When it comes to brands and social media, there can be no doubt that some companies shine a lot brighter than others. Compelling storytelling, curated imagery and strong content strategy are just some of the methods used by successful brands like AirBnB, Hermès and Nike to convey their messages on social media.
However, rarely do names from industries such as banking, insurance or health ever come up.
Admittedly these subjects might be a little harder to sell on social media than lifestyle and luxury brands, but there are key lessons that these industries can learn from their success to help elevate their own channels into assets.
There is no better time to utilise the reach of social media than now. With 196 million occurrences of the hashtag #lifestyle, 101 million of #luxury or more impressively 737 million of #fashion on Instagram alone, the golden days of luxury brands on social media are far from over. So how can those other, "less sexy" industries, rise up to the challenge and turn social media into a real asset for themselves as well?
Today, we take a look at the private banking industry and what lessons it can learn from the luxury industry when it comes to social media activation.
From a cost perspective, communication functions are often difficult to justify in the banking sector, so why should these companies invest additional resources to secure a presence on social media in the first place? The answer here is threefold.
Firstly, consumer insight. Few tools offer as many profiling capabilities as social media does. With just a few clicks, one can easily identify the demographic and psychographic characteristics of its social media audience, which can then be turned into valuable business insights. With 1 in 7 Twitter users following financial institutions in Switzerland alone, the potential pool of data to base insights on cannot be ignored.
Secondly, omnichannel experience. As consumers become more tech-savvy and digitally connected, the way they manage their wealth changes with it. Financial institutions have adapted their product offerings and operations accordingly. Around 80 percent of them have now engaged with Fintech start-ups in one way or another according to a McKinsey Panorama report published in December 2018.
The digitalisation of operations needs to be integrated with a brand's digital communication channels for a seamless and effortless experience. Innovations such as PayKey, a social banking solution, that allows users to access their financial information from any other app is a great illustration of this rising trend.
And thirdly, branding. According to a Greenwich Associates study, 68 percent of investors used social media to research asset management firms in 2018. What if your firm was not there to be found? It is now mandatory for any brand to secure a social media presence and establish a communication strategy image that is consistent with the other channels.
A strong social media presence can also impact the overall brand image, making a company appear more approachable and authentic through genuine content and proactive community management. This is especially relevant for the banking industry, whose image is sometimes associated with banking secrecy and greed PR scandals.
So, what are the key best practices, derived from the codes of the luxury industry, that can be learned when it comes to social media?
By definition, luxury is a product or experience that is unique and brands that are successful on social media have this ability to present users with a differentiated and rare online experience. For example, shoe designer Manolo Blahnik’s Instagram account is truly one-of-a-kind, with products being at the core of the communication. The uniqueness of their social media communication lies in the ability to present their products with a strong artistic direction, you are not only seeing shoes, you are seeing beautiful pieces of art.
Manolo Blahnik's Gimenta shoes. Photo: Courtesy.
Likewise with Lanvin whose social media content strategy brings the user into a vintage-feel universe: their Instagram account displays polaroid images of the catwalks, adds retro filters to editorial content and shares #LanvinInspirationSeries’ brand archives. Their Pinterest account also follows suit with the brand solely sharing brand archives, a one-of-a-kind concept on a platform where brands tend to mostly share their product novelties.
Too often, the banking industry revolves around the same few topics of economic news, event sponsorship and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) with a lack of distinctiveness, both in form and substance.
However, there are some banks that are making headway with their social media efforts. With its beautiful images and impeccable Instagram feed, it can be argued that UBS is taking a different approach to its communication on social media. However, their focus on sustainable facts is a communication pillar that is shared with many other financial institutions and may not be unique enough.
With nearly 70 percent of investors admitting they have revised relationships with their financial advisors based on content discovered on social media, financial institutions need to identify what makes them unique – is it new technologies? A strong history? Innovative product offering? – banking companies need to decide on what the focus of their communications is and create a unique experience around it.
Luxury brands are great conveyers of emotions, which is achieved through both strong storytelling and impactful visual content. Research has shown that humans are 22 times more likely to remember something when it is communicated through a compelling story, hence why brands that are able to engage with users on an emotional level will achieve stronger awareness and loyalty.
This can be seen with Stella McCartney, whose Instagram bio directly invites users to #StellasWorld, a world of engaged and sustainable style mixing collections with politically charged messages. Users know instantly what to expect and can relate to the topics being discussed. The brand’s strong identity is also at the core of their Linkedin communication, sharing almost exclusively content about sustainability and social initiatives.
Another example is the Chapters of the L’Odyssée de Cartier, a campaign by luxury watch and jewellery brand Cartier unveiled last September, which enabled users to discover the wonderful world and history of the Maison on YouTube. This beautifully-created content tells the user that Cartier is more than a brand, it is about its people and its history; something the viewer can more easily identify with.
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In creating this kind of compelling storytelling, both Stella McCartney and Cartier connect on a more emotional level with their consumers, something financial institutions should also employ in their own communication strategies. Banks need to go beyond the notions of Return On Investment (ROI), economic growth and inflation rates to connect with their audience on a more human level.
A recent study conducted by Facebook showed that 67 percent of 18-34 year-olds have the need to feel “understood” by their financial provider to truly trust it, and this will only be achieved by humanising communications in an authentic manner.
Luxury brands have always been the trendsetters of this world and this innovative spirit shows through their use of social media. More often than not, when new features are launched on social media platforms, luxury brands are the first to be selected as early adopters. This was clearly evident when Instagram added its checkout features in March, Burberry and Michael Kors were amongst the first to sign up.
Luxury brands are also innovating in terms of ways to engage further with their audience. A great example is when Burberry launched its B-series last year, releasing exclusive products on the 17th of each month for a 24-hour period which were only available for purchase on social media platforms such as Instagram, WeChat or Line. With this initiative, Burberry established itself as an innovator of the industry, while reinforcing the loyalty of its users and contributing to the company’s top-line growth.
With the Fintech industry on the rise, it is time for financial providers to not only innovate when serving their clients but also when reaching them in the first place. A Facebook study unveiled that 92 percent of 18-34 year-olds were interested in interacting with banks on messaging apps.
Going back to the aforementioned point of omnichannel experiences, the new generation wants convenience and direct access to information and this will be achieved through an innovative use of social media platforms.
It is no secret that the new generation’s trust in branded communication has decreased. Luxury brands have therefore turned to third parties to embrace their brand message and strengthen their legitimacy. Influencer marketing is expected to become a $10 billion industry by 2020 and the luxury industry is one of the key users of this communication strategy.
Many brands have even taken it further and developed products in collaboration with key influencers; thus making the collaboration appearing more authentic. Recent examples include actress Zendaya with Tommy Hilfiger or influencer Chiara Ferragni with Lancôme.
Zendaya x Tommy Hilfiger. Photo: Courtesy.
That being said, influencer marketing is in no way limited to luxury or lifestyle brands and financial institutions can take advantage of this strategy as well. For instance, American Express has been partnering up with high profile influencers to promote the #AmexLife, the lifestyle that comes with owning their card, both on Instagram and Twitter.
Private banks can harness the power of influencer marketing by identifying personalities that are aligned with their brand identity and strategy. Is your bank particularly active in new technologies? Find someone who has authority in the tech industry. Are you trying to appeal to a very niche target? Work with a key opinion leader in that community. Partnering with relevant opinion leaders will help strengthen your legitimacy in the areas that are key to your business while allowing to reach new audiences.
With the profitability of European wealth managers in constant decline in recent years according to a Deloitte study, there is a need for the industry to review its existing business model.
As users now expect in-depth personalised services, seamless experiences and direct access to information, the proper activation and integration of digital communication channels will be key to stand out in the wealth management and private banking sector.
By presenting users with a unique, memorable and innovative experience on social media, financial institutions will not only strengthen their brand image but also build a more loyal community of existing and prospective clients, hence contributing to the company’s overall growth.
Cover image: Stella McCartney and Burberry campaigns. Photo: Courtesy.