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Want to build a strong online financial brand? Focus offline

  • It's expensive to build and maintain a strong financial brand.
  • Offline activities still pack the biggest punch for brand value.
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Want to build a strong online financial brand? Focus offline

Large financial brands have poured billions of dollars into boosting their online presences. From building online and mobile websites to promoting their products and services on social networks, the world’s strongest financial institutions continuously invest in their brands. But when it comes to valuing the strength of these brands, it’s offline activities that still have the biggest impact.

That finding is according to research published by data and analytics firm, Engagement Labs. The company’s TotalSocial ranking scores financial brands on the value of the offline and online conversations they engender. The sheer number of mentions, sentiment, the number of times a brand is shared, and the brand’s influence all impact a firm’s score. This year’s list of the top 10 financial services brands saw two new firms, brokers Edward Jones and TD Ameritrade, crack into the top 10. Both did it on the strength of their offline activities.

Total social financial brand rankings 2018
“We see the impact of marketing and business decisions on the movements in the rankings for this period,” said Ed Keller, CEO of Engagement Labs. “Each of the companies that moved upward benefited from corporate actions and marketing sponsorships, which enabled them to earn sustained press coverage and motivated consumers to talk about the brands.”

Strong offline influence demonstrates that a more influential group of consumers are talking about the brand in face-to-face conversations. It was offline activity that was the biggest force behind Edward Jones’ seven-spot jump to fourth place. The company saw improved offline volume and offline brand sharing, which measures the number of consumers talking about a brand’s marketing campaigns in face-to-face conversations.

Edward Jones isn’t just investing in offline marketing sponsorships to boost its brand. It’s one of the most active online, as well. It ranked top among wealth management brands in organic and local search listings, according to a study conducted last year by Hearsay and Moz. In 2017, the broker captured nearly 40 percent of the total click share across more than 7,000 locations for the local search category. This dominance means that in some of the 5,000 cities sampled as part of the research, users searching for a local wealth management in their area would see more than one Edward Jones listing on the first page of local search results.

And yet, it’s the offline conversations about these companies that Engagement Labs credits with their brands’ strength. That’s important for a brand like TD Ameritrade which lacks the type of brand equity firms like Fidelity and Schwab have with long term investors.

TD Ameritrade has seen significant boosts to its brand since current CMO Denise Karkos was promoted in 2013. Her focus on data-driven content has used traditional mass media to engage and empower mom and pop investors around the country.

As the lone digital-only brand making the list, PayPal saw its influence drop this year. PayPal has moved more aggressively into mobile and retail payments, adding new digital financial services such as bill pay, and strengthening partnerships with major banks and tech companies. And while these activities have generated more consumer conversations about their brand, it wasn’t enough to fend off the offline brand building activities of others in the market.

“PayPal dropped several spots on the list, which may seem counter-intuitive given the rise of digital finance companies,” Engagement Lab’s Keller said. “A key part of our measurement system is performance among consumer influencers, and among influencers we see evidence that PayPal is losing out to the upstarts like Venmo, Apple Pay, and Visa Checkout. Yet these brands haven’t yet earned sufficient mass market success to break into our TotalSocial overall rankings.”

PayPal fell four spots in Engagement Labs’ 2018 study.

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