The #1 Brand Health Metric That Social Media Must Own to Win

Many organizations struggle to choose the research approach that best understands and tracks their brand’s health and market position. Last year, the technology market research division at Market Strategies shared its thoughts on NPS and multi-measure approaches as a broader alternative. We fielded questions about social media brands that resulted in a US-based Brand Health Index (BHI), which drew from measures of satisfaction, positive brand sentiment and a brand’s strength at connecting consumers to others.

Fast forward one year to our 2017 Brand Health Study: Do we continue to see value in our BHI when measuring and evaluating brands in the social media space? And can we determine what’s driving a particular brand’s health and momentum (or lack thereof)? Let’s take a look to see how the brands stack up.

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Banks: Commodity is Not a Dirty Word

It’s not uncommon for financial services market researchers to have to share results that are not what clients and their stakeholders were hoping to hear. And yet speaking research-driven truths is an imperative when developing products and improving the customer experience.

This is especially true when consumers see a client’s product as a “commodity,” meaning something all financial services providers offer that are pretty much interchangeable in terms of features, benefits and costs. This is particularly tough when the client’s product team is involved because it can feel like a non-starter, as though there’s nothing they can do to differentiate the offering.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

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DC Plan Advisors Driving Financial Wellness Program Adoption

Fact-Based Trends from Cogent Reports™    

Faced with increased pressure to demonstrate added value, DC advisors are offering financial wellness programs more frequently. Financial wellness programs, which are designed to educate employees about how to manage their personal finance challenges such as debt reduction, asset management, unexpected expenses as well as saving for retirement, are starting to soar in popularity.

Nearly four in ten (38%) DC advisors incorporate financial wellness into their offerings, a significant increase from the 29% who reported doing so in 2016. Emerging DC advisors (managing less than $10M in DC assets) and Independent producers are driving the overall increase in financial wellness program availability.

Financial Wellness Program Availability | Cogent Reports

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Bridging the Gap in Financial Wellness

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Bridging the Gap in Financial Wellness | Cogent Reports

As financial wellness programs gain popularity, questions arise about how to design an effective program that works for the employee and the employer. It was just a few years ago that these programs began to emerge as an employee benefit designed to help employees struggling with aspects of managing household finances. While only 16% of all DC plan sponsors currently offer a financial wellness program, 38% are likely to consider such an offering in the near future. As many employers begin to recognize that a financially secure workforce is both more productive and more motivated, they are increasingly looking to offer their employees additional support with personal finances—but what does that mean when building out a financial wellness program?

As popularity grows, providers must keep the goals of plan sponsors and participants in mind when deciding what components to build into these nascent financial wellness offerings. The most common components of current financial wellness programs according to plan sponsors are online access and guidance on health savings accounts or HSAs. Contrast this with the employee perspective. When asked about which employer offering would be helpful when making decisions about household finances, plan participants cite online tools and access to a financial advisor or coach most often. Notably, plan participants prioritize credit score guidance and discounted bank accounts over HSA guidance, highlighting the focus on “here-and-now” household finances and not longer-term additional savings required to cover health costs during retirement. Continue reading

Advisor Marketing Volume Strikes a Five-year Low

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Providers appear to be easing up on the volume of advisor communications. This year, advisors report receiving an average of 101 monthly touches from providers. True, this may seem like an overwhelming volume of content to sift through, but it is significantly lower than the 110 monthly touches reported in 2016 and a dramatic shift from the 126 monthly touches reported in 2013. This decline is nearly systemic and can be seen across all types of touches except email.

Providers should seek to match their marketing strategies to the way advisors prefer to be communicated with and in a positive sign, this year firms appear to be hitting the right frequency and touchpoint. 57 of the average 101 monthly touches are emails and 56% of advisors cite email as the most effective way to reach them. However, in what appears to be an unmet opportunity, nearly one-quarter of advisors prefer external wholesaler visits, a touchpoint that has seen a decline in frequency since 2015. Continue reading

When It’s OK To Be Pushy in Financial Services

I was recently looking back at responses from an old post-event survey administered by an asset manager, and I was struck by one recurring comment from attendees. The sponsor company had gone to great lengths to make this a value-add event, not a sales event. There was no talk of product and barely any talk of the company itself. The speakers were accomplished and noteworthy academics, the location was on neutral territory, and the topics were brand-agnostic. The result? Continue reading

Being a Fiduciary “Has Something To Do With Money”

In an entirely unscientific study, I talked to 31 people on the street Jimmy Kimmel-style to find out what “the people” think about the term “fiduciary” and the DOL’s fiduciary rule. These conversations happened in the financial district of a major metropolitan area. I made an effort to get a range of demographic profiles, though admittedly I may be overrepresenting people who are willing to be a captive audience while waiting for lunch at a food truck. What I learned was a good reminder of how quickly news travels from the industry to the consumer (hint: not quickly). It also reiterates the opportunity for asset managers to leverage the rule-driven structural changes that are already in place or in process, even if those changes may not ultimately be necessary. Keep reading to find out more and see a brief video of three investors describing what it means to be a fiduciary in their own words.

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Why Do Regulated Utilities Care About Their Brand?

Why Do Regulated Utilities Care About Their Brand?At Market Strategies, we’ve recently seen an uptick in utilities wanting to better define and manage their brand. I recently sat down with Claire Maglione, New Jersey Natural Gas’ (NJNG) manager of customer experience, to discuss how they’ve approached their brand work and why it’s important even for a regulated utility like NJNG. Below is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.

Why is brand important to a regulated utility like New Jersey Natural Gas?

Claire MaglioneClaire: Typically, a company uses a brand to differentiate itself from competitors. For most energy utility companies, that doesn’t necessarily hold true. In our service territory, customers can choose their natural gas supplier, so in that sense there is competition, but they cannot choose the company who delivers it. For NJNG, the importance of brand is a matter of being viewed as a trusted source: to safely and reliably provide natural gas to homes and businesses, enable customers to easily conduct business, educate customers on energy-efficiency, make products and services both affordable and available and be a good community partner.
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Active Managers Make Inroads with Fee-based Advisors

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Fee-based advisors are one of the few advisor segments that is growing, which has led to a shift toward low-cost, passively managed investments. This shift is being felt across the industry, leading many to believe that active management as we know it is on its way out. However, the data in this year’s Advisor Brandscape® don’t fully support these findings, as low-fee providers known for their passively managed investments are not the only firms topping advisors’ consideration set. In fact, this year’s report shows a resurgence for particular active managers.

American Funds, PIMCO and T. Rowe Price are three active managers gaining ground with fee-based advisors, having successfully weathered downturns in the past by maintaining a strong, consistent brand identity. American Funds earns the strongest associations of any provider with “is a company I trust,” “consistent performance” and “is a leader in equities.” PIMCO enjoys a strong advantage in “is a leader in fixed income.” While Vanguard remains the undisputed leader in “good value for the money,” American Funds and T. Rowe Price rank second and third, respectively, both having improved their ratings over the past two years. Continue reading

How Energy Marketplaces Give Utilities More Control

Does the average person shop for energy products through their utility? We know that customer preferences for shopping, particularly for Millennials and Gen Xers, is shifting toward online or mobile phone and away from traditional “brick and mortar” stores—51% of Americans think shopping online is the best way to shop (source: Big Commerce). But, how does that translate for utilities? Consumers embrace new products, adapt to new services more quickly and spend significant time researching and comparing online shopping options prior to making purchases. Product reviews and word-of-mouth opinions carry more weight than ever, and visual representations including product displays are expected to “come alive” during the purchase process. Such changing consumer behavior requires that traditional marketing tactics evolve to meet these shifting consumer demands, and utilities are not the exception. Continue reading