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How Financial Services Brands Can Benefit from Consumers’ Content

On the surface, financial services isn’t known as a particularly sexy or compelling industry. Wrought with government regulation and mathematical complexity, brands in this space can’t seem to garner the same level of excitement as their counterparts in other consumer verticals. Why not? A combination of the above forces, a lingering negative public perception, and the lack of a clear and strategic focus on consumer engagement has made it difficult for the industry to succeed in today’s transparent and customer-driven marketplace.

Still, if you consider the breadth of services that these brands provide, at their core, they are omnipresent throughout each and every tentpole moment in a consumer’s lifespan. From college and retirement savings plans, to auto, home, and school loans, to wealth management, financial services are paramount in helping us as consumers live comfortable and fulfilling lives. This is the narrative that these brands need to be telling (and showing) their audiences.

Especially in the experience economy, consumers care less about specific percentage growth and more about how financial strategy can enable their desired lifestyles. Through comprehensive and personalized rewards programs, as an example, financial brands have the opportunity to move beyond the tentpole moments in their consumers’ lives and impact their day-to-day experiences as well.

Here are three strategies that can help financial services brands better engage and convert their consumers:

Capture Consumers’ Content in Rewards Programs

Social platforms have long been used to field questions from customers and to solve issues they are having with a brand’s products and services. More often, however, brands are turning to social channels like Instagram to collect and activate high-quality content being shared by users. For brands in the financial vertical, there exists an enormous potential to showcase the incredible experiences enabled by rewards programs.

More specifically, Citi has done a great job of engaging audiences through a curated Instagram account, and using this relatable channel to speak on its social initiatives. For example, using dedicated hashtags such as #StandForProgress and #TeamCiti, the brand has showcased individuals celebrating social advancement in various capacities. Citi also has an eye on the content being shared by its customers  –  re-gramming quality imagery that helps serve the brand’s vision.

The Citibank Instagram account also appears to focus more on experience-driven marketing efforts, featuring brilliant imagery from travelers taking advantage of the partnership between Citi and American Airlines, using the hashtag #CitiAAdvantage. While this is a cultivated, brand-run account, there are other examples of consumer-led content generation outside of a brand’s involvement. For example, the partnership between Chase and United Airlines, and specifically their Chase United VIP Lounge, has resulted in content sharing at various airport locations. Even though this is a highly specific example, brands like Chase and United have an opportunity to encourage consumers to share more high-value content and then use it across their other marketing channels.

Financial brands have spent lots of time and resources on developing robust, exciting rewards programs. By encouraging customers to enjoy those benefits, and share their content on social channels, brands like Citi will have an incredible opportunity to create deeper, more meaningful reward marketing experiences.

Activate Your Consumer-Generated Content

Traditionally, many marketers have believed the goal of marketing is strictly to get a consumer to the point of purchase. More than any other industry, financial brands recognize that the lifetime value of a consumer is so much more important than any single transaction. If you can engage and inspire a young person you may have his or her loyalty for fifty, sixty, or seventy years. Truly, financial brands have to plan with not only the short, but also the very long term in mind.

With such an elongated and complex buying cycle, it can be very difficult for brands to create enough relevant content to support each individual purchase opportunity. This is why consumer-generated, or “earned,” content has become such a valuable tool for brands in this space. Mastercard is perhaps most famous for their “Priceless” campaign, which has transcended advertising and become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon. Today, there are over 4 million photos on Instagram tagged with “#priceless” and though not all of them are affiliated with Mastercard, you have to believe a great deal of useful consumer-generated content is shared that can be used across all brand channels.

Catch a game at Fenway Park and go inside the Green Monster wall! See what #PricelessBoston has to offer.

A photo posted by Mastercard (@mastercard) on

Perhaps one of my favorite storytelling examples in the financial realm is the “Day One” campaign for Prudential, done in tandem with the advertising agency, Droga5. Recognizing that millions of Baby Boomers were entering retirement, and likely to live longer into retirement than previous generations, the brand turned the camera on everyday people and shined a spotlight on individuals during their first day of retirement. Now, the brand has moved into a secondary campaign with, where retirees are sharing content related to their activities post-retirement. Although it’s such a simple activation, it is one that not only engages the target audience but also engages younger generations as well.

Demystify Financial Topics with Content Portals

Finally, another way to engage existing and potential customers is through the use of dedicated microsites, or “content portals.” Financial topics can be overwhelming for many consumers, and so brands that are able to educate the market and alleviate anxiety will be top of mind when those consumers are looking for a place to invest and grow their wealth. Several brands are already doing this, though with mixed results. In fact, according to research by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), while 78% of marketers in the financial industry report using content marketing, just 25% consider their efforts to be effective. In our estimation, this gap could be caused by varying levels of dedication.

Content isn’t something that can be passively executed. Instead, brands that fully invest in their content programs and are willing to adapt to changing trends are far more likely to see results. This is another area where consumer-generated content can be employed: Helping consumers to educate one another while also fulfilling the immense volume of content required to service a dedicated portal.

As noted by CMI, Wells Fargo is a great example of a brand that has adapted their content to consumer behavior. Beginning with a magazine several years ago, the brand has sought out to be a leader in serving small businesses. Most recently, they’ve overhauled their content strategy to create a dedicated digital portal known as “Wells Fargo Works for Small Business,” which includes short-form content like videos, infographics, and digestible articles.

Financial brands have a unique opportunity to learn from their customers, and to curate, activate, and measure stories through earned content. From there, they can extrapolate the content across all channels, including social, display, email, website, and even offline in magazines, direct mail, and outdoor efforts.