Barry Lowenthal is president of The Media Kitchen, the media-buying unit of KBS+. Follow him on Twitter @barrylowenthal.
Clients are into content more than ever. That’s unsurprising. What is surprising is that financial services marketers, typically thought of as risk-averse, are leading the charge.
Typically, when we hear of clients doing great work with content the first name that gets thrown out is Red Bull. Usually the first example is not a bank. But we’re finding that’s exactly the kinds of clients that have taken to content marketing. CIT and Goldman Sachs are two clients that have been very active in content marketing.
CIT has been working with a number of publishers like The New York Times, Washington Post and Business Insider to create units, many of them custom units, to distribute videos, white papers, and read CIT’s Twitter feed (which they’re trying to grow). The publishers are also supplying content, new and re-purposed, to help drive visibility and engagement of the units.
Goldman Sachs most recently partnered with Huffington Post on a very comprehensive program. The Huffington Post has a well-read section called Opportunity. Recently, it created a series called “What is Working,” which deals with improving America’s economy and lives in the Opportunity section of the site. Goldman Sachs partnered with The Huffington Post to create “What is Working: Small Businesses.” This initiative enabled Goldman Sachs to showcase how it contributes to economic progress within the small-business community. It was much more than an ad buy. It was meaningful content in the form of articles and videos that were designed to be helpful to small businesses.
These kinds of clients have taken to content marketing due to several factors. Financial-services clients have long been in the content game, investing tens of millions of dollars in research that they distribute to their clients. They already have a publishing machine in-house. They already understand the value of great content. They know how to create quality content that is brand safe and brand enhancing.
What’s more, financial-services marketers aren’t obsessed with the click. They’re usually not selling anything online, so their KPIs lean toward engagement, which is the sweet spot for content marketing. It’s easy to measure how much time someone spends with a piece of content, whether it’s retweeted, viewed or shared. These “softer” metrics (vs. CPA metrics) lend themselves to experimentation, which is critical to a great content-marketing program. When acquisition (i.e., direct response) is not the primary metric, there’s more room (and appetite) to experiment. Financial-services companies also intuitively grasp the importance of being thought of as thought leaders.
In our experience, most of our FS clients are trying to improve their reputation, and the combination of visibility and engagement directly affects reputation and favorability. The more the target sees the ads and engages with the content, the better they think of the client. Since content marketing emphasizes engagement, it’s perfect for financial-services advertisers.
I’m glad to see financial-services advertisers gravitate to content marketing as a way to demonstrate thought leadership and enhance their reputation. It reminds me of how Dial Corporation and P&G used soap operas in the 1940s to reach their targets and enhance their reputations through content creation. I suspect they’ll be just as successful.
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