Is marketing more complicated than it used to be?

Is marketing more complicated than it used to be?

We read an article by Mark Ritson in Marketing Week in which he raised a number of fascinating points about lessons to be learned from Direct Line’s marketing strategy. It lead us to pull some thoughts of our own together…

There’s no doubt that the advent of all things digital has transformed the marketing world. Never before have marketing teams had so much access to such detailed and useful data. Google analytics, social media, targeted campaigns, online shopping, remarketing – these should all have helped make marketing a doddle, right? But it doesn’t seem to be the case for every financial services marketing team.

In fact, if anything, marketing is more complex than ever before with a constantly shifting sea of factors. What worked five minutes before is considered obsolete as soon as a new fad appears on the horizon. The complex nature of financial products, and heavy regulation, has had an impact on how products are presented. In addition, the brand/customer relationship has changed fundamentally in the last few years and teams have struggled to engage with their target audiences.


Consumer knowledge

As we know, consumers now have far more choice and information at their fingertips, which means the balance of power has shifted. They are more sceptical and discerning than ever before, and if they don’t like what you’re selling they’ll vote with their feet.

The pace of change has also hit the financial world hard. Whereas you once might have had time to develop a campaign for TV or in the traditional print media, you now don’t have that luxury. If you’re not busy uploading website content you’re engaging with customers on social media or you’re sorting pay-per-click ads with Google. And if you take your foot off the gas for a second it’s all too easy to fall behind.

Amidst all this doom and gloom however there is an upside, and things can be done to simplify this   complex landscape.


Avoid personal bias

Financial firms often say they understand their market but are they too distracted when creating new campaigns? Accepting that you’re not the customer and accurately segmenting your market is the first step to successful communications.

However, a roomful of executives needs to understand that they may not be in the same age bracket, gender, pay bracket etc. as the people they are trying to reach. It’s possible that you’ve had experience of presenting a campaign to a boardroom, but the changes they demand turn a great campaign into something that might be a massive turn off to your audience.

The trouble is we’re all human and prone to certain cultural biases because we’re all raised in different ways. But the effect of ignoring bias can range from a gradual alienation of your customer base to jaw-dropping-multi-pound drops in revenue.

If you want to market your products successfully, you need to learn to put bias aside and accept that the marketing methods required may be very different from what you expect.


Don’t be blinded by digital concepts

Digital can be very powerful. Digital has made all our lives much easier in some respects. And if you don’t embrace digital it’s at your peril. However, while it should be part of the mix it shouldn’t be at the expense of traditional forms of marketing. TV, for example, is still very powerful.

A look at Direct Line’s long-running adverts featuring Harvey Keitel (he of uber-cool Pulp Fiction fame) clearly demonstrates this. Direct Line recently won gold in the ‘best new learning’ category at the IPA Effectiveness Awards. Thanks to their consistently long-running and cleverly-devised adverts, they increased the perception that they were a brand that would ‘do the right thing’.

Their campaign wasn’t a quick sale, or a five-minute wonder, but rather a conscious decision to brand build and increase customer preference for their products further down the sales funnel. The campaign succeeded because they didn’t dismiss the sales funnel out of hand and plough cash into an ever-changing production line of digital ideas. They accepted that driving customers along the funnel from awareness, consideration and opinion to preference and eventually purchase is still vitally important. And that’s exactly what that advert series did.

That’s not to say there isn’t a place for digital, but financial marketers need to be mindful of how they use it. Listening to what customers need rather than preaching about what you will do will add value to digital and social media marketing. Engaging with customers online will yield plenty of useful data about how prospects relate to their brand, product and/or service, and drive them along the sales funnel.

Long live the funnel.


Differentiation is all important

As with any brand, you want to stand out. You don’t want to blend in because your brand will wither and die. But there is a growing trend among marketers to favour distinctiveness over differentiation. While distinctiveness tends to relate to things that are unique to a particular brand, differentiation tends to be associated with stand-out qualities for which a brand is well-known, such as trustworthiness.

Both have their place but they are not mutually exclusive. You may have a unique and amazing product, but if the perception is that your customer service, for example, falls short, you’ll still struggle to pull in the sales.

Going back to the Direct Line example, they were able to show a concrete connection between brand associations like being “helpful” and “proactive” and ultimately driving customers to consideration and then purchase further down the sales funnel.

The simple truth is that to be noticed you need to show why your product is better for your customers than another brand. To be sure of this, it is important to combine distinctiveness and differentiation. Distinctiveness alone won’t help.


The Conclusion?

Our view is that the principles of marketing have not changed. However, there are a lot more distractions that are making it appear more complicated than it really is. Don’t be blinded by the latest trends or knocked off course by the prejudiced views of people who don’t understand the target market in sufficient depth.


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