Gloom can help financial brands

Take opportunity to sort wheat from chaff

What does 2009 hold for financial services brands? Trust in financial organisations took a severe beating in 2008 with many consumers blaming the credit crunch on the finance providers in the first place. This year customers will be looking to trusted third parties more and more before making a decision. Advocacy will be the word of choice throughout the New Year, fuelled by a growth in peer-to-peer reviews and communities online. With that in mind, it is important for companies, especially financial lenders, to not batten down the hatches, cut all communications and hope for the best. Maintaining all existing relationships is crucial.

Yes, budgets will be cut, margins will become tighter and we will have to justify our work like never before. There is far more messaging out there than there used to be and as such brands are looking for a greater cut-through, whether through offers, format, creative or media layering.

Remember also that there has been a growth in the last few years of online accounts from credit cards and banks, which has had a natural effect on the amount of direct mail sent out. As a result, there has been a rise in email as a preferred channel. Customers demand information from brands at their fingertips, further justifying an online relationship with customers.

Yet I would add that while digital is cheaper, it doesn’t mean it always delivers a better return on investment. I suspect that spam emailing will go through the roof; just like direct mail did a few years ago, as companies try and save wherever possible.

Brands need to remember the old adage of right person, right time, right media and right message. Short-term profit is not everything, although it may seem like it in the current doom and gloom. Damaging the brand for the sake of a quick uplift has a longer term impact on the bottom line.2009 will also see a return to tried and trusted techniques. Strong offers, close dates, easy response, personalisation and bold and engaging creative. Customers will be looking for that extra reason to spend. There is already plenty of evidence to show that value propositions will need to be made for brands to survive against their competitors – even better-off customers will have an eager eye out for value. Companies that ignore this trend will suffer.

That all said, I believe that 2009 could be a year to remember, and not just for negative reasons. The companies that used the good times to sort their optimal deployment of messaging will really pay for themselves over the next 12 months. It’s an opportunity to sort the wheat from the chaff so to speak. I think that we will see some really bold moves and while I might be the only one, I also think that this recession might even do our industry some good. 

Chris Dickens is Head of Strategy at Geronimo

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