Is content marketing relevant to financial institutions like banks and credit card companies? This might be the year the Fortune 500 are spending big on things like hiring a Chief Content Officer or a creative content agency, but there is a school of thought that says brands that have suffered a serious amount of damage to their reputation would perhaps do well to keep their heads below the parapet.
But therein lies the rub. Financial brands have the most to gain from content marketing. The problem with reputation is that it’s perceived on a macro scale: it’s either that of a faceless, soulless corporation or the behemoth monster that gobbles everything in its path. Both will appear to have as much humanity as Godzilla joining the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Face the faceless
So how does one address reputation on a grand scale? Scale it back down again.
A big push advertising campaign on a global stage could be construed as throwing money at an instant fix, which of course won’t help matters. Using creative content marketing and specifically business storytelling techniques to pull people in, however, can help. How one does that exactly will vary depending on how your overall business goals and customer personas align with your marketing methods, but the general rule is to give people the content they want to hear about.
Mega-corporation Unilever has tried to achieve this of late with a swinging shift of focus towards its sustainability efforts. Coming at it from another angle is Scottish Widows, whose digital marketing plan uses short video content about the ordinary people with an engaging life plan. The finance part of it is more or less supplementary.
In this regard, American Express has done a brilliant job of an effective and sustained content marketing drive. AmEx’s social media strategy has gone from strength to strength, hitting both businesses and individual consumers. The @AskAmex Twitter page that kicked it all off set AmEx on the path of thought leadership – the go-to, ask-me-anything-about-business authority. Following that was the enormously successful AmEx-sponsored Small Business Saturday initiative on Twitter and Facebook, which ensured initial uptake with incentivising offers of $20,000 business-makeover competitions and cash payments to the first 10,000 businesses to sign up.
This all evolved into Open Forum, an AmEx sub-site allowing entrepreneurs and business people to exchange ideas and engage in meaningful business conversations.
Indeed, Southerly currently works with RBS on its Bizcrowd site, which does much the same thing by providing an ideas forum and service exchange platform for small business owners, start-ups and entrepreneurs.
The Barclaycard family
Last year, Barclaycard smartly partnered with Mumsnet on producing a microsite called Shop Talk, aimed at its family customers (a massive demographic) taking advantage of its credit reward programme – Freedom Rewards. The site not only drives meaningful conversation about family spending habits but additionally takes the form of a YouTube-hosted TV talk show to drive engagement. Each week is a different theme and ends with a competition to win Freedom Rewards prizes.
Incidentally on a more general level what Barclaycard is doing notably well is to keep a tab on its performances – especially on social media, using its specialised Reactivity Operating Model – reporting back on the data and adapting its methods accordingly to see what content works and where. Lucy Wren, Head of Social Media at Barclaycard, recently described its social metrics mapping tactics, which try to steer away from vanity metrics alone, but look to these relative signals as competitive benchmarks and indication that the long term strategy is working and sustaining. And when it comes to convincing a curmudgeonly board of the effectiveness of content marketing, these are indicators one can literally take to the bank.
But back to the storytelling, in each of these cases one can recognise a softly-softly approach to associating a financial brand with helpful, meaningful engagement. It positions the brand in a place where people feel comfortable to come to you, painting a kind face on the big behemoth.
The ideals fit very much with the ethos of storytelling in the broader sense, and why content marketing in this sense works on a human level. Stories help us help each other, and painting a financial business in this sort of light can only be an advantage.
Happy Easter – See you in a week!
The Southerly Blog will be on holiday this Good Friday and Easter Monday, so we’ll see you in a week. Until then, it’s a very hearty Happy Easter from us to you!