A company’s brand recognition is generally only as effective as the manner in which it is conveyed and as strong as the sentiment it evokes; this is applicable for firms in both the B2C and B2B spaces, including asset management. For example, A recent FundFire survey asked respondents to match eight slogans with their respective asset management firms, and the results, depending on one’s initial familiarity with the eight brands’ marketing messaging, were not too surprising.
Who? What? Where? When?
With the median match rate among participants at only 23 percent, the highest, for Wells Fargo’s Together We’ll Go Far, yielded 58 percent; the lowest was BlackRock’s So What Do I Do With My Money? at 14 percent. Other slogans were Wellington’s A trusted advisor and strategic partner to investors worldwide (16 percent), Legg Mason’s Independent Expertise. Singular Focus. (21 percent), Capital Group’s Multiple Perspectives. One Approach. (26 percent), and AB’s Ahead of Tomorrow (28 percent).
The overall low rate of recognition could be attributed to many factors: too many words, poor word choice, vague messaging, or a fragmented marketing approach. Regarding this last point, Scott Markman, president of the branding firm Monogram Group, said that institutional investors “are not willing to commit three-to-five years and pump out the tagline across every touchpoint, PowerPoint, email… These brands have to commit to a longer-term mindset. There has to be an organization-wide, top-down driven [effort]. It can’t just be in a marketing silo.”
While it can be argued that impactful branding slogans matter less in B2B than B2C, Markman states, “What a great brand can do is make you understood and distinctive up to a point. The agenda is to get shortlisted, to prequalify you… That’s where this can really help, but it won’t close a deal.”
This is particularly pertinent considering the FundFire respondent pool was comprised of industry members only and not external clients or potential investors. That disclosure begs one to ask the question: How poor would the results have been if outside investors were asked to participate? Clearly the slogans are not resonating with those inside the industry, so without, as Markman said, “an organization-wide effort”, much in the way of broader marketplace recognition isn’t going to happen on its own.
A recent study from BackBay Communications and the Mutual Fund Education Alliance on the content marketing efforts among asset managers shows that while 50 percent believed that content marketing was vital to building their brand, only 23 percent actually had an in-house content creation team. Illustrating the complexity of defining and building such, 64 percent of managers saw the development of a content marketing strategy as being their biggest obstacle. The numbers were even worse when firms were asked to evaluate the results of their content marketing endeavors, with 36 percent citing difficulty in measuring outcomes and 15 percent not measuring the connection between content marketing and sales at all.
Of the content marketing materials adopted, 82 percent of asset managers saw whitepapers and videos as being the most utilized, with 59 percent seeing the former as the most effective medium. And what may be the most intriguing statistic in the study: 50 percent of asset managers focused on product management saw content marketing as a great option for increasing attention to available products compared to only 21 percent of marketing teams.
Obviously, content marketing, while understood as a beneficial method for creating awareness of an asset management firm and its products, hasn’t been implemented in a holistic, systematic manner across the industry. What’s more, asset managers see the direct impact that content marketing has on client relations and product management, in many cases more so than even their firms’ own marketing teams, but are quite often left to their own devices.
“Content marketing among asset managers is still largely nascent with no one path to success. This research points to a huge opportunity for firms who can define and execute a content strategy to increase brand perception, lead generation, loyalty and measurable ROI,” assessed Bill Finnegan, chief marketing officer for AMG Funds.
Communicating a company’s slogan, regardless of the media channel utilized, and developing and executing a content marketing strategy aren’t and shouldn’t be mutually exclusive components of a firm’s marketing roadmap. Nor should the product management needs of asset managers be considered more applicable to and effectively addressed by content marketing than those of a firm’s marketing team.
If most people within the asset management industry have difficulty identifying a firm’s slogan, then it’s time to reconsider the ecosystem in which it exists and is made accessible to not only current and potential investors, but also those individuals representing the organization. A coherent, cohesive content marketing strategy, underpinned by a characteristically similar technology platform, can bridge the gap between messaging and asset management, marketing and sales; thus providing a firm’s slogan with the power and visibility it needs to resonate in today’s highly competitive and fluid marketplace.