Three great examples of content marketing in the financial sector

Libor, PPI, and high-profile stories about boardroom incompetence have done little to end the public beating dished out to the finance industry during the economic crisis. If that wasn’t bad enough, the sector’s pedestrian approach to content marketing seems to have done little to help win back old sympathies or convince new customers of its trustworthiness or expertise.

In part, the problem is one of justified anxiety. Perfectly reasonable fears about breaching regulations and falling foul of one penalty or another have fed a culture of risk-averse marketing in the financial sector. Consequently, everything has a beige hue and fails to light the imagination.

In such a tightly regulated sector creating great digital marketing can be tough, but now more than ever it’s necessary, as the customers are digitally savvy and on the lookout for firms to help inform their financial decision-making. It’s difficult situation. It’s also the reason why media headhunters are increasingly asked by banks, fund managers and others to find experts who can work creatively within those constraints to generate great ideas to fuel their digital strategies.

Despite the heavy regulatory burden and the complexity of many financial products, some firms haven’t allowed themselves to be hemmed-in. They are the outriders, cutting a path for more tentative souls to follow; they have been creative, and connected with audiences by adopting an innovative approach to content.


City Index’s Trading Academy

The aim of the Trading Academy campaign was to grow City Index’s customer acquisition and brand presence. In City Index’s niche industry, education is seen as a key marketing driver. The trading firm decided to shake things up by doing something new, radical, and hugely informative.

Following a ‘boardroom battle’ reality TV format, eight wannabe traders were selected by City Index to battle it out in the Trading Academy. Under the mentorship of two senior company executives, the candidates made investments and used the knowledge they had gained in the academy to build a return on their investments.

Using a TV production company, six episodes of the Trading Academy were created and published on YouTube. A website was also established to provide real-time details on the contestant’s trades and ROI, regular interviews with the contestants and mentors, blogs and profiles, and a host of expert trading tips.

Each week a contestant left the competition, until just two remained to battle it out for a £100,000 top prize in front of a live studio audience at City Hall.

The excellence of the Trading Academy isn’t that it offers something particularly unique, but that through its videos, contestant blogs, and articles offering advice on the different stages of managing investments, it has created an accessible suite of content that can really help people overcome their concerns about taking those first steps into financial investment.

The Trading Academy was named ‘best in financial services’ at the Econsultancy 2013 Digital Awards, but more importantly, the competition led City Index to record its best month for account openings and boosted its organic search ranking.

Here are the key results from the project:

  • 1m views across all Trading Academy content channels
  • 20m impressions and 67,000 click-throughs generated by the #TradingAcademy Twitter feed
  • A 1,443% increase in social referrals
  • An 81% increase in unique site visitors
  • A 60% increase in PPC acquisition for related terms
  • An overall 10% traffic boost for the City Index website


American Express’s OPEN Forum

Originally launched in 2007 as a digital hub for live events where small business owners could network and learn new things, the OPEN Forum soon morphed into a digital magazine to provide expert analysis for small businesses.

In 2009, the forum added a social networking platform for small business owners to more easily share business insights and expertise, ask others for advice, or to form alliances with fellow entrepreneurs.

According to Contently’s Banking On Content e-book, not only does the forum provide great help for small businesses owners, it has also proved to be a winner for American Express. In the first quarter of 2011, the site recorded more than 5m visitors, with 80% coming to the site from non-paid sources. The popularity of OPEN Forum also contributed to the growth of American Express’s social media channels – it now has almost 700,000 Twitter followers and nearly 5m Facebook fans.

The growing popularity of the site convinced American Express to use it as a key part of its 2010 US Small Business Saturday marketing campaign. The campaign offered a $25 rebate on all transactions made at local, independent stores on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Having proved wildly successful, Small Business Saturday has been repeated every year since, ingraining the company – and its small business website – further into the consciousness of the general population and showing how a willingness to take considered risks and look beyond traditional marketing messages can pay off.

(NB: Sun Life Financial’s Brighter Life is also worth a look if you’re interested in communities built around financial issues – it serves as a place for people to share ideas and concerns about money, health, and family)


Credit Suisse

Our third example takes a completely different tack, The Financialist is a digital magazine created by the Credit Suisse bank.

The site offers an “informed and inventive” perspective on news and current affairs through a series of original daily features, third-party content and multimedia offerings – which include economic and investment insights from senior Credit Suisse employees.

The Financialist rises above other financial ‘news’ websites run by non-traditional publishers as has a dedicated editorial team that seeks to provide genuinely insightful reporting and analysis that “differs from the conventional wisdom”.


Last month, we looked at some of the issues faced by marketers in the financial services industry and identified a series of compelling reasons why brand publishing can flourish in the sector. You can find that article by clicking here.