How to develop branded content in financial services

What is branded content?

In an industry (marketing) awash with buzzwords, it’s worth beginning with what branded content actually is. If you already know, feel free to skip this section.

Branded content is a form of marketing used to build brands. Unlike traditional advertising, branded content is designed to educate, entertain, and inform, rather than simply promoting a product or service. 

What is the objective of branded content?

Done properly, it can be a highly effective way to establish a connection with your target audience, and build trust and credibility. Needless to say then, in the world of financial services, where consumer trust has taken a beating, it can be incredibly valuable.

In a highly regulated and complex industry, being able to provide valuable and educational content that helps customers understand products and services better, and thus make informed decisions, is a strategy worth pursuing.

It also presents an opportunity for competitive advantage by making a brand more memorable in the customer’s mind. In other words, increasing all important brand salience – the likelihood of your brand coming to mind in a purchasing situation. 

Additionally, from a budget perspective, it can be a relatively cost-effective way of reaching a wider audience, as good branded content has the potential to be shared as well as distributed through multiple channels.

Branded content examples

Working with Nationwide our challenge was to raise awareness amongst members and employees of an industry-wide regulation being introduced within the financial services sector to improve security and help reduce fraud: Strong Customer Authentication (SCA). The solution lay in the creation of a suite of material that clearly conveyed multiple educational messages around the industry-wide change. At the same time remaining characteristically Nationwide while also visually distinguishable from their usual comms.

Our work with LV= demonstrates just how effective branded content can be using traditional print media creatively. The objective was to give LV= BDMs something to help them engage with advisers (intermediaries), and in turn enable those advisers to spark the interest of their clients.

The solution was The Little Book of Protection. A piece of branded comms that presented a mix of LV= product information and sobering statistics relating to health, lifestyle and finance, in a digestible, palatable and appealingly unusual way. The strategy, creative idea and memorable execution, delivered extraordinary results, highlighting the power of branded content when relevant and of genuine value.

What makes effective branded content?

Before we get into the practicalities of how to create effective content, let’s take a quick look at the key characteristics great content typically shares:

Relevance: Absolutely essential. If your content doesn’t resonate with your target audience,  addressing their pain points, needs, and interests, you’ll not get beyond the starting gate.

Value: Beyond relevance, your content must provide value in some form. That may be through educating, entertaining, or informing them. Steer well clear of blatant promotion.

Authenticity: Your content needs to feel and sound like it’s from you. That means being aligned to your values, personality and behaviours. Any mismatch here and your content will fall on deaf ears. Worst still, your brand may be exposed to damaging criticism and ridicule. 

Consistency: Consistency is so often the name of the game. Regular and frequent content sharing ensures a continual presence, helping to build brand salience. Make sure your content is consistent with your brand identity across all channels too.

Engagement: Strong content encourages action. That could be visiting your website, downloading further material, or signing up for a newsletter. The best content goes a step further by encouraging interaction, provoking conversations, and as a result extending reach.

Optimisation: Content that’s optimised for search engines and social media will increase its visibility and reach a wider audience.

Measurable: As management guru Peter Drucker famously said, ‘you can’t improve what you don’t measure’. That applies 100% to effective branded content. Its performance is tracked, measured, and analysed, so the strategy may be optimised.

Creating branded content that works

Understanding what makes great branded content makes creating and publishing it easier.

That said, it can still be a challenging task. But approached pragmatically, strategically and creatively, the potential for financial services organisations to build awareness, salience, trust and ultimately driving growth, is huge. 

So here goes. A simple guide to creating branded content that works. 

Know your audience:

The bedrock of all marketing, and a drum we’re constantly beating. Brand identity, campaigns, communications, everything must start with truly understanding your audience. Branded content is no different. Be crystal clear who you are talking to. What are their needs and wants? What are the problems they have to which you are the answer? Make no assumptions, do the necessary research for the insights to steer your strategy and inform the creative brief. From big unifying campaign ideas, to details like the tone, style, and format of your content, customer-centricity is key to creating relevant and meaningful content.

Develop a distinctive brand voice:

If you don’t already have a clearly defined brand voice as part of your brand identity, you need one. Your voice should be reflective of who you are and what you stand for. It’s your brand values and brand personality brought to life in an authentic and distinctive language and tone that helps differentiate you from others, cut through the noise and reinforce your positioning. 

Plan ahead with a content calendar

Spreadsheet lovers rejoice! Key to successful branded content activity is a clear plan, aligned to your overall communications and marketing strategy, for creating and publishing content over a specific period. That plan, in the form of a content calendar, should include a mix of different types of content, such as:

  • blog posts 
  • videos 
  • infographics
  • newsletters
  • printed material
  • emails
  • e-books
  • social media posts 

A content calendar will help you stay organised and ensure that your content is consistent and on brand.

Tap into the power of emotion

A storytelling approach can be a powerful way of engaging your audience and building trust.  People are naturally drawn to stories. They remember them too, because stories connect on an emotional level. Content that recognises this can take many forms and there are easy wins if resources and budgets are tight. Consider sharing customer testimonials, case studies, and personal anecdotes to bring your message to life and your brand more relatable.

SEO: Use keywords, meta tags, and other SEO techniques, to increase the visibility of your content, reach a wider audience, help drive more traffic to your website, and ultimately generate more leads.

Analyse and improve: Whether data’s your thing or not, you need to understand the impact of your branded content, by measuring and analysing your results. A host of analytics tools are available to track the performance of your content and identify areas for improvement. Establish benchmarks and set KPIs around traffic, engagement, and conversions to understand what is working and what isn’t. Then armed with your findings, make data-driven decisions to develop and refine your content strategy and achieve better results.

Wrapping it up

So, developing effective branded content in the financial services industry requires a strategic approach that takes into account the unique challenges and opportunities of the industry. But it’s more than worth the effort. By understanding who you’re talking to, crafting a distinctive and authentic voice, commiting to a content calendar, getting creative, and continually learning and refining, you can develop a valuable stream of activity that increases brand salience, builds trust, and drives long-term growth in a highly competitive market.

About markmaking*

mark-making* is an award-winning creative agency specialising in branding, campaigns and communications