Emilie Sheehan

Putting the fun in finance

Whether it’s fair or not, the finance industry has a reputation for using lofty language, opaque jargon, boring, cliched visuals and generally and being as dry as your “I’m only going out for one” mouth the morning after your regretfully big night.

Finance marketers face the difficult task of communicating complicated subjects to an audience who may not be familiar, or particularly interested in them. From conveying the relative benefits of intangible investment products, to encouraging people to plan for their future, getting engagement can be a struggle.

The eternal question of how we get people, particularly younger people, to engage in their finances, is not helped by the industry’s traditional approach, so maybe it’s time to look at alternative approaches.

In this blog, we look at some recent finance marketing trends and ask whether a, dare we say it; more human approach to financial marketing might be more effective?

Purpose-driven marketing

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a trend where brands, both within the finance industry and beyond, have sought to convey a higher purpose through their advertising.

In recent campaigns, banks and insurers have gone all-in on sentimentality in their efforts to attract customers and build brand loyalty. There was Westpac’s ‘Help. It’s what Australians do’ and NRMA’s similarly-positioned ‘Help is who we are’, where big statements and impassioned storytelling were at heart and centre. Both big budget adverts use tear jerking tracks and show people saving lives.

Westpac

 

NRMA

 

Perhaps my friends are cynics, but the question they have asked, is: what has this got to do with banking or insurance? Are these towering aspirations of the brand really resonating with customers?

What do customers want from financial services?

Millennials’ and Gen Z-ers are sceptics. They question ethics, are attracted to companies that have a positive impact on society and are not afraid to hold businesses to account. These campaigns only work when brands are putting their money where their mouth is. Especially as the Royal Commission is telling us a different story. We have heard banks are deliberately confusing customers with “100-page product disclosure statements” and forcing customers to get stuck in deceptive deals. From Yell’s own research, peoples’ expectations and trust in banks and insurers has taken a bit of a hit. Within the industry and outside of it, there seems to be a general fatigue towards insubstantial claims and mawkish messaging. The call for honest and tangible communication is clear. Customers want to see truth and transparency.

While it’s true that customers connect to brands emotionally, it can fall flat if the emotional message lacks substance and truth.

So how do we relate to customers again?

Financial institutions should be following through on values they claim to have, and demonstrate how they make customers’ lives better. If you can improve someone’s day rather than ruin it, isn’t that the ultimate victory for you and the customer?

One way this could be achieved is through appealing to the good old Aussie sense of humour, creating an emotional connection through breaking down the usual stuffy approach.

To show how this can be done, we’ll look at three ways that Australian finance institutions are injecting some fun back into their marketing, while still communicating their message effectively:

  1. Language
  2. Humour
  3. Design
1. Language

People are prepared to take notice if you offer an alternative. We have already seen a shift in language with fintechs and some banks making their products and communication as user-friendly as possible.

Take Monzo, the mobile-only bank that launched in 2015 in the UK. When Monzo came onto the scene it entered the public conversation and got people talking about – gasp – finance. Their tone of voice guidelines state communication with customers should be easy to understand. They suggest using words like ‘help’ instead of ‘assistance’ and ‘get’ instead of ‘obtain’, smashing traditional banking language out the park, and still being fully compliance-friendly. By doing this, they have cultivated a feeling of trust with their customers.

Obviously, finance should be taken seriously, but it doesn’t have to be formal or confusing. We have also seen other fintechs adding a light-hearted touch with word play, empowering language and a friendly tone of voice.

Perhaps it’s time to question how you speak to your customers, and ask how your brand looks at the world. We should be unpicking tricky terms to deliver simple, assured language. Instead of instilling fear in people, we can be optimistic and embolden customers to take care of their money.

2. Humour

Humour can engage audiences while provide light relief to complex terminology and hard data. We have seen a few Australian financial organisations take advantage of this. ING have used comedic actor Isla Fisher in their ads as a brand ambassador, offering a left-field character to promote its services. Due to their success, they have already run 3 seasons, which justifies banking doesn’t have to be austere or earnest.

ANZ were able to tie in humour and purpose effectively when they celebrated 10 years of support for Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. They temporarily changed their identity to GAYNZ and gave one of their branches a complete overhaul. The store was embellished in a Liberace-like fashion, with pink poodles, mermen painted on the walls and drag queen stain glass. This was the perfect example of a bank standing for their beliefs (in this case: diversity, inclusion and respect) with their long-term support of the parade as well as using humour. With the ornate, tongue in cheek style ANZ showed they could be light-hearted and accessible in an authentic way.

 

Bankwest have launched a derisive campaign that highlights people’s frustrations with bureaucratic banks. Using cartoon-style talking heads ironically expressing their love for common banking irritations – “paying bank fees makes me feel sooo generous!” – Bankwest’s offer of “less hassle, less jargon and less bank stuff” sets them apart from the competition. The short and comical videos work well across social channels, to appeal to a younger audience.

 

Accompanying this campaign, they launched another for their credit cards and payment rings. The ads feature beautifully animated characters that breathe life and fun into the offerings and talk about the products in an uncomplicated way. To a certain extent, a comedic direction let’s brands speak in a more genuine and self-aware way.

3. Design

We’ve also seen a lot more positive and playful approaches to design and copy from new financial companies that challenge the status quo.

The new finance app for freelancers ANNA uses a hand drawn logo and a friendly tone of voice to accompany charming character illustrations that give it humanity. With lines like, ‘Invoices. Schminvoices’ and ‘Admin. Tamed’ it speaks to freelancers and small businesses in a universal, no nonsense approach.

Daljit Singh, chief creative officer at ANNA stated that he wanted to break the mould in finance by “making people smile”.

With banks and companies pushing the use of AI, having a human tone-of-voice is a great way to ensure you don’t alienate the user.

We’ve also seen some enticing branding from the peer-to-peer digital payment app and debit card Venmo.

Aimed at digitally savvy audience, they took a human centred approach to creating bankcards by launching a vertical design. The cards are elegant and colourful to catch the eye. The creative agency Mucho deliberately arrived at colours that were ‘playfully optimistic’ making the cards stand out amongst competitors. The packaging has the headline ‘This is gonna be fun(ds)’that creates a unique experience to excite and delight the user.

We’ve seen a variety of examples where financial organisations are using humour and wit to strike a chord. When it’s done well it not only puts smile on someone’s face, it connects audiences and can become a shared talking point. An offbeat approach can help you cut though the array of technical language and schmaltzy sentiments.

Creating comedic ads, playful design or witty headlines is by no means easy. Bad jokes are more likely to be remembered than good ones. As marketers, we have to determine the approach that is right for our audience, brand and subject matter.

But customers are people too, and the first step to see whether a more light-hearted approach could be appropriate and drive engagement is to find out if your customers would prefer a more personable and accessible approach (probably).

If you know your brand voice and has a particular viewpoint, like ANZ, it can give you the authenticity that a lot of brands lack. Subsequently, if you decide to use humour, commit to it, and make sure it’s well-crafted.

Finances can be regarded as a chore for many, so if you can you find a way to communicate to your audience in an optimistic, bold and personable way you are challenging the conventions of the finance world and hopefully gaining new customers along the way. Here’s to putting the fun into finance! Who’s with me?

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