In today’s competitive market, brand differentiation is key for asset managers to stand out and make a unique impression on investors. The downturn in the financial markets is putting more pressure on asset managers to differentiate themselves from rivals and give asset owners a good reason to hire them. As a client recently said: when all things are equal, and they often are, brand differentiation really matters.
Over the past few years, investor motivations have evolved. Desire for strong, long-term performance is a given for all investors. There has been a growing interest in sustainable and socially responsible investments from professional and retail investors. The rise of online trading platforms and robo-advisors means that more people than ever before are able to participate in investing and retail investors are now taking a more active role in managing their portfolios. Post-Covid, all investors have become more focused on risk management and diversification.
Each of the largest asset managers has undergone its own identity shift as it works out the best way to differentiate itself and connect with its current audiences' needs and motivations. We thought it would be interesting to look at the descriptors of some of the biggest asset managers in 2023 and compare it to what they were saying in 2020.
Asset managers top-line messaging before and after Covid
2020 – Investing for a new world
2023 – Actually, it’s about you
2020 – When it comes to investing, consistency is beautiful
2023 – Investing smarter for the world you want
2020 – The currency of investing
2023 – Real engagement for a sustainable future
2020 – Trusted heritage, advanced thinking
2023 – We’re here to take care of what matters to you
In all of these cases, there has been a shift in messaging from being about the firm and its strengths, towards being about the investor and their capacity to make a difference in the world. Messaging is more customer-centric, reflecting a growing appetite to play an active role in investment choices. The sector has come a long way from past years, when performance was the standout factor in communications, with so much chest-beating about who was the biggest and who had the best performance.
This is no longer enough. A report from Coalition Greenwich – drawing on discussions with institutional investors, intermediary distributors and investment consultants – found that investment performance was critical, but investors are looking for values above and beyond this. It states: “asset managers must develop value propositions that help them stand out from the crowd by communicating and ultimately delivering something above and beyond investment performance.”
The communication challenges are distinct for the retail, intermediary and institutional audiences, and messaging must be crafted to connect across a range of touchpoints. But the bedrock of all communications is a firm’s brand messaging, which needs to move with the changing times.
When it comes to differentiating a proposition, we can see the big firms are competing over the same ideas. So how can mid-sized firms approach a messaging refresh? This is when mid-sized firms need to dig deeper – to unearth what makes them different or better. What the value proposition really is, and where they really deliver a benefit to their investors. Objectivity is vital here. Each company needs to highlight its unique competencies, capabilities and positioning. Asset managers can differentiate themselves in a number of ways including:
- Innovative products
- Investment specialisms
- Seamless client experience
- Insights / thought leadership
- Proving commitment to sustainability
- Distinctive company culture
At Embrace, we have the brand expertise to engage today’s different investor audiences through powerful narratives, and the digital marketing skills to build experiences that bring customers closer. We helped BMO Global Asset Management rethink their investment specialisms and global capabilities, creating consistent messaging, grounded in facts, that resonated internally. We worked with BlueBay on a new website that connects insights and research to funds and next steps. We helped JP Morgan change investors’ perceptions about their capabilities. And we helped Columbia Threadneedle provide a seamless user journey on their website, linking asset classes, fund pages and insights. More recently, we’ve been helping Columbia Threadneedle build their new global brand message and their Responsible Investing proposition.
If you’d like to talk to us about asset management marketing, do get in touch.