Finance topics have a reputation for being so dry, just thinking about them will make an audience’s mind parched. How can businesses make them more palatable? Examples featuring: William Shatner, a ‘F**k off Fund’, and Anthony Bourdain.
Short-term deposits. Compound interest. Product disclosure statements. Bills. For most people out there, these words and their subject matters are so dry, so soul-shudderingly complex, to say them aloud is to crumble into dust.
How do finance marketers overcome this aversion? How can they juice up the dry? The key is to realising that no-one, not your current customers nor the new ones you are chasing, actually care about your financial services and products – what they are interested in is what you can help them do.
So instead of banging on about your product or service, take a step back and look at the bigger picture of what your industry or product actually does. How does it move the world your audience inhabits? What stories flow through it? How does money and the way we all manage it shape lives – for better and worse? Then and only then should you talk about how you can tilt the balance towards ‘better’.
US Gen Y’s ‘F**k off Fund’
US Gen Y personal finance site The Billfold’s ‘F**k off Fund’ is a perfect example of this. Granted, it’s not actually even marketing – it’s straight-up editorial, unaffiliated with any brand. But it’s one of the most effective tools for encouraging people to start savings accounts I’ve ever seen, and it’s the sort of piece finserv content marketers should be publishing to build an audience. Its premise is simple; its story is gold. It’s been shared 5.7k times and counting since January last year. Inspiring spinoffs, response pieces and dinner table conversations everywhere, it has 300+ comments, and most of them read something like this:
How did the article create such a storm? Because, in a very compelling way, it showed how a savings account can give you the freedom to flee bad situations. Targeting young women (a group denied fiscal independence throughout history), and hitting Beyonce references in all the right places, it sketches out two very different scenarios. One is of a young, splurge-happy woman, whose carefree #bestie&brunch lifestyle turns into a dead-end horror story when she finds herself locked into a job with a creep of a boss and an abusive boyfriend.
Enter young woman from scenario two. She’s basically identical to the first, except for one key difference. She opened up a fund – a ‘F**k off Fund’ – so when the time comes, the bullies and douchebags in her life can do just that.
It’s not exactly groundbreaking advice – everyone’s parents have been sternly advising as much for years. But Paulette Perhach, author of the piece, knew how to tell it. Her powerful narration inspired huge numbers of converts and evangelists towards opening up a savings account.
Moral of the story? Tell stories. And tell ones which resonate with your audience where it matters.
Wealthsimple’s ‘Money Diaries’ (Feat. Anthony Bourdain
We hope investment service Wealthsimple gave a massive bonus to whoever on the team brought ‘Money Diaries’ to the ideas meeting. The recurring interview series appears in the company’s online magazine, and features high-profile names like Alex Karpovsky from Girls, Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson and Mad Men’s Jon Hamm.
Alongside religion and politics, there’s a covenant of silence over the topic of personal finance. It’s unfortunate but true. If you’re rolling in it, money talk can sound like you’re bragging. If you consider pickles a luxury item at the store, your talents and decisions are put into doubt. Everyone ends up blundering about in the dark bumping into things, when instead they could be giving each other a hand.
‘Money Diaires’ uses some of western society’s top role models to bring a rare candour to the topic and throw an illuminating (and often dramatic) backlight on how money has shaped their own unique paths to success. They are, without exception, fascinating reads. We learn that Anthony Bourdain didn’t have a savings account until he was 44. That Spike Lee’s first job was as a Baskin Robbins ice-cream scooper in Brooklyn, and he never feels weird about asking for dough. And that although Kylie Jenner says she isn’t a big spender, she does have a weakness for cars (“six is probably too many, I know”). Drummers and philanthropists, sword-swallowers and authors all pitch in, demonstrating the terrifying and elating fallout from decisions over how to spend, save, sell and invest.
This is content that audiences not only want to revisit, but find themselves sitting on their hands waiting to read the next instalment of. Through this initiative, Wealthsimple has not only built huge brand awareness as a publisher in its own right; it’s injected fascination into finance.
State Farm Insurance’s ‘Eat, Fry, Love’ (Feat. William Shatner)
Get William Shatner to say “I wanted a moister, tastier turkey”, and you’ve already made the world better. State Farm Insurance managed to make a docudrama about that actor’s dream and the tragedy that followed, and for it, won the love of their prospects.
A bit of context. Around Christmas and Thanksgiving, the company had been seeing an alarming trend in the claims coming in. People were, quite devastatingly, almost losing their faces to exploding turkey fryers. William Shatner was one of them.
Watch the Canadian Trekkie icon’s ‘Eat, Fry, Love’, and it’s in your mind forever. Again, it’s not pure content marketing (being more of a viral video promotional), but from it, marketers can extract some powerful lessons. As with the previous examples written about here, it doesn’t patronise or insist that getting insurance is ‘good for you’. There’s no grey-faced hollow man leaning over a desk, intoning that it’s just something every responsible citizen has to do. Instead, it creates a piece of content that is so dumb, it’s genius.
Top takeaway? Book William Shatner. But if for whatever reason you find him unavailable (likely, sorry), you will always have the power and freedom to tell meaningful, relevant stories that connect audiences and you. Stock phrases and stuffy details are boring in finance content marketing. Humans though – they’re a lot more interesting.