Late last year, a Forrester report predicted that 2018 would be a “year of reckoning” for brands across industries, given low levels of consumer trust. To marketers in the financial services sector, that reckoning is a long time coming, thanks to headlines about security breaches and lingering skepticism about banks among consumers in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
Add these concerns specific to to the overall atmosphere of brand and advertising distrust, and you get a uniquely difficult challenge. Here’s how financial services marketers can reboot the conversation with their target audiences and start rebuilding what’s been broken.
How Context Links Consumer Trust and Brand Safety
Consumers don’t put much thought into the advertising risks financial brands now face in digital channels. But they do notice when something goes horribly wrong with an ad placement. Take for example an airline advertising a travel destination — if consumers see ads for that campaign appear alongside a story about how the destination was just ravaged by a hurricane… that’s bad, very bad.
Reality Check: The context — the intersection where advertisers, publishers, and consumers meet — can be the venue where a brand’s reputation is either built or hurt.
If the context isn’t appropriate and safe for the brand, it will undermine the advertiser’s story, message and call-to-action. By the same token, if the context is safe but the quality of the content is poor, consumers won’t take your brand’s story seriously.
In order to tell a story that builds trust, the context must be both safe for the financial brand and worthy of a consumer’s attention. Only then will people start to engage with the messaging you want them to see.
Measuring Both Engagement and Understanding
Once financial marketers find the right context to tell your story, it’s critical to measure for engagement and understanding. Engagement speaks to whether or not the story reached the consumer; understanding is about probing to see which messages worked and which didn’t.
After all, what good is a story if it fails to connect with the audience? Or, put in a slightly different way, what’s the value of carpet-bombing consumers with messages you know they either don’t understand or don’t want to see?
Those questions may sound obvious, but if, for instance, you’re measuring “video impressions” according to the widely accepted definition — 50% of pixels in view for two consecutive seconds — you’re not quantifying engagement. Real engagement and understanding happen at the end of the story, not in the first two seconds of a video.
Consider the recent experience of Wells Fargo — a bank has prioritized brand building after a massive and broadly publicized scandal. Consumers who only saw the first two seconds of a one-minute ad aren’t the audience Wells Fargo cares about. At most, those people were only exposed to the brand’s iconic stagecoach imagery. The consumers who watched the entire ad are those who engaged with the story, where Wells Fargo illustrated its historic values, admitted its mistakes, and promised to do better in the future. By tracking those who watched to completion and measuring their levels of understanding and engagement, Wells Fargo can continue the conversation with those viewers in a sequential way that speaks to their concerns on a more personalized basis.
Farmers Insurance places a similar emphasis on brand building, albeit with a different story. Farmers builds trust by using creative that’s inspired by strange-but-true claims. By tapping into collective hunger for compelling and true stories, Farmers drives engagement and hammers home the fact that it has its customers’ backs, no matter what curveballs life throws their way. It’s a relatively simple premise, but because those true stories align so well with the questions consumers are likely to ask, Farmers is in an ideal position to jump right into those conversations, understand their audiences’ unique attitudes and needs, and provide impactful solutions. All of that is teed up because Farmers began with an approach that demonstrated true understanding of the people they serve.
Having Conversations With Consumers Over the Long Haul
It’s one thing to create video ads designed to build trust, but what about engagement and conversation? Digital video, both on desktop and mobile, is a unique medium for creating trust because it enables two-way, real-time conversations. The good news is that financial advertisers have already made a strong commitment to digital video.
According to a survey from the Internet Advertising Bureau, financial advertisers have increased investment in digital video by 79% and mobile video by 53% since 2016. The same survey also found that 83% of respondents cited direct engagement with consumers as a key reason for increased video investment.
But re-establishing trust isn’t just about selecting the right medium; it’s about putting the unique attributes of that medium to maximum use. On TV, a financial brand can say, trust us, but the message only goes one way.
Digital video, on the other hand, isn’t just a place where stakeholders meet, it’s a forum where consumers can join in real-time conversation with brands through interactive technology, and share their attitudes, preferences, feedback, and other insights that help brands tell more relevant and trustworthy stories as the consumer journey continues. Without these data points, brands are left guessing what works and what doesn’t, which is a risky proposition in a landscape where one wrong move can have huge negative consequences for your business.
What makes the Wells Fargo ad so well suited to digital video (though it also translates well on television) is that it invites a deeper, genuine dialogue with consumers because the ad’s creative clearly reflects previous public criticism of the bank, and acknowledges that gaining (and regaining) trust is a process that takes huge amounts of time and effort.
If more financial brands can tap into this kind of honest and open video storytelling, and then capitalize on it by capturing audience insights, the industry will be well on its way to a new era of communication and trust with its customers.
Tod Loofbourrow is the CEO and Chairman of ViralGains. Previously, Tod served as President of iRobot, where he helped grow market capitalization from $300M to over $800M. He founded and served as Chairman and CEO of Authoria (Peoplefluent), a $120M/year software-as-a-service provider of recruiting, performance management, compensation, and talent management software. He taught graduate courses on artificial intelligence at Harvard for seven years. He has also written six books—the first, a 20,000 copy trade bestseller on computer science and robotics written at the age of 16.