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  • Writer's pictureKirti Naik, CEO at Tikka

Storytelling in the Sea of Sameness & 7 Steps to Telling Stories with Heart...for real!

Are you gray-haired? Hitting 65 years old and your goal is to be coasting around on a catamaran? Isn’t that what we all want as we get older? Some do and others don’t. The reality is depending on what generation you’re from you desire different things and consequently interact with brands distinctly as well.

As a financial marketer for over 20 years and having worked across different facets of financial services areas: insurance, consumer banking, asset management, institutional, fintech/cryptocurrency and wealth management; I have observed the way we have marketed and acquired legacy clients doesn’t work anymore for new generations of wealth investors as clients need our values to align to theirs. This impacts what brand investors partner with for financial security, growth or leaving a legacy. As financial services brands, especially in the wealth space, we need to give investors compelling reasons to engage with us – this is achieved through compelling content and storytelling.

Our industry is indelibly embedded with complexity as content is primarily articulated by technical financial experts who speak each other’s language and less so direct-to-investor. Over the years this has improved as investors have demanded direct access to the financial experts coupled with the substantial growth in financial news sources. The reason this shift has occurred is because investors today are a lot more engaged in their personal finances and can be sophisticated, educated and exposed to information. Using jargon doesn’t make us (the finserv brand) sound smarter, just less direct or clear. Financial companies build, drive and manage the world’s markets and economy and are critical to an individual’s financial success so why is storytelling so challenging in this space? And why does this matter? It is our responsibility to do a better job and make it easier for investors to understand and authentically align with their needs. We need to be mindful of the generations and backgrounds of investors. It is important we continue to support our existing clients the way they have been communicated to but also observe the keen ways they have shifted, like their growing engagement in social media content. In addition, there is a new wave of investors who will control $20Trillion+ and they will impact the future of your brand’s success in terms of how and what information they engage with is drastically different.

So how do we demystify the complex? Some best practices I have had the opportunity to identify over the years has been a critical framework to articulate meaningful stories and generate compelling content.

1. Define your brand positioning in the most succinct and simple manner. The challenge of aligning different aspects of your organization around a solid brand architecture is instrumental to long term success for any brand. Brand is composite of the firm’s employees, subject matter experts, products, services and more. Everything should bottom-up ladder into the company’s values, purpose and mission. This serves as the blueprint for all things internal and external and is the guide for on-brand storytelling.

2. Align your organization. Inculcating and cross-pollination of a purpose-driven brand organization is important to drive distinct functions to build, collaborate and execute towards the same goal. Working with your functional leads to establish rules, filters and processes that apply the brand lens will facilitate marketing’s ability to orchestrate its strategy and generate output that is authentic and meaningful to the overall brand. If the thought leadership, investments and marketing team are all reaching for the same NorthStar then launching any programming, campaigns, communication platforms, etc. will be more feasible to achieve.

Example: Russell Investments, Embrace The Possible 2019. Masa & Boz.

3. Develop an evergreen commercial brand platform that everything ladders up and into and crosses all your key client segments. Research, insights and analytics are key to identifying overlapping sentiment, desires and interests. Through this process and with a strong and creative brand team to translate the intel, you can build a commercial facing platform viable for multiple segments. In my experience outputs of this were profoundly impactful for the sales organization, investments teams, executive platforms and of course marketing.

4. Build everything through the lens of the client. Even if it is an iterative process, client journeys are critical to bringing value to them with the right information and experiences, while also enabling sales and client facing teams. This approach allows you to present your services and products in a way that isn’t pushing at clients but instead weaving your way into the clients’ lives.

5. Translate complexity to simplicity. Economics, products, advice and investments are the backbone to what the firm does to support our clients. Integrating closely with and working hand in hand with these critical functions to refine, translate and articulate the value proposition, case studies or stories requires strong talent. Cross pollination of technical and commercial marketing writers with product and investment SMEs generates premium content. This inevitably fuels the brand platform.

Example: OppenheimerFunds (now Invesco), Invest in a Beautiful World 2015; MRM-McCann WorldWide.

6. Experience the field and meet the clients. Our client-facing teams are critical to the creative process. Identifying their experiences with clients and exploring what they learn and what they share fuels authentic stories. Interacting with clients is not only the responsibility of the client engagement teams or wealth managers. The opportunity to learn and dialogue as a marketer with our clients is critical to the learning and creative process.

7. Push creative boundaries. To avoid being a “me too” finserv brand expose yourself to both endemic and non-endemic premium brands that express themselves creatively whether through ads, events, digital experiences, social or metaverse. Testing, learning and building creative ways to present your brand is critical in our cluttered space. If you're partnering with a brand agency, then push your creative partners and never accept the first concept because the latter will be unbelievable!

BNY Mellon Wealth Management, "Do Well Better" 2022. Photographer NadavKandar, director Nadia Hallgren; Havas Creative

My personal inspiration has been completely outside of our world and pushing the boundary to adapt unique ways of storytelling like Pixar: You can use six steps or eight:

  • Once upon a time, there was …

  • Every day …

  • One day …

  • Because of that …

  • Because of that …

  • Because of that …

  • Until finally …

  • Ever since then …

How will you tell your story next?

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