By Kevin Cain published March 7, 2013

Creative Content Marketing for Financial Services: 3 Examples

creative content marketing-financialsAs if the financial services industry hasn’t been beat up enough over the past few years, it’s also gotten something of a bad rap for its lackluster content marketing.

Let’s face it, while investment banks, asset managers, and other financial service providers are ahead of the curve in some ways, when it comes to content marketing, that’s rarely the case. Not only is the industry dealing with such heady topics as derivatives clearing and credit default swaps, it’s also hemmed in by an overwhelming array of complex and continuously evolving regulations. 

As a result of these and other factors, financial service providers often fail to build and execute dynamic content marketing programs. Instead, they frequently rely on tried-and-true, but far less creative, tactics. Cue the deluge of exceedingly dry white papers and webinars, and the direct mail magazines that often just wind up in the trash.

To be clear, the problem isn’t a lack of effort, and it’s certainly not a lack of high-quality content. Instead, it’s the way the industry seemingly operates under the misconception that its heavy regulatory burdens both preclude and exempt it from taking a creative approach to content. Remember, those regulations are predominantly focused on what’s being said, not the style and delivery of the message.

Another problem is a palpable anxiety about the unknown that clearly stifles innovation and discourages a clear point of view. This is, in large part, why so much financial content rides the fence, and why so many companies are only just beginning to dip their toes into social media, a realm fraught with uncertainties: What if no one responds to our tweets? Or worse, what if they do?

Fortunately, some companies are forging ahead and beginning to take a more innovative approach to content.

Credit Suisse 

Take Credit Suisse, for example. The bank’s digital magazine, The Financialist, offers insights into breaking news, as well as in-depth reporting on the issues, trends, and ideas it sees driving the markets and the economy. The site provides a combination of original feature stories, informative visuals, and carefully curated third-party content. It works because it’s a legitimate financial news site rather than a bank’s thinly veiled attempt to make its website look like one.

credit suisse-financialist

Sun Life Financial 

Sun Life Financial’s Brighter Life serves as a place to share ideas about money, health, and family. Its financial content includes a variety of timely articles and videos with tips and tools for personal finance and retirement planning, among other topics. Sun Life has created a true community that’s targeted at families and, by wisely integrating a variety of other topics that families care about, makes the site a destination for a much broader audience. (For more about this content marketing effort, read our interview with SunLife.ca’s editor, Brenda Spiering.)

Sun Life Financial-Brighter Life

Putnam Investments 

Bob Reynold’s blog, The Retirement Savings Challenge, is impressive because he is unafraid to tackle an array of complex issues. The CEO of Putnam Investments doesn’t simply articulate the challenges facing a graying population of baby boomers, he actually takes on retirement policy as it comes down from Capitol Hill. Unlike so many of his contemporaries, Reynolds offers up a definitive, and at times controversial, point of view.

putnam investments-retirement savings challenge

So the answer is yes, the financial services industry can and eventually will measure up in content marketing if it thinks outside of the regulatory box and reinvents the ways it delivers its messages to resonate in the 21st century. Bring on the infographics and viral videos, the social media campaigns and blogs. It may just be a matter of taking a few risks, which in an industry as skittish and scrutinized as financial services, is no small feat.

If you are in the financial industry, join us for the Content Marketing World Financial Summit on September 12 in Cleveland, Ohio.

This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of Chief Content Officer magazine. Subscribe to receive your free copy.

OpenView Venture Partners is a Content Marketing Institute benefactor. 

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Kevin Cain

Kevin Cain is a content and communications strategist based in Sydney, Australia, and has more than a decade or experience working in the financial services and consulting industries and helping expansion-stage software companies develop their content strategies. To learn more, follow him on Twitter @kevinrcain or check out his blog on language, content, communication and strategy.

Other posts by Kevin Cain

  • http://morekeynote.com/ tpldrew

    Kevin,
    I read the article in the latest issue of CCO! Nice work. Having had financial services clients for the last ten years running Tippingpoint Labs it’s nice to see your perspective. BTW, Putnam was our client and we worked hard on Bob’s blog.
    Thanks a ton for encouraging the industry to embrace the opportunity!
    - Drew

    • http://twitter.com/kevinrcain Kevin Cain

      Thanks for checking out this article, Drew, and nice work on Bob’s blog!

    • http://twitter.com/kevinrcain Kevin Cain

      Thanks for checking out this article, Drew, and nice job on your work with Bob Reynold’s blog. We’d love to get you back to OpenView to create some more content.

  • http://twitter.com/creativeoncall Chuck Kent

    Kevin, Thanks for examples highlighting that ‘creative” content starts with a big core concept not any individual execution – and the more fearless/open the better, a la your Putnam example. Financial services seems more prone that most sectors to overlook the honest emotional and informational content they have to offer – over the years we’ve used everything from full length original songs to how-to-switch-broker-dealer workbooks trying to offer up just that sort of “attractive help” (or Youtility, as Jay Baer is putting it these days).

    Now, what I’d really like to see would be a book group of financial CMOs reading Drew’s book Brandscaping, and seeing what kind of creative content they can whip up in tandem. (How’s that for a plug, Drew… but it is sincere… and heaven knows you’ve got enough financial CMOs right there in Boston to pull it off!)

    • http://morekeynote.com/ tpldrew

      Hey Chuck,

      Thanks so much for the endorsement. I’m so glad to hear you’re enjoying the book. Not sure if you got to the chapter about Bank Of America, but that’s a great story. (Tease…) We’ve worked with lots of those big Financial Firms and their CMOs in the past. In fact, here’s some work that Tippingpoint Labs did for MFS with some more emotional stories for advisors. (This was part of a big book they distributed in a partnership with Investment News.) http://vimeo.com/46828027

      Anyway, thanks again!
      - Drew

  • PatAllen

    I agree with your highlighting of the Putnam blog, but I’d submit that things are not as bleak overall as you suggest in the investment management industry.

    As watchers of CNBC know, investment strategists do not shy away from taking a point of view, and these perspectives are typically documented in the whitepapers, videos, presentations and blog posts that are increasingly seeing the light of day on the Web.

    For leaders in innovative ways to present information (yes, including infographics), see the work by Fidelity and iShares (two large firms) and U.S. Global Investors (much smaller). Check out Vanguard’s social accounts to see that people do respond to the larger firms’ tweets and updates, and Vanguard is expert at engaging with them.

    In short, tremendous strides are being made by investment communicators in relevance, conversational style, speed-to-market and responsiveness. There’s reason to be optimistic!

    • http://morekeynote.com/ tpldrew

      Pat,
      I think you’re right. There is reason to be optimistic! I’ve been speaking to more and more financial institutions and groups about the ability to create content that inspires people to act – instead of preaches to them about the value of changing their ‘investing or saving’ behavior.
      They’re interested in doing it – but I’m still not convinced they’re fully committed.

      I like Fidelity’s Personal Economy campaign – but it still feels in-personal… :)
      Thanks,
      Drew

    • http://twitter.com/kevinrcain Kevin Cain

      Hi Pat,

      I agree, there’s room for optimism, but would point out that for every one financial services company on the road to doing it right, there’s another that’s still got a long way to go. I’m sure you’ll understand my reluctance to point fingers at the laggards…both in the article and here in this comment. I do appreciate your identifying some other successes, but I don’t think that negates the fact that the industry as a whole still has work to do.

      And yes, it’s true that you can get an earful of opinions on CNBC, but again, it’s the lack of creativity in how those opinions get communicated that’s underwhelming. In my view, a two-minute talking head segment on CNBC, no matter how strong of a point of view it takes or how many white papers and presentations it spawns, is still a far cry from innovative content marketing.

      Thanks for your comment and for furthering the conversation!

  • Jeff Molander

    While these might be creative I’ll say they’re not productive examples. What about financial services firms/banks that are GENERATING LEADS with content?

    I’ve discovered this one (BBVA… using a “utility” approach to social media/mobile that generates leads for new products via customers self-selecting themselves based on what the app helps them realize they need)…

    http://econsultancy.com/us/blog/5619-how-banks-can-use-social-media-and-mobile-apps

    And Anchorbank who is using online and offline content to create selling opportunities in-branch and via the Web. They’re very PROCESS oriented… helping customers DO things that build confidence in themselves… and taking that confidence and converting it to trust that can be ACTED on by the bank and/or the customer (as opposed to creative-oriented).

    http://www.jeffmolander.com/content-and-social-media-performance-marketing/banking-social/

  • http://twitter.com/amandaingle Amanda Ingle

    For B2B, “The Exchange” is doing a good job in the financial sector with content marketing. http://www.theexchange4fis.com/

  • Aimie Gresham

    Great piece!

  • http://twitter.com/paulpaez Paul Paez Ⓥ

    My comments are a bit dated on this article, but one thing I didn’t see addressed here is the challenge of FINRA and SEC regulations concerning what might be considered “marketing” or “advertising” content. I was a career marketing writer and communications specialist when, for some god awful reason, I thought it might be interesting to become a financial advisor (right before the crash). One of the biggest frustration I had was the fact that any web, social media or even email content could be considered advertising. Indeed, much of the content must be approved by both inhouse compliance as well as regulators–which really puts a crimp on spontaneous and sincere content. This eliminated what I thought could be a great marketing advantage of my practice; and that’s why you’ll see most of the financial services content is stale or vague. I’m not sure what the solution is, unless the regulations have become more lax in the past 3 or 4 years.