How Edward Jones Uses Content to Fight the Finance Industry’s Big Trust Problem

James Madison once said, “The circulation of confidence is better than the circulation of money.”

Mr. Madison would be pleased to see that both seem to be flowing freely in 2015. The S&P 500 hit a record high on February 13. Job gains in January witnessed the strongest growth in nearly two decades. And more consumers expect their finances to improve in 2015 than at any point since 2007.

But while overall consumer confidence paints a clear picture, consumer distrust of big finance is clinging to Wall Street like Shanghai smog.

In Edelman’s 2015 Trust Barometer, financial services ranked as one of the least trusted industries with only 54 percent of people trusting brands to do the right thing. Banking and financial services brought up the bottom of the list between the media (51 percent) and chemicals industries (57 percent). Basically, people are about as happy with their banks as they are with Brian Williams and oil-covered seals.

So how can financial marketers regain consumer trust and tap into the most confident market since the Great Recession?

Brad Iversen, the CMO of Edward Jones—which was recently named “Financial Marketer of the Year” by the Financial Communications Society (FCS)—believes that the answer lies in genuine relationships. With the advent of more and more DIY options in marketplace (collectively known as “robo-advisors“), financial marketers need to take the time to prove that they still have the expertise and dedication that it takes to help consumers make the most of their money.

“Unless they trust you, unless they believe you, unless they claim that you have their best interest at heart and that you’re reliable,” said Iversen, “they’re going to not follow through on your advice.”

Having the know-how is imperative, but it’s even more important to deliver that expertise on a personal basis. Financial institutions need to not only demonstrate that they understand the market, but also that they get how current conditions relate to their individual customer’s needs, goals, fears, and hesitations.

For their part, Iversen and Edward Jones have been lauded for their ability to speak to investors’ individual needs. “In a marketplace where financial brands continue to struggle to regain trust, Edward Jones has succeeded by focusing its messaging on genuine care for the individual investor,” Kevin Windorf, president of the FCS, said when he presented Edward Jones with their award.

For Iversen, content is a key component in those efforts. “Content is very, very critical in showing that you’ve got the expertise, you’ve got the smarts, you’ve got the insights,” he explained, adding that cutting out the jargon is also essential so that “you can effectively communicate it so I understand.”

Sometimes that means ditching traditional avenues and reaching consumers in unexpected ways. In his acceptance speech at the FCS, Iversen explained how Edward Jones’ successfully partnered with on their “Chatting Cage” campaign, which hooked up baseball fans with their favorite players for real conversations.

While these fans might not necessarily be thinking about their stock/bond balance during the seventh inning stretch, Iversen’s team realized that such a medium “is a wonderful way to engage those folks that are really interested and passionate about baseball. It gives them an opportunity to do something that they couldn’t do otherwise, and it’s fully branded Edward Jones, and we run content with it that may be relevant to the person at that time when they’re online.”

For financial marketers, there are huge benefits to be had by providing clients with the content and information that’s most valuable to their financial and personal lives. Whether that’s emailing an infographic on investment strategies, a phone call with an advisor, or a virtual Q&A with their favorite Cardinal, it’s all about investing the time and resources necessary to reestablish their trust in your brand. In other words, it’s not something that can be achieved with the same methods used before 2008.

When it comes down to restoring trust, “We all know that there’s not a 30-second ad that can go do that. It’s not a PR campaign,” Iversen said. “It’s just consistently providing the types of services with a level of integrity that investors and clients can trust… That just takes a long time.”

Image by Anthony Berenyi

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