At the most recent Financial Mail AdForum event, held in association with Ornico, the financial services sector came under the spotlight. Typically a competitive industry, financial services has been affected by the constrained economy and by a consumer base that doesn’t believe that bigger is always the best. With an alarming deficit of trust, consumers are willing to give new market players a chance instead of blindly following the traditional market leaders.
Suzanne Stevens, executive director for marketing at BrightRock, spoke at the AdForum event, saying that marketing an insurance brand in today’s landscape is challenging on many levels. “There is the belief that the financial services sector brought the global economy to its knees; we have consumers who have little trust in brands and to whom legacy and tradition mean very little, not to mention a crop of fin tech start-ups who are taking on the traditional market players – and making headway,” she said.
In this environment, GDP has shrunk by 2.2%, business confidence is down and the honeymoon phase for the country’s new leadership is now over. President Cyril Ramaphosa is tasked with rebuilding the economy in what is predicted to be a global economic slowdown and there has been a 12% drop in the purchase of new long-term insurance policies. Growing a new business in this environment is no easy task.
THE BIG TAKE OUT
Differentiation in the cluttered financial services sector requires an innovative approach that connects and engages with consumers on the emotional level, where they make decisions.
Stevens points out that most financial services brands use a one-directional broadcast strategy, with the bulk of their adspend going to television, making the space extremely cluttered. Moreover, with media consumption as fragmented as it is today, and consumers quickly discarding the belief that one must stick to one brand for life, it’s become clear that a new strategy is needed in order to differentiate.
Behavioural neuroscience has gone a long way towards showing how consumers make decisions, and Stevens reports that decisions about financial services providers are made on an emotional level. “We need to provide consumers with the tools they require to make decisions – the facts and figures – but equally crucial is creating that emotional connection,” she says.
If financial services companies are to differentiate their brands in this environment, perhaps challenging the status quo is a winning strategy in what has become a hugely competitive environment. Consumers make emotional decisions and we need to connect with them at this level, says Stevens.
While there is still much value to be found in traditional marketing methods, innovations related to content marketing and social media platforms create opportunities. Stevens says the key premise of the strategy is making emotional connections with consumers and creating conversation and engagement.