In the Fight to Retain Customers, It Pays To Brand Nicely

by John D. Bloise and Christen D Booth

This article discusses the benefits of creating positive branding campaigns to out-brand the competition.

Lately it has been a great time for companies to re-brand themselves and financial services firms are no exception. With investor skepticism at an all time high and a seemingly never-ending list of corporate scandals, many financial firms are taking drastic steps to narrow the gap between how their brands are perceived by current and prospective clients and to ensure that this perception meets the firm's long-term goals.

In the past, most of the financial industry's marketing was centered around attracting new clients, but these days, that focus has shifted drastically towards retaining clients and the ongoing media criticism, investor skepticism, and potential lawsuits have not made the task any easier. The lessons that have been learned and the strategies used are applicable to all businesses that eventually may be caught in the public's eye and under not so attractive circumstances.

Conveying Trust and Advocacy

A strategy for retaining investor confidence is not different from one that creates and retains any other industry's consumer confidence level. Consumer confidence is created and sustained by a client-firm relationship built on honesty, competence, and advocacy; thus the client is ensured that his or her best interests are always kept in mind.

With that in mind, several full service firms have active campaigns emphasizing advocacy and honesty, with hopes of making an emotional connection with potential and particularly, with existing clients. A reoccurring theme found in many of Merrill Lynch's recent television commercials center around the firms vast experience and conveying a sense of trustworthiness. Morgan Stanley takes a different approach, using their advertising space to create positive emotional bonds through the relevance of supposed [true-life] investment stories to both current and potential clients and with advocacy as the firm's core value.

If You Don't Have Anything Nice To Say.....

Like most political races of today, financial firms have also used their fair share of advertising to exploit the misfortunes of a competitor. When Charles Schwab launched a recent ad campaign featuring fraudulent brokers proclaiming unsubstantiated stocks as winners to their clients and potential clients, the perception was that the ads were pot shots towards Merrill Lynch. What must be remembered though is that like the oh so several ineffective political Television commercials we have all come to know so well, when you publicly scrutinize and belittle the competition, you and your brand's reputation is put under the microscope.

Think Long-Term

Instead of spending the company's valuable marketing dollars on ads that volley negative accusations back and forth, the development of strategies that improve the brand's allure in the potential investor's minds is money better spent. This allure is created by using a variety of multi-channel branding programs to effectively convey messages of advocacy, integrity, and experience. By inviting potential and current clients to trust your brand, its products and services, and then providing engaging, unique, and relevant reasons why they should, Financial Services firms and other business are able to weather the storms of roller coaster markets, competitive accusations, and live on to see their brand succeed another day.

About the Author

John D. Bloise ( and Christen D Booth ( are the Owners of Digital Architectures, Inc., a strategic branding and design firm headquartered in Colorado Springs, CO. The firm works with companies and organizations to develop and implement comprehensive branding and re-branding, and multi-channel branding strategies that include clean elegant design to convey coherent and unified brand perceptions.

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