The smart money

In the face of declining consumer investment and a reduced marketing budget for 2002, M&G Investments was able to increase response rates by 32.5 per cent and increase direct sales by 15.3 per cent. Careful analysis of the target market produced a campaign with real resonance for its consumers. The judges described it as, “text book direct marketing – it applied the golden rules and reaped the rewards.”

At the end of 2001, consecutive bear years in the stock market had seen total ISA sales in the UK fall by 30 per cent. M&G was experiencing reduced brand awareness and declining advertising response rates. Despite increased sales targets, it cut its marketing budget.

A programme of quantitative and qualitative research was undertaken to identify what consumers really wanted from an investment company. The core market was “mass affluents” – individuals with assets of &£30,000 to &£200,000 and/or incomes of &£30,000 to &£100,000. These represent just 8.4 per cent of the adult population, but are worth &£500bn and their numbers are expected to grow by 50 per cent in the next two years.

Specifically, “mass affluents” included large numbers who had, through high salaries, good bonuses, property and inheritance, amassed considerable capital. Many of them were under 40 and, as previous research has shown, were hard nuts to crack when it came to long-term financial planning. A key segment was then identified, which became the target market – “affluent silvers”. These over-45s take investing seriously and invest large sums – they account for 80 per cent of the UK’s financial wealth. From research, they were found to be money management-minded, financially astute, confident and prefer informative advertising.

Honesty is the best policy

Qualitative research showed the group to be time-rich; they tend to investigate subjects, are analytical and less impulsive. But they feel ignored by the media and popular culture. Reactive executions therefore needed to reflect this group’s outlook and preferences. Research also showed that consumers and independent financial advisers (IFAs) expect an investment company brand to demonstrate five values: expertise, informative, frankness, integrity and durability. M&G was shown to be strong on the last two as a long-established company that had fared well in all market conditions.

Trust emerged as the key brand benefit to be communicated, but it was not suitable as a proposition. The phrase “you can trust me” could evoke a reaction of the customer wanting to see proof of this claim. Consumers were looking for an institution that told the truth – one that gave the real facts and treated customers like adults. The time was right for a campaign in which exaggeration and hype were refreshingly absent and this culminated in the brand idea of “the truth about investing as we see it”.

Copy-rich newspaper ads were used for the brand response campaign. Each one explained a complex investment subject, such as ISAs or bonds, and demystified it. Visuals of the “right” heroes of yesteryear were used to highlight aspects of the communications – a gardening analogy of watering little and often, to demonstrate the benefits of drip-feeding an investment, featured Percy Thrower, not Alan Titchmarsh.

To stand out from the competition, colour pages in the main news sections of national newspapers were used. Crosstrack 48-sheet posters were used at railway and underground stations at the time of the campaign’s launch. Additionally, the campaign broke in January, ahead of the traditional ISA advertising season of February to early April.

Product ads followed the message, explaining how specific M&G products worked and performed, as well as how they could be bought as ISAs. These ran in newspaper financial sections, financial papers and the IFA trade press. Specially written fulfilment literature was produced with the same tone.

An unusual approach

An ISA direct mailshot was sent to prospects, which took a different approach from the usual pressing deadline message. It encouraged the recipient to have a cup of tea and take their time considering their decision. As the ISA cut-off date approached, a second mailing featuring a cup of instant coffee and a more urgent call to action was used. Coded coupons and specific response phone numbers were used to track response. All leads from phone calls, coupons and the website were followed up with an outbound telemarketing call. Converters were added to the customer marketing programme for retention and crossand up-selling activity.

Media spend for the campaign was 31.7 per cent less than during 2002. Yet response rates rose by 32.5 per cent overall – in February there was a 100 per cent increase compared with the previous year. Cost per enquiry fell by 53.9 per cent and total cost per acquisition was down by 35 per cent.

M&G increased its market share by 14.3 per cent for combined IFA and direct sales. This was against a 30 per cent fall in total market sales. Redemptions also fell by 19 per cent compared with industry rises of 20 to 25 per cent. M&G achieved the highest prompted brand awareness in the sector, despite having a marketing budget 15 per cent lower than that of the market leader.

The judges noted that the company faced a hostile market in which investors were distrustful. By rejecting conventional approaches that focused on product features, they noted that the campaign truly resonated with its target market. Overall, they praised “a campaign that communicated honesty, integrity and trust.”

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