The “Quiet Company” Ain’t So Quiet Anymore

Remember “The Quiet Company?”

Sure.  Northwestern Mutual ran this classic branding campaign for years.

A great brand…for that time.

But, that was then.

And, now, well I think most would agree (especially those in the financial and investment industry) that “now” is completely different.

A few weeks ago, I was watching that annual television sports feast known as the NCAA basketaball tournament. Besides VCU’s amazing run to the Final Four (Go Rams!), the most surprising aspect of the tournament for me was the number of television ads from Northwestern Mutual promoting their myriad of financial services.

What happened to that “quiet” company?

I picked up my Forbes two weeks ago and Northwestern Mutual had the center page insert to tell their story.

During the last six months, I have been contacted at work, not once, not twice, but THREE times by three different Northwestern Mutual reps wanting to tell me the Northwestern Mutual  story.

What the heck is going on?  They’re certainly not very ‘quiet’ these days at Northwestern Mutual.

And, for good reason.

An industry insider told me that Northwestern Mutual’s new CEO has recently proclaimed that the time to be “the quiet company” in the finanical and investment industry has come and passed.  He challenged his crew to get out their and tell their story.

I think he is dead on.

No industry has lost more customer trust and confidence over the last five years than the financial and investment industry.

What has amazed me is that many financial and investment companies have continued to communicate in pretty much the same way that they always have, despite customers’ distrust and {highly-discerning perspective}.  The approach for many has remained consistent with the past: non-intrusive, safe communications that display their organization’s unassailable credentials.  They seem almost proud of  their “under the radar” stance.

I hear often from leaders at financial and investment companies that “we are not the kind of organziation that wants to ‘beat the drum’ and draw too much attention to ourselves.”

We have a saying at Big River: either you tell your story in a relevant way, or someone else will tell it for you.

Usually, that ‘someone else’ is your competition.  And, almost 100% of the time, you will not like the story they are telling.

So, here’s what I think…

Financial services companies must rise to the challenge and communicate their story in a way that is truly engaging for their customers.

Approach things more from a people to people perspective (remember today’s #1 marketing credo — “people believe people”) rather than the old  traditional, venerable, solid institution approach used by the majority of financial services companies.

A great example of a new “people to people” approach in the financial arena is the new “Life Well Planned” communications from Raymond James.

Check out the attached ad.  Raymond James actually shows real personality and pokes fun at themselves in this piece from the Wall Street Journal.  The first line of copy says: “We may not be your first choice of who to spend the entire evening next to at a cocktail party.”  They tell their story as if they were having a real conversation with real people.

They carry this colloquial approach through their interactive communications. (check out their web site and the quirky video stories online here)

This is refreshing.  This is a lot closer to “people to people” communications. This feels a lot more like a personal, authentic story.  If financial services is really all about relationships, this helps underscore that Raymond James truly understands what real relationships are all about.

And, when you’ve got that, there is certainly no need to be “quiet” anymore.



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