Brand is critical in commoditised markets

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It has been said that brand is often the most powerful asset that asset managers fail to manage.

How you communicate your brand story to customers is absolutely central to driving a market-leading business. So why does it remain such an undervalued part of the sales funnel throughout the sector?

Historically, the asset management sector has been sales-led and product-oriented. Sales is unarguably important, but there has to be more than just a product spec to create a desire to buy. In a heavily regulated sector product quickly becomes commoditised; a disaster for differentiation. And there is now growing evidence that the winners in the asset management sector are those that are fully embracing the power of their brand.

It’s important to dispel the idea that marketing is the colouring-in department, concerned only with pantone colours and typefaces. Certainly, marketing puts out the ads and leads brand design, but it has a more fundamental role in creating a core, compelling brand idea that permeates every aspect of the business.

For all the commoditisation of products, almost all asset managers have a story to tell – if you know where to look. It’s those brand stories that customers want. The organisation that weaves a compelling story through every aspect of their business creates a real point of difference. The brand is so much more than ‘just an ad’ – it should live in everything from PR and digital content to sales collateral, event marketing, thought leadership – and even new product development.

Let’s take Pictet, for example. Their brand is centred around no less lofty an idea than a better future for all. One of their products is the Water Preservation Fund. It’s interesting to customers because it’s current and an issue that won’t go away.

But, behind that compelling idea is a brilliant content hub, talking about the mega trends that are shaping our world as well as the impact they will have on investments. So, the intermediary now has a relevant and topical fund to talk about and, just as importantly, a source of information that gives the fund context – and makes it even more appealing.

Another example comes from Sycomore, which talks about the power of human capital. Having created the ‘Happy at Work’ fund, they invest in companies that put human capital at the heart of what they do. Here again, they give the fund even greater appeal by putting it in the context of a wider social trend through storytelling. The talkability of that product ultimately makes it easier to sell.

Not every asset manager needs to have a water or happiness fund. There are points of differentiation and stories all over the place. But, to tell the stories, the industry as a whole needs to value the contribution of those essential brand stewards - the marketers.

Perhaps the solution lies in adopting the empirical, data-driven measurement of brand value commonly used by large consumer brands. Clearer articulation of objectives and more consistent results tracking would help the wider business understand the contribution of marketing, prove its cost/benefit ratio and reinforce the value of brand as a whole.

Brand moves the conversation away from the rational and towards the emotional component of the sales process. No-one sells Coca-Cola on the basis of caramel colour and a bit of fizz. Coke sells happiness and Christmas. It’s time asset management bought into a bit of that sparkle.

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