Thursday, September 18, 2008

Managing the "mood" of the public

This blurb in one of the advertising-industry newsletters got me to thinking:

Amid turmoil and panic in the global credit markets, ads for some financial institutions are touting long experience. Experts are divided on the wisdom of trying to reassure customers and investors during a financial crisis. One PR expert says that such ads will be greeted with skepticism, given the prevailing news, while others suggest that financial brands need to communicate stability and empathy.

In good times, advertisers are primarily concerned with moving product and/or converting customers from another brand to theirs. Good marketers and advertisers have gotten very sophisticated about doing this. I've often joked that I have given up fighting the junk food industry. They simply have too much money to spend and super-sized expertise in convincing me that I need to eat more chicken nuggets, so I will never be able to fight them. Pass the honey mustard sauce, please.

But how do advertisers handle tough times? Is it incumbent on AIG today to be honest with policyholders (and POTENTIAL policyholders)? How do they go about convincing everyone to stay put with their term life policies instead of cancelling and going to someone else who appears to have a better chance of meeting their obligation when the customer croaks? And for sure, how do they attract new business. Since you, I, and all American taxpayers are now co-owners of this fine financial company, I want to know how we are going to grow the business so we can get our money back...with interest.

And how do competitors handle this? First, they have to assure everyone that they are solid as...well...the rock of Gibraltar. Powerful as a sounding whale. That's no small task when the entire sector is suddenly teetering. It's hard to be funny or clever. Even a caveman can see that. And it's patently unseemly to point to AIG and gloat. Yet, somehow, insurers and banks have to gain back the public's trust, even if individual players are doing fine.

Now, let's see how these "sophisticated marketers" handle these little challenges.

It's the stuff future marketing doctorate theses are made of!

Don Keith N4KC

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