Jim Misener, president of independent branding and creative agency 50,000feet, discusses the complexities and challenges of working with clients in the financial services categories.
Why have financial services categories always been difficult to develop breakthrough creativity?
Unlike product brands, service brands are often more difficult to market because they are intangible, requiring more skillful and subtle strategies to educate the public about differentiating characteristics, competitive advantages, and rational and emotional advantages. Since services are inherently invisible, awareness and recall strategies cannot rely on visible product differentiation. Strong marketing describes and explains these differences and brings key differentiators to life through storytelling. Stories should connect services to the hearts and minds of their audience in other resonant ways.
Financial services brand marketing often requires educating the public about the complex and highly technical aspects of capital markets and financial planning. Marketers need to simplify the complexities of service offering, then provide both rational and emotional drivers to inspire audiences to action. Additionally, the financial services industry is highly regulated, which means brand marketing must avoid promiscuous messaging and often requires incorporating lengthy disclosures into brand marketing.
When 50,000 feet starts a project with a financial services brand, what is the difference between your approach and that of other categories?
For the most part, our process is the same. To anchor our work in any industry, our team begins by gaining a deep understanding of a client’s business and their strategic imperatives and objectives; their brand strategy, which includes their positioning and guidelines; and most importantly, an understanding of their target audience, including their pain points and motivations. Additionally, we believe great brands need to educate as much as they inspire, and financial services brands in particular need to strike that balance.
How has this helped your customers in practice?
Our team has extensive experience and expertise working with preeminent financial brands across a broad spectrum and in many capacities, ranging from some of the world’s largest asset managers and capital markets to high-growth emerging fintech start-ups. . Our team helps clients develop brand strategy and marketing programs; integrated brand and customer experiences; branding and visual identity systems; websites; customer experience initiatives; public affairs programs, communication with employees and customers; talent management and recruitment; and sales enablement/customer engagement programs.
How is 50,000feet’s way of working with financial services clients different from other branding agencies?
At 50,000 feet, our expertise differentiates our work for customers and drives significant, above-market returns. We have decades of experience working with the most disruptive and fastest growing tech brands, and building B2B and B2B2B2C platforms is at the core of our business. We are experts in developing brand narratives for complex B2B systems in technology, payments, FinTech, supply chain/logistics, commerce, consumer mobile devices, insurance and the connected home. We have been recognized for our ability to develop an omnichannel brand experience and stories that work seamlessly across product lines, business channels and service groups. We are used to working in digital ecosystems and with software-focused experiences, including high-growth SaaS start-ups.
Because we deeply understand our clients’ businesses, we can help develop brand strategies and more engaging, immersive and authentic client experiences. We have deep expertise and extensive experience in solving complex marketing issues for some of the biggest financial services and advisory brands in the asset management space; commercial, institutional, investment and retail banking; hedge funds; commodity, crypto, equity and derivatives exchanges; investment management through third-party distribution; institutional and individual investors; fintech; capital investment; Assurance; advice, brokerage and professional services. Experience matters, and that’s what sets us apart.
How do real-world issues impact your projects when working with global financial services brands?
The brightest brands today want to understand their role and relevance in the lives of their customers. For financial services brands, this often means helping to educate their customers on current economic development, then connecting their brand relevance to these topics to resonate with their audience.
Successful brands understand the importance of brand storytelling to connect the ideas behind their products and services to real action. Global events have a significant influence on global financial services brands, setting the market, cultural and personal context in which clients and consumers experience and evaluate these brands. Marketers need to develop and manage brands with the market, audience, and cultural context in mind.
At best, brands can help transform businesses in powerful and multi-faceted ways. Brands can set direction, inspire action, fuel growth, educate customers, build reputation, build awareness, deepen relationships, build momentum and shift mindsets.