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The Role of Emotions in Financial Marketing

Should wealth management storytelling tap into the feelings of the audiences it's targeting?

A recent Wells Fargo study found that over half of Americans worry about money. Even after reducing spending and delaying significant purchases, the stress continues as the cost of living remains high and salaries do not keep pace with inflation. Americans are forced to make high-stakes, tough decisions.

Wealth management brands are uniquely positioned to help Americans understand their relationship with money and make choices that will benefit them today and in the future. Emotion could be a formidable marketing tool, given its outsized role in financial decisions. Brands can leverage humor, anger, fear, joy and more to connect with their audiences and encourage action. However, if misused, it could unintentionally harm the brand.

Whether communicating with investors or intermediaries, advisors are tasked with responsibly using emotion in their marketing efforts. So, when is it appropriate to leverage emotional storytelling?

When Should Emotion Be Used?

To encourage action. The responsibility to save for retirement sits on the shoulders of every American. We all want to enjoy the golden years, so helping investors understand how delaying savings could make retirement an unobtainable dream can help spur them and their advisors into action.

To form connections. Humans want to work with people who understand them—especially during times of heightened emotions. Life transitions and unexpected crises are times when empathy is necessary to help address today’s issues while staying on track for the future.   

To build trust. Client testimonials and case studies that incorporate emotion and go beyond facts appeal to potential clients and customers. Knowing why a choice was made and how it benefited the individual builds confidence in a brand.

To align values. Social responsibility and ethical investing are important factors when considering working with a business or individual—especially for younger individuals. Ensuring brand values are clearly communicated can help tip the scales in customer acquisition.

When Should Emotion Be Avoided?

When an emergency occurs. Newsjacking is important—audiences should know that brands follow current events and factor them into their offerings. But playing on fears and leaning into the adage “when it bleeds, it leads” without offering a solution is useless.

When optimism overshadows reality. When connecting with an audience, it’s natural to focus on the positives. Optimism is appreciated, but reality needs to be addressed first and foremost. Without an understanding of the whole picture—both the good and bad—customers cannot make an informed decision.

When focused on technicalities. It’s challenging to summarize the nuances of highly technical products succinctly. In a world of shortened attention spans, emotion can be used to attract attention but do not hide the details. Make sure product information is readily available.    

When it does not align with the brand. Authenticity is essential to build trust, credibility and differentiation within the market. If the emotions weaved into the message are not authentic to the fabric of an organization, they risk current customers and potential new connections.

Remember, the Audience Should Always Be the Focal Point.

A strong understanding of the target audience is needed before addressing the abovementioned considerations. Know the audience’s challenges, opportunities, hopes and fears, and the ecosystem they operate in. Place the customer, not the brand or product messaging, at the story’s center to effectively incorporate emotion into the narrative to form relationships, build trust and ultimately benefit the bottom line.


 Meghan Busch is VP at The Bliss Group.

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