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Coronavirus and Content Marketing in the Financial Sector

Written byAnibal Casso
April 27, 2020

In the wake of the pandemic, financial brands are ramping up content production on owned media platforms. What’s behind the spike?

Besides being a serious health crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic is dismantling the social, cultural, and economic frameworks that define public life. Consumers are scared — and their fear is fundamentally affecting how they seek, consume, and respond to brand communications. According to a recent Edelman report of 12,000 people worldwide, 84 percent want brands to be key sources of information during this crisis, while 57 percent expect brands to nix advertising that is humorous or lighthearted. In other words, the vast majority of consumers want to hear from brands right now, but they are hyper-sensitive to whatever they do hear. That’s why brands need to scrutinize how and why they speak to consumers.

While nearly every industry is witnessing new attitudes and behaviors from core demographics, the changes are perhaps most evident in the financial sector. According to a Kantar Media study of consumers in 50 markets, at this stage in the pandemic, people are even more worried about their finances than their personal health. In the same survey, 71 percent of respondents said their household income has been or will be impacted by coronavirus. On Google, searches for “financial help” grew 203 percent from March 8, 2020, to March 14, 2020. 

Consumers are grasping for clear directives to weather the pandemic’s financial fallout, and financial services brands are responding with a surge of content focused on that aim. Data from Performance Storytelling™, FIG’s AI-based analysis tool, shows that between February and March 2020, the number of articles published within the sector rose 19 percent compared to January of this year. In addition, the total content distributed in the first quarter of 2020 was 222 percent higher than the same period in 2019. While 80 percent of multinational advertisers are deferring scheduled campaigns, many key players in the financial space are pivoting their production capabilities to inexpensive, low-production-value media formats, especially text-based content blogs.

Blog Articles Published by Month – Retirement Planning & Services Brands
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A key application of Performance Storytelling™ is tracking brand communications in connection with topical events, be it the Super Bowl or a global health crisis like the novel coronavirus. For many of us, recurring cultural celebrations are relatively easy to interpret — we assimilate them into a rich reservoir of memories, collective experiences, and cognitive schemata. When it comes to unpredictable historical events, however, we have few frameworks for interpretation. For such unimaginable developments, our tool is especially useful in tracking minute patterns — keywords, thematic clusters, and phrasal permutations — that often go unnoticed, but collectively amount to significant insights.

To demonstrate this capability, let’s take a close look at one of our recent text-based analyses. Scanning thousands of articles published on branded financial services blogs from December 31, 2019 to April 7, 2020, we see the following trends:

  • A preponderance of active verbs with positive connotations, like plan, prepare, secure, and protectIn the aforementioned Kantar Media study, nearly a third of global respondents said that brands have a responsibility to help them face the crisis in their everyday lives. Our internal analysis suggests that brands are spotlighting concrete advice and solutions to address their audiences’ desire for practical financial help.

  • A high proportion of future-oriented topics related to retirement planning. Even before the pandemic hit, people were hungry for guidance on retirement: a 2019 Google study found that “planning for retirement” was one of the top areas where consumers felt least financially confident. So, especially at a time like this, financial brands are focusing on sharing resources to quell anxiety around retirement planning. 

  • A strong focus on how advisors can help consumers navigate the crisis. The key selling point for most financial brands is their advisors: the real people who bring their products and services to life through personal exchanges. Though in-person interactions are not possible right now, the advisors are still a crucial conduit for information via digital forums — and financial brands are proactively highlighting the value of client-advisor relationships.

  • Minimal mention of negative keywords like stress, fear, and recession. Though the mainstream news cycle abounds with anxiety-inducing verbiage, we’re seeing that the content posted by financial brands avoids overtly negative diction. When popular concerns do crop up in keywords like recession, crisis, and risk, they are almost always framed in the context of support and recovery — brands are using this crisis as a chance to highlight their emergency aid and crisis relief services, like asset rebalancing, tax-loss harvesting, and hardship withdrawals. 

Keyword Count in Blog Articles Related to COVID-19 – Retirement Planning & Services Brands (Date Range: 12/31/2019–4/7/2020)
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Topics in Blog Articles Related to COVID-19 – Retirement Planning & Services Brands (Date Range: 12/31/2019–4/7/2020)
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With Performance Storytelling™ topic modeling, we’re able to scan massive content libraries for trending keywords, topics, and themes. Our analysis of communications in the wake of COVID-19 reveals a dramatic uptick in content production in the financial sector, with particular emphasis on tangible solutions, planning for future prosperity, and the expertise of human advisors. Grappling with an increasingly uncertain world, consumers are especially responsive to advice from trusted thought leaders; now is the time to double-down on your brand’s unique voice and perspective. 

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