangible investment business. This can be a significant obstacle when faced with the need to provide some visual relief on a Website.

Branding that relies on illustration is rare on the Web. Even rarer is the investment firm that turns to humorous cartoons. The cartoon below is from Ajo Partners’ Philosophy page. I also like the cartoon on the Contact Us page, too. It's a bit edgy for this space.

The Fun In Being Interactive

For some, fun comes wrapped in a quiz. Quizzes have been the rage online for a while now (of all the content published by The New York Times in 2013, a quiz ranked as the most popular).

In this category, there’s no more prolific fund company than U.S. Global Investors. This commodity producer quiz suggests the fun and educational experience provided.

In its award-winning FutureMoves iPhone app released in 2011 (followed with a Website), MassMutual stepped out a little with irreverent messaging intended to focus Gen X and Gen Y on possible retirement scenarios. As shown in the video below, the app involves the addition of a photo of someone and then ages the image, making some predictions—see the first at 0:52.

It’s funny (“hilarious,” according to one iTunes reviewer) and makes the point.


As you can tell by now, a fun communication doesn’t require belly laughs. People who consume investment content all day every day appreciate any effort. An unexpected reason to chuckle, smile, even snicker is all we’re looking for to mix things up. It will be remembered, if not always shared.

Let’s start with a fairly new, social-initiated holiday—#ThrowbackThursday or #TBT—and work our way to the high holy day last celebrated Tuesday.

There’s nothing to bring a community together like taking part in a hashtag. #TBT involves the very specific task of sharing an old image (read more about the meme here), and every Thursday brings a new set of updates from brands and individuals, all clustered together by the use of the hashtag.

A handful of investment firms can be counted on to post #TBT updates on Twitter, Facebook or both some Thursdays.

Here are a few recent #TBT posts from Northwestern Mutual, Fidelity and Scottrade.

Obviously, there's room for more firms to take part in Throwback Thursday and with even more imagination. If your firm has any story to tell whatsoever, you can come up with some image-based reminiscences that will both entertain and give your followers a glimpse of your firm's roots.

Not Just For Lovers

Valentine’s Day-related social updates from firms are quite common. But I still LOL when I look back at some 2012 tweets that resulted from a #FedValentines groundswell. They were loosely related to the U.S. economy and Fed policy. (It was what Business Insider called one of the Internet’s nerdiest memes yet.)

The iShares #FedValentines tweets (two examples are shown below) were mostly self-serving, didn’t drive a lick of Website traffic but c’mon, don't you like iShares just a little more because of them?

3 Takes On April Fools'

The April Fools’ celebrations this year started slow.

Fidelity offered a Popsicle-stick quality joke on Twitter and Facebook.

A publication has more latitude than an investment firm. Still, there was extra effort shown when The Economist devoted its daily chart to the comparison that all others know to avoid: Apples to oranges. I loved this, actually. The screenshot below is just a slice—be sure to check out the whole piece.

Finally, the imaginary prize in the investment space for celebrating April Fools' 2014 had to go to FMG Suite. The firm, a marketing solution for financial advisors, created a genuine spoof video for a "world where people still have fax machines."

You have to click on the image above to go watch the 1:30 video on the FMG site, which will take you away from this site. That's OK, don't worry about me. Go. Enjoy yourselves. I want you to have fun!