Why Widgets Make Sense For Marketing Investment Products

Like most marketers in 2008, we spent most of the year talking about widgets. When our friends at 50000feet, Inc. proposed one in December we jumped at the invitation to collaborate. SwanDog Strategic Marketing’s DailyDog, the marketing planning widget released today, is the result.

While Dave Swanson, top dog at SwanDog, has blogged about the content offer, I’ll comment here about widgets and their place in digital marketing in the asset management space.

There’s something appealing about just the word widget. Widgets, portable snippets of code, are cute and compact. Who wouldn’t want one? But don’t underestimate the potential to use them to distribute your content and messaging. Advisors and investors just aren't that into asset managers' Web sites. That's the cold hard reality for asset managers whose function is as manufacturers of mutual funds and other investment products.

Only Fidelity and Vanguard—who draw millions of visits a month (see our special report)--can realistically expect to rely on their site as a primary means of distributing their content. (But also see below about Fidelity and Vanguard-related widgets.)

While continuing to maintain and develop their brand sites, the vast majority of investment product marketers need to be thinking about taking their content on the road. With the DailyDog, SwanDog (and Rock The Boat is contributing content, too) is extending the reach of its message, and that’s what a widget can do for your organization.

In planning the DailyDog, we were faced with some of the same challenges you can expect.

  • What to develop the widget in? Choices abound and standardization has yet to take place. 50000feet liked Adobe Air because it's versatile, powerful and works on both the PC and the Mac.
  • Will our target market adopt it? It’s not that we doubt your intellectual curiosity but we know from experience the limits that IT imposes on desktop downloads. Non-boat-rockers may prefer to avoid confrontation altogether and add "Download the DailyDog” to their ever-expanding list called "Work on This at Home."

But, if your access to our widget or social media applications in general is being blocked, we urge you to appeal this. More than anyone, IT can understand the importance of keeping current. As they do for their work, they can create a secure testing and learning environment for you, and Compliance can find a way to hold you accountable.

Restrictions on where you and your staff go online while at work have the very real potential of limiting your ability to continue to freshen your skills as a digital marketer. They threaten the value of the contribution you can make to your organization going forward, which in turn threatens the firm’s ability to remain competitive.

  • Can we maintain it? The only way I survived our first content planning session was to threaten a tell-all blog post as Dave and Bill from SwanDog initially balked at limitations imposed by the structure (No, there’s no negotiating with the character limits and yes, each entry needs a category heading!) and devolved into debating the resume of TV’s Richard Dawson. (Best not to ask.) But a lack of ideas we are not suffering from. We’re confident we’ll be able to send daily marketing nudges to you indefinitely.

We recognize that in your organization a widget represents a new delivery means for IT to support and a new content development demand. Can you justify this added work? How are you going to defend against the rumblings that is just another case of Marketing falling for hype and wanting the next shiny object?

Easy. A widget itself isn’t the strategy—content syndication is the strategy in which a single widget plays a tactical role. Content syndication is what our most thoughtful clients are working on today.

The first widget we’re aware of in this space was introduced by iShares. Whether widgets are in your immediate plans or not, you have to read Chadwick Greenhalgh’s Online Media Daily post in which he explains how iShares’ thinking led to the widget.

"It's not that the results were so earth-shattering that the company canceled all other forms of marketing. However, it was successful enough that our clients started tracking it like a normal part of their media mix. And enough people were using the widget that we were authorized to build a second one," writes Greenhalgh of Euro RSCG Edge.

We highlight the iShares widget on our Best Practices page. In addition, we’re aware of Fidelity Labs' Market Monitor widget (for the PC) and gadget (for the Mac). American Century Investments offers a Google gadget, which can be embedded on a Web page.

And, we know of at least a few others in the works. To make a long blog post short, we're unleashing the DailyDog for a few reasons. To deliver consulting atoms (see SwanDog's post) and to demonstrate that the dogs in the SwanDog/RTB pound are eating their own dog food. Let us know when you launch your widget—or anything else you’re working on to get the word out.