Content in Context Can Build Consumer Trust

Consumer trust can be especially difficult to maintain in the financial services industry. Highly publicized negative events involving banks and their customers have fed into the skepticism consumers feel toward financial institutions, with 46 percent of Americans believing they can’t trust these brands, according to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer.

That’s not good news for banks, especially in this age when consumers have more choices than ever. Relationships matter, and with the rise of digital media, customers are savvier about researching and making decisions about who they can trust with their money.

Digital helps brands reconnect

Many financial services brands are leveraging digital advertising as an avenue to earn consumer confidence or, in several cases, win it back. For example, after Wells Fargo was fined for illegal sales practices in 2016, it increased its ad spend across digital media and mobile apps in the following year.

Wells Fargo’s “Re-Established” campaign, launched in May 2018, was a necessary mea culpa in an effort to mend customer relationships through ad placements in nearly every major channel, with digital at the forefront.

Michael Lacorazza, Head of Integrated Marketing at Wells Fargo, was recently interviewed by John Piontkowski, the Finance industry lead at Oath, about what the most important factors are for re-establishing trust, and how to measure reputation points.

Q & A

John Piontkowski, Oath: Wells Fargo's "Re-Established" campaign, launched earlier in May, focused on trust. Michael, at a high level what are the most important advertising strategies for Wells Fargo?

Michael Lacorazza, Wells Fargo: Digital, and mobile in particular, are important because they are channels where we can connect with our audience with scale.

John: Let's talk about the strategy behind Wells Fargo's "Re-established" campaign across channels.

Michael: The "Re-established" campaign signals that it's a new day at Wells Fargo, and the company is ready to emerge from a challenging period in its history. To emerge as a better, customer-focused company. Each channel plays a role in communicating the story in a way that considers what audiences expect and is designed to show up with relevance.

John: What metrics are you using to measure trust and reputation points?

Michael: We have a robust measurement plan that evaluates attitudinal shifts, business outcomes and engagement as well as operational metrics. Engagement is an important performance signal. We look at content consumption behavior, from when the ad is delivered, through the click on a call-to-action to visit a richer content experience, and beyond. In this case, we prioritize click-through and audience quality. It's about how many of the right people take the next step and then what they do after the experience.

John: Full disclosure: you’ve chosen Oath as a partner for your “Re-established” digital campaign.  What led to that decision?

Michael: How content is delivered and consumed is as important as the scale. Overall, it's about impact for us. Our hypothesis is that this is about getting the right people to the site experience and designing relevant content.

In premium content consumers trust

Research from Oath reveals that context plays a huge role in shaping consumer perception of brands. According to a 2017 Oath proprietary research study, a stunning 75 percent of consumers feel brands are accountable for the high or low quality of content that appears adjacent to their advertising. In other words, even though brands are not responsible for creating content environments on sites and in apps, they are being held responsible for their content associations.

It’s no surprise that consumers gravitate toward premium sources, but their preference for verified, professionally generated content is staggering. In fact, consumers are twice as likely to consider premium content as trustworthy and important compared to user-generated content.

As a result, financial brands should seek out these types of content spaces exclusively. The same Oath study revealed the three main attributes consumers in the financial category associate with premium content: trustworthy (56 percent), insightful (48 percent), and easy to understand (42 percent).

Go full funnel to earn reputation points

Ad adjacency is certainly an important concept, but it’s not the only piece of the trust-building puzzle for financial brands. Knowing how to play in these premium spaces is just as critical, and marketers should be using full-funnel execution to align with preferred content to build brand favorability.

Trust may be eroding between financial brands and their customers, but that doesn’t mean institutions are fighting unwinnable battles to flip perceptions. Brands matter and trust matters to deliver the best experience for advertisers and consumers alike. By making smart advertising decisions and paying attention to content environments favored by consumers, banks are in a strong position to repair relationships and inspire confidence.


This article was edited from a fuller interview posted here, and content that ran in AdWeek on 5/31/18, available here.