• Transform magazine
  • July 01, 2022

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Five minutes with Jim Misener

Jim M B&W

Jim Misener, president at independent branding and creative agency 50,000feet, discusses the complexities and difficulties of working with clients from financial service categories.

Why have the financial service categories historically been challenging to develop breakthrough creativity for?

Unlike product brands, service brands are frequently more difficult to market because they are intangible, requiring more adept and subtle strategies to educate audiences on differentiating features, competitive advantages and rational and emotional benefits. Because services are invisible by nature, strategies to build awareness and recall can’t rely on visible product differentiation. Strong marketing describes and explains these differences and brings the key differentiators to life through storytelling. The narratives must connect the services to the hearts and minds of their audiences in other resonant ways.

Financial services brand marketing often requires educating audiences on complex and highly technical aspects of the capital markets and financial planning. Marketers must simplify the complexities of the service offering and then provide both rational and emotional drivers to inspire audiences to act. In addition, the financial services industry is highly regulated, meaning brand marketing must avoid any promissory messaging and often requires integrating lengthy disclosures within brand marketing.

When 50,000feet starts a project with a financial services brand, how different is the way you approach it compared to other categories?

In large part, our process is the same. To ground our work within any industry, our team begins by gaining a thorough understanding of a client’s business and their strategic imperatives and objectives; their brand strategy, which includes their positioning and guidelines; and most importantly, an understanding of their intended audience, including their pain points and motivations. In addition, we believe that great brands should educate as much as they inspire, and financial services brands especially must strike this balance.

How has this helped your clients in practice?

Our team has extensive experience and expertise working with preeminent financial brands across a wide range and in many capacities, from some of the largest global asset managers and capital markets to emerging, high-growth Fintech start-ups. Our team helps clients develop brand strategy and marketing programs; integrated brand and customer experiences; brand and visual identity systems; websites; customer experience initiatives; public affairs, employee and client communication programs; talent management and recruiting; and sales enablement/client engagement programs.

How different is the way 50,000feet operates with financial services clients compared to other branding agencies?

At 50,000feet, our expertise differentiates our work for clients and stimulates considerable, above-market returns. We have decades of experience working with the most disruptive and fastest growing technology brands, and building B2B and B2B2B2C platforms lies at our core. We are experts in developing brand narratives for complex B2B systems within technology, payments, FinTech, supply chain/logistics, trading, consumer mobile devices, insurance and connected home. We have been recognized for our strength in developing omni-channel brand experience and narratives that seamlessly work across product lines, channels business and service groups. We’re experienced in working in digital ecosystems and with software-driven experiences, including high-growth SaaS start-ups.

Because we deeply understand our clients' businesses, we can help develop more engaging, immersive and authentic brand strategies and customer experiences. We have a depth of expertise and breadth of experience solving complex marketing challenges for some of the largest financial service and consulting brands within asset management; commercial, institutional, investment and retail banking; hedge funds; commodity, crypto, equity and derivative exchanges; investment management across third-party distribution; institutional and retail investors; FinTech; private equity; insurance; advisory, brokerage and professional services. Experience counts, and it is what helps set us apart.

How much of an impact do real-world issues have on your projects when working with global financial service brands?

The brightest brands today want to understand their role and relevance within the lives of their customers. For financial services brands, this often involves helping to educate their clients on current economic development and then connecting their brand’s own relevance to these topics to make their messaging resonate with their audiences.

Successful brands understand the importance of brand storytelling in connecting the ideas that underlie their products and services to real-life action. World events have tremendous influence on global financial service brands, establishing the market, cultural and personal context in which customers and consumers are experiencing and evaluating these brands. Marketers must develop and manage brands with consideration of the market, audience and cultural context.

At their best, brands can ​​help transform businesses in powerful and many faceted ways. Brands can set direction, inspire action, fuel growth, educate clients, strengthen reputation, raise awareness, deepen connections, build momentum and change minds.