Content marketing is no longer a buzzword - instead firmly earning its place within the modern marketer’s toolkit – but many are still puzzled by how they can measure its value. NewsCred’s 2014 quantitative study, The Trust Transaction, offers resounding support for the value of content, and the tangible effect it can have on the financial services industry. NewsCred’s study reveals some important findings: 1/3 of people surveyed don’t trust their own bank, yet half say they trust them more when they offer helpful content. 50% of respondents also say offering helpful, useful content delays their desire to switch banks, demonstrating that the impact of content on customer perceptions and behaviour should not be underestimated. Read on to dig into the full findings and learn about the opportunities and gaps for content marketing in the financial services industry...
Whitepaper by NewsCredJune 22, 2016
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NewsCred’s survey was conducted among 1,001 adults by Redshift Research in August 2014. The sample was selected from Redshift’s Crowdology and Crowdology partner panels, which are balanced across regional, age, and gender demographic factors. Each respondent completes 120 profiling questions before being accepted to join the panel. Panel quality management is carried out frequently to ensure reliable surveys.
How content can transform the perception of banks
Issues with trust and loyalty are pervasive across the financial services industry, as confirmed in our consumer survey, with a third of respondents not trusting their own bank.
Yet our results show that content has a clear impact on trust, loyalty and engagement and that there is an opportunity for financial services to change public perceptions through the strategic, targeted use of content. More than half of respondents say they trust a bank more when it offers them helpful, useful content. Half also affirm that high quality content makes them more likely to stay loyal to their bank.
More than a third say they would spend longer on their bank’s website if they provided interesting articles – showing an opportunity to increase dwell time and repeat visits through strategically deployed content.
Despite this appetite for content, it appears that financial services are largely not known for producing it at a high level of quality – just 20% of respondents agree that their bank writes and posts interesting articles on financial matters and products.
How easy content is to access also plays a strong part in whether people find it useful or not. Email newsletters fare reasonably well, with 42% saying they think the emails sent by their bank are useful. Apps resonate as useful with 32% of people, and are considered more favourable than text messages, with 28% agreeing these are helpful. The difference between men and women is notable here, with 32% of men saying text messages are useful compared with 50% of women.
When done right, it drives real business impact
Banks that deliver excellent content are already seeing a return on investment, with 31% of respondents saying they have signed up to new products and services based on useful content from their bank.
People frequently look to content to understand their finances and banks have a role to play in guiding them in making important decisions. Of the respondents, 58% say personal finance content helps them make decisions and 57% say communication from a bank can help them understand which products are most beneficial.
But just how often are people looking for personal finance content? The most common frequency is a couple of times a week, as voted by 28% of respondents. This indexes more highly for men, 34% of whom say they read personal finance content a couple of times a week compared with 21% of women.
This is more common still among the over 66 age group, 49% of whom read personal finance content a couple of times a week. While 18 to 24 year olds are the most digitally engaged, they read these kinds of articles notably less often: a quarter say they only read personal finance articles a few times a year, and 24% say they never read them.
Who’s engaging and on what platforms?
The survey results show the British public desires financial content from banks, but this sentiment does not convert when it comes to engagement on social media. An overwhelming majority – 84% – say they don’t engage with their bank on any social media and just 9% say they like what their bank posts on social media.
But, financial services could more than double their social media engagement by boosting their content efforts, as 19% of respondents say they’d share interesting articles from their bank with family and friends on social media if it was available.
For the majority of people (75%), primary digital face time with their bank takes place through the bank’s website. Interaction on other channels is notably lower: apps 22%, email newsletter 15%, text message 12%, articles about the bank on third party sites 8%, social media 3%, corporate blogs 1%, or none of the above 15%.
Of those that do interact with their bank on social media, Facebook is the most common platform (11%). This would suggest that banks are perhaps largely still not comfortable with using a range of social channels to drive engagement, as responses to other platforms are very low (Twitter 5%, YouTube 3%, LinkedIn 2%, Instagram 2%, and Pinterest 1%).
Who consumers depend on for financial advice
If financial services are going to meet the demand for content head-on, they need to develop and carefully execute content marketing strategies, and recruit a credible team of editorially skilled writers and managers. Our results show there is little interest in articles being written by representatives of the bank – just 20% of respondents say they would trust these, highlighting the need to invest in editorial talent.
Despite not trusting authors who are bank representatives, a bank’s own website is still deemed an appropriate place for finance content to be housed. Consumers trust articles on finance that appear on a bank’s own website more than those that appear in tabloid newspapers, with 43% saying so compared with 27%. Interestingly, more consumers (57%) trust finance articles that appear on specific financial websites such as Money Supermarket than those that appear in broadsheet newspapers (48%).
Finance journalists and independent finance experts are naturally more trusted as authors of finance content than general journalists, with 53% and 54% respectively saying so.
Working with bloggers has proven successful for many brands. Our survey results indicate there is a greater appetite for finance content produced by independent bloggers (23%) than that featured on popular blogs (19%) or even content produced by bloggers directly working with financial services (15%). However, banks can embrace working with bloggers by harnessing their connection to lifestyle topics outside banking – see First Direct’s case study on page 14, as well as our stats on lifestyle content the British public are interested in seeing from their bank, on page 16.
How to get creative with non-finance content
Quality content will be the new beacon that helps a bank stand out from the competition, and the test for content marketers will be how creative they can get. It may be tempting to stay within the comfort zone of finance-related content – it is, of course, the subject banks know best – but those who dare to delve outside this realm are the ones that stand the best chance of creating something unique and memorable to consumers.
Indeed, our results show there’s no reason banks need to focus solely on personal finance content as there is a demand from consumers for quality special-interest content from their banks. By associating themselves with lifestyle topics – and the money people spend on the things they love – banks can build instant affinity and interest from the beginning of their relationship with a consumer and over the relationship’s lifetime.
According to our survey, the top five types of non-finance content people would like to see from their banks are: travel and holiday information (28%), local area information (26%), retirement guides (25%), tech and gadget guides (24%), and life stage information (20%).
And banks don’t have to make a huge investment to distribute this content – when asked about preferred content formats, 25% say they’d most welcome non-finance content on a bank’s website and 23% say they’d most like to see it in an email.
The most highly engaged audience
Millennials: is there a demographic that the media loves to talk about more? Or one that stands to have a more profound effect on brands, particularly banks. Our survey reveals that 18 to 24 year olds are the most trusting and loyal demographic when it comes to attitudes towards banks and the potential for engaging with content.
While many of the stats below have already been explored in previous sections of this report, zooming in specifically on Millennials’ attitudes to banks and content provides some detailed insights into how this demographic differs from the average – and how banks can use these insights to get closer to them.
Perhaps less surprising is the high level of digital engagement that our 18 to 24 year old survey respondents show; but this is more good news for banks, as it shows that social opportunities are there for the taking.
Eighteen to 24 year olds are the most likely of all age groups to engage with their bank on Facebook – 25% of them say they do this, compared with the survey average of just 11%. Thirty-seven percent say they’d be inclined to share interesting articles from their bank on social media, nearly double the survey average response. Eighteen to 24 year olds are also the most likely to engage with their banks via app (56%) or text message (50%).
But while 18 to 24 year olds are the most socially engaged demographic, they read personal finance articles notably less often than all others. A quarter said they only read personal finance articles a few times a year, and nearly as many said they never read them at all.
Yet our results show that 18 to 24 year olds are the demographic most interested in seeing non-finance related content from their banks, specifically about travel, careers, their local area, music, technology and gadget guides, recipes, health, and fashion and beauty:
In Millennials, our study shows that financial services have a positive, eager audience, keen to interact, but only if the content fits in with their lives. Whether it’s through a combination of creating original content, licensing relevant content or working with an agency, thinking outside the box – and outside their industry comfort zone – is evidently crucial for banks when it comes to reaching and retaining Millennials.
Where financial services may be missing opportunities
There are typical content traps that financial services can fall into that cause consumers to simply switch off. The top four as revealed by our survey are: being too sales-oriented (19%), boring (18%), long (12%), or hard to understand (11%).
Perhaps the biggest content faux pas of all is not providing content. Forty-six percent of respondents say they expect their bank to provide helpful personal finance articles. Ten percent say they don’t expect it, but wish their bank provided it.
Branded content doesn’t necessarily have to mean producing and distributing your own content from scratch at great expense – many great content marketing strategies depend just as much on licensing content or working in partnership with publishers to be successful without overburdening your internal team.
Santander took the latter approach with the launch of their ‘Successful Modern Entrepreneurship’ campaign last year, working with The Times to reach small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the UK with helpful tips, news, and case studies, as showcased on the SME Hub. Santander chose one of the oldest and most prestigious newspaper brands in England to partner with, reinforcing their own expertise and authority when it comes to helping SMEs with their financial demands.
The partnership kicked off with a four-page supplement in the national newspaper last October, and has continued with further supplements, all featuring contributions from business experts ranging from Dragon Den’s James Caan to Times writers such as business features editor Carol Lewis. Santander didn’t stop there, however: they brought their print content to life with an online hub (featuring blogs, videos, and live Q&As) as well as a series of events, including The Times’ inaugural SME Summit. This variety of channels not only allowed Santander to stay front-of-mind with their target audience, no matter where they might be, it also provided the bank the opportunity to speak in-depth about the wide array of issues affecting SMEs.
The partnership has even benefited The Times, who wanted to be seen as a go-to news resource for small businesses and entrepreneurs, making it a win all round.
Queuing in line at the bank to make a payment is increasingly being replaced by online transactions, but these technological changes can be daunting for some customers who are less familiar with the digital world. Barclays decided to go the extra mile to encourage their less Internet-savvy customers to get online by providing them the tools – and the confidence – to do so.
The Digital Eagles programme launched last year, and has grown significantly as Barclays invested in training thousands of its own employees with the skills and knowledge to help customers – and the general public – to get online and become digitally active.
Aside from their free in-store ‘Tea & Teach’ sessions, Barclays also offers the same advice in a variety of how-to videos and detailed guides that range from general topics (eg: ‘How to keep your computer free of viruses’) to Barclays-specific ones (‘How to set up the Barclays Mobile App’).
But instead of just limiting themselves to these straightforward guides, Barclays has also used a human touch to get their message across. Their YouTube channel features videos such as that of the over-50 ‘Walking Football’ league that wanted to learn how to promote their group online, and senior citizens Kent and Val learning how to Skype, which have both attracted thousands of views and served as the foundation of the bank’s TV campaign.
Digital Eagles is all part of a larger push by the bank to provide better in-branch services including the roll-out of 10,000 iPads in stores, and technology to allow deaf customers to video chat through a sign language specialist.
By bringing this same focus on increased customer service to their online content, Barclays has ensured not only that their online banking services are the best they can be, but are also actually being used by the people they were designed for.
Before content marketing became a buzzword, many brands had already developed their own magazines to promote sales and loyalty against editorial articles. Royal Bank of Scotland honed in on their strengths by developing ‘Business Sense’ in 2007, a magazine aimed at SMEs in the UK that offered advice and insight – written by business people, for business people.
While ‘Business Sense’ began as a print magazine, RBS was quick to evolve this into a digital offering. Working with John Brown Media, RBS successfully transformed their print title into an online hub with articles, videos, and briefings, all updated on a daily basis in short doses of shareable content designed with the busy start-up founder or small business owner in mind.
The bank hasn’t abandoned print entirely, however: RBS also runs a print title, ‘Business Agenda,’ aimed at the corporate world and sent directly to CEOs, MDs, and board members. ‘Business Agenda’ is only published three times a year, in a clear move for quality over quantity – the glossy mag highlights their profiles of leading industry figures with covers worthy of Forbes or Time. These interviews are also available online, but it’s clear the main appeal of this award-winning magazine is its high-quality print presentation.
Like most large banks, RBS caters to a wide array of customers within the industry alone, and designed their two titles with this in mind. ‘Business Sense’ and ‘Business Agenda’ prove that when it comes to content, one size doesn’t necessarily fit all.
Buying your first home is as intimidating as it is exciting for many people, especially when it comes to the financial aspect. In true First Direct fashion, however, this disruptive bank went in the complete opposite direction with their own home ownership campaign in 2013. First Direct’s #myfirsthome campaign focussed on one of the best parts of buying a new home: putting your own unique stamp on it by decorating it in any way you like.
First Direct asked three interior design bloggers – Dear Designer, Patchwork Harmony, and The Treasure Hunter – for their tips on decorating your first home, and then filmed them putting these tips into action in a short, upbeat video.
The bloggers made sure to stick to the theme of first homes by showcasing budget conscious decorating tips like framing wallpaper for artwork and spray-painting furniture bright colours. It doesn’t hurt that these tips can be easily applied to anyone on a budget, whether they actually own their own home or are just hoping to one day.
First Direct partnered with blogger Dear Designer again this year, launching a competition to uncover an ‘Unexpected Interior Designer’ to design the First Direct Arena Bar in Yorkshire. This campaign continues with the same quirky, cheery tone, emphasising just how different this bank is from the old guard by living up to its core brand value of ‘the unexpected bank.
Each summer, every High Street bank competes relentlessly to reach young students on their way to university and provide their first bank account. This is with good reason – research has shown that Brits are more likely to get divorced than change their bank accounts. Reaching these young consumers early is the key to lifetime relationships and repeat business, and from the amount of advertising and marketing aimed at this demographic, it’s clear every bank knows that.
HSBC, however, cut through the noise about competitive interest rates and stalls at Fresher’s Week this year with a series of compelling short films. Produced in collaboration with We Are Social, TMW, and Mindshare, these four short documentaries focus on four unique individuals, like Jethro Binns, a former pro squash player who started an online squash training portal after an injury ended his career.
Instead of talking about the benefits of an HSBC account – or even mentioning the bank’s name – Binns and the other young documentary stars focus on the way their time at university shaped their future careers and lives, often in unexpected ways.
At less than two minutes each, they’re designed to be shared across the social channels young people already engage with every day, but HSBC didn’t stop there. They also planned a competition for students that asked them to upload their own ‘future selfies,’ coinciding with the release of A-levels results. The most inspiring or enterprising ideas and ambitions will win students a prize to help them meet these goals. Across the whole campaign, the key aim is for the bank to let students know that no matter what their future selves end up doing, HSBC can help them realise these dreams.
Our survey results show an opportunity for financial services to build trust and loyalty through content marketing – if they make the right investments.
The public doesn’t trust just anyone when it comes to financial content, so banks need to think carefully about how they build their editorial and content strategies, using the right teams, tools, and insight to make an impact on their target audience.
The rewards are already starting to pay off for banks that are investing in content through increased conversion, retention, trust, and loyalty. Banks play a major role in significant life milestones for their customers and they can have a greater impact by providing accessible, digestible content in the right places.
As our results show, consumers don’t just rely on this – they are demanding it – and banks are being judged by the quality of content they deliver.