2020 certainly throw every business in at the deep end – and in terms of communication, we saw both sinkers and swimmers across the board. If finance companies have learned anything from 2020, it’s that being able to respond quickly to any form of crisis should be their top priority going into a new year.
Over the past several months, it’s been critical for brands to respond to the rapid change in circumstance and consumer behaviours, and offer solutions in the hour of need. It has emphasised the need for close contact with the customer, but also for empathy in how the brand speaks to them: in a year where nobody has been sure which way is up, understanding and humanity have demonstrated their importance in brand comms.
For finance brands in particular, they have been faced with increasing consumer anxiety. Financial worries are deepening in the emerging recession, and there’s been a pressing need to act quickly to replace their front line connection with customers as bank branches closed, with attention turning to seamless digital replacements.
As we head into a new year, here are the most critical learning points for finance brands as they prepare their 2021 comms strategies.
- Agility feeds authenticity
We’ve seen how quickly things can turn sour and those that aren’t able to respond quickly and with humanity will be at risk of communicating in a way that alienates their consumers – this is a fact that will not change even with the end of Covid-19 restrictions. This is why investment in a strong digital marketing strategy is essential. Channels like social media allow brands to speak directly with their customers and provide a direct line of information that consumers are looking for – and being able to respond agilely across a variety of public health backdrops is now crucial.
Traditionally, financial organisations built trust on the idea of their legacy. Consumers were willing to trust these companies based on their historical strength – the bigger the legacy, the safer they felt entrusting their money to that bank. But as a result of COVID, a new trust-building exercise has come into play that is here to stay. Now, trust is about transparency and being there for the consumer when they need help. Being able to communicate seamlessly with customers, to offer instant answers to their concerns, and provide digital solutions that provide transparent access to money is what will drive positive connections with consumers.
- To learn, you must listen
Without listening to what people are concerned about, banks run the risk of promoting inappropriate messaging. Reverting to a corporate tone of voice, as is usually the instinct of the financial services sector, at a time when customers are angry, confused or inquisitive can be as damaging as no response.
Measuring social sentiment, regular surveys and focus groups will be key to getting instant reactions to the news as it unfolds. They can then zoom in on what their customers care about and help drive a valuable conversation – and critically work out what role, if any, their brand has to play in discussing the issues at hand.
- Actions speak louder than words (but we should use those too!)
Consumers are no longer satisfied with brands that just say the right thing. We are past the point of talking and are now at the time to take action on these issues.
It is time for major financial players to rethink the part they play in this narrative as brand accountability will be a necessity moving forward. To do this effectively, these businesses need to tune themselves into the social consciousness of society and adapt their content strategy accordingly – using those aforementioned listening tools to understand how best to do so.
This was originally published in Global Banking and Finance Review.