Big risks come with big rewards, and potentially big losses – a concept that is familiar to many professionals in the financial industry. So why are the majority of financial institutions playing it safe with their advertisements instead of daring to be different?

Financial companies walk a fine line in advertising with the potential of being forgotten with an ad that plays it safe and the potential of alienating their customers with an ad that takes risks. When choosing whether to play it safe or take a risk, companies need to consider their culture and their audience to determine the best path.

Why Daring to Be Different with Financial Advertising Can Be Rewarding

In general people have a negative feeling when the words “creative” and “financial” are used in the same sentence. The financial industry has had a long history of using serious language and imagery in its communication to gain customers’ confidence and show that financial institution X is the most reliable place to bank.

While using safe, serious advertisements is beneficial for many financial institutions and their audiences, exploring daring advertising can be the most rewarding risk a financial institution takes.

Advertisements that play it safe rarely get shared, whereas advertisements that dare to be different are shared on social media, replayed on YouTube and discussed in person. This increases the value of your advertisement from a single customer view in one day on one medium to multiple views over a time period on a variety of media.

Daring advertisements help companies stand out in a marketplace that constantly competes for consumer attention.

Exploring Daring Financial Advertising

Your financial institution should explore daring advertising if…

  • You’re trying to reach a new audience base
  • Your safe ads are not performing well with current and potential customers
  • Playful advertising fits with your company culture
  • You want to revamp your company’s public perception

Companies that explore daring advertising have a chance at great success with brand recognition because daring ads are remembered. Think back to the Herbal Essences commercials with women washing their hair and yelling, “Yes!” Was it risky? Yes. Was it talked about, shared, recreated and remembered? Yes.

The challenge with taking risks in advertising is not offending people, because in today’s world, it’s almost guaranteed that someone will be offended by something you say. If you want daring advertising to benefit your brand, you need to be certain it will fit with your audience.

Take Nordnet bank for example. Nordnet launched a daring advertising campaign that promoted the company’s transparent banking philosophy.

These ads are a good fit for younger generations that are skeptical of advertising and banking. The ads are daring, but they work for the bank’s intended audience because they are brutally honest about the behind-the-scenes of both banking and advertising, thus building trust by being transparent.

Sticking to Safe Financial Advertising

Your financial institution should embrace safe advertising if…

  • Playing it safe is working for your company and customers
  • Your brand is culturally conservative
  • Your products or services need to be taken seriously, i.e. domestic violence hotline, funeral planning services, cancer prevention

The majority of advertisements we see and hear are playing it safe. Safe ads promote a company’s products, services or values. The ads usually don’t offend anyone, and they are often quickly forgotten.

Safe ads are a necessity for many brands because companies need to be taken seriously to gain customers’ trust. The most important concept to remember when creating a safe advertisement is that just because it is safe does not mean it lacks creativity. The secret to creating a memorable advertisement is connecting with your audience on an emotional level. Emotionally-engaging advertisements are the ones people connect with, remember and share.

Take Chase for example. The ad below promotes the bank’s savings services and connects with its audience on an emotional level by portraying a common feeling parents have about supporting their children in every way possible.

Playing it safe with advertising is a good idea for many financial institutions because the tone resonates with serious-minded audiences. Your decision to play it safe or dare to be different with advertising depends on how you want your company to be perceived and what type of audiences you are trying to reach.

There are many different paths your company could take with its advertising, and it is wise to explore these paths to understand the options you have.

To determine whether you should play it safe with your messages or take a risk with advertising, always consider your audience and your company culture.

If your audience will react better to a serious message, then play it safe with your advertising. However if your audience will appreciate humor or unusual messages in your advertisements, then explore your options with daring advertising.

For help defining your audience, brainstorming advertising options or developing safe and daring ad campaigns, contact Risdall.

Photo credit: Harry (Howard) Potts