Wednesday, 1 January 2003

M&G buck tough market trends with targeted newspaper ads

M&G, one of the financial clients I work on, have won more awards for their newspaper strategy and the M&G approach is now featured on the Newspaper Marketing Association website.

Full details:

In a depressed marketplace M&G Investments maximised their reduced advertising budget to increase response rate and pick up sales.

As featured on Newspaper Marketing Association website -

National newspapers provided M&G with the ability to reach an affluent market sector cost effectively. The medium demonstrated its power to enhance brand perceptions through driving desirable image factors including the brand being 'informative', 'frank' and 'trusted'. The medium's ability to deliver in terms of strong response rates and sales is endorsed via the campaign winning gold at the IDM Awards.

The issue
The financial market was facing hard times in 2001, following consecutive drops in sales - by the end of 2001 sales of ISAs (Individual Savings Accounts) had fallen by 30%. With declining consumer investment M&G faced a reduced marketing budget and increased sales targets.

The core market was "mass affluents" - individuals with assets of £30,000 to £200,000 and/or incomes of £30,000 - £100,000. Just 8.4% of the population, but worth £500billion with their numbers expected to grow.

Research showed that a large section of these "mass affluents" are under 40 years old quite whimsical and therefore tough to target. M&G identified a key segment - the over-45s "affluent silvers" - who spend much more time considering their investment options - and decided to focus on them.

With a reduced budget M&G needed to spend their advertising pound more effectively. M&G's programme of quantitative and qualitatative research showed that consumers and IFAs (Independent Financial Advisors) alike expected five key strengths from an investment company, namely: expertise, informative, straight forward, integrity and durability.

As a long established firm M&G felt comfortable about "integrity and durability" but needed to ensure their strengths in the other areas were communicated more effectively.

Trust emerged as the key brand benefit to be communicated but it was not suitable as a proposition. The phrase "you can trust me" could evoke cynicism - the consumer would want to see proof of this claim.

Consumers were looking for an institution that told the truth - one that gave the real facts and treated customers like adults.

M&G's 'the truth about investing as we see it' brand response campaign ran as copy-rich newspaper ads. Each one explained a complex subject, such as ISAs or bonds, and demystified it. The ads ran in January 2003.

To ensure greater standout the ads were featured in full-colour in the main news sections of national papers.

Product ads followed, explaining specific M&G products and their performance and advantages. Placed in the newspaper financial sections this further targeted the audience in buying/considering mode.

These ads ran in January, ahead of the 'usual' ISA advertising time of February before the turn of the financial year. This enhanced the message for readers to take their time and absorb the information.
Why national newspapers?
- National newspapers provided a compelling proposition for the M&G brand by:

- Providing cost effective reach of M&G's affluent core target audience of 'silver affluents'

- Providing a route that made it easy for the reader to respond (via coupons and phone

- Newspapers were the entirely appropriate environment for campaign message because:

- Consumers are fully engaged and absorbed by their paper, an ideal scenario for the detailed information that M&G wanted to get across

- At the same time the powerful relationship the reader has with their paper and level of trust supported M&G's branding objectives

In the context of a hostile market, in which investors were distrustful, the campaign delivered outstanding results:

- Media spend for the campaign was 32% less than 2002 yet the response rates jumped up by 33%

- In February there was a 100% increase compared with 2002

- Costs per enquiry fell by 54% and total cost per acquisition was down by 35%

- M&G increased its market share by 14% for combined IFA and direct sales

- This was in the context of a 30% fall in total market sales

- Redemptions also fell by 19% compared to industry rises of 20-25%

- M&G achieved the highest prompted brand awareness in the sector - despite spending 15% less on marketing than the market leader

*The M&G Investments case study was the Gold Award Winner at the IDM Awards

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