Break out the bunting, de-frost the turkey twizzlers and warn the neighbours. Why? Well if we’re to believe what we read, 2016 will mark the point when asset managers’ social media strategies reach “maturity”.
Apparently the launch of M&G’s new Equities Forum may well herald unprecedented investment in digital marketing by Europe’s leading asset management houses – according to Ignites Europe Axa, BNP Paribas and Jupiter are all planning to increase their social media efforts.
But before anyone rushes to book the vodka luge, we should perhaps pause to take stock.
There is undoubtedly an appetite for digital amongst financial audiences. This is indeed backed up by our own research. And those Asset Management marketers who have committed to social media are now organising their social activity around clear strategies, led by content (M&G), personality (WIM) or sponsorship (Robeco).
But if this really is to be the “year of maturity”, why are there still so few truly distinct digital brands in the asset management world, especially when the wider marketing community and his cyber-dog have long since made the commitment?
There are of course circumstances specific to the asset management sector. The FCA have only recently clarified the rules regarding financial social media. Also it’s still not clear exactly where ownership of social media lies within most organisations, yet alone those as complex as Asset Management. And some Fund Managers are simply more inclined than others to ‘open up’.
Yet the success of those Asset Management brands that have made in-roads in the social space would suggest that all of the above can be overcome with a little application. So why the hesitancy from the rest of the pack? A clue to the inertia may lie in a recent quote from an M&G spokesperson regarding their own social media efforts – “We enjoy talking about markets and Twitter is an extension of the conversations we have on our bond desk everyday”. It certainly seems that sharing what’s on their minds is a big part of what M&G stand for (again supported by our findings). Or to put it another way, an important part of their brand.
And that reader, may well be the crux of the matter. Never was the expression “you say so much when you say so little” truer than of those asset management brands doggedly keeping schtum, or at least doing the very bare minimum, in the social space. Whilst there are genuine structural obstacles, cultural barriers and skills gaps in every organisation, possibly what social media really does is to offer a peak beneath corporate veneers and expose the truer nature of a brand. Perhaps especially so, where the values of that brand are so intrinsically linked to the personalities of their key staff, particularly fund managers.
Now of course not everyone can be a Neil Woodford. Nor are we advocating resorting to funny cat videos in the absence of a big personality (of course as marketing agency it’s perfectly legitimate for us to stoop to those ‘click-bait’ lows). And we’re certainly not suggesting that social media will entirely supplant more traditional means of building financial brands. But if a brand is the sum of all the impressions created by a product, service or organisation, then like it or not, asset management brands might inadvertently be saying a lot more about their true values and personality through their silence, allowing audiences to form their own conclusions. And in a market where forming impressions amongst both B2B and B2C audiences is becoming increasingly important, the long-term impacts of vows of silence will become harder to reverse.
So Asset Management marketers might be well served by two things. Firstly ensuring that their brands are well defined and understood throughout the organisation. And secondly by using those brand definitions to inform all the impressions they create, especially in the digital space.
Perhaps then, much as with any “coming of age”, fake ID’s will become a thing of the past and asset management brands will be able to reveal their true personalities.
Muse regularly works with asset management organisations, indentifying and understanding audiences, defining brands and developing marketing strategies for asset management organisations. You can click here to find out more or email firstname.lastname@example.org