What the Movie Trolls Can Teach You About Marketing (You’ll Like it)

One of my favorite things in life is encountering two completely unrelated things and discovering a commonality. It’s so satisfying to find points of connection where you wouldn’t expect to see them (hence the walls of metaphors that tend to populate our brainstorming sessions).

Anyway, something like that happened recently: I (finally) sat through Trolls 2 with my kiddo on the same day that I read a fairly pointed critique of investment strategy marketing by Peregrine Communications (a big agency in our industry).

How investment managers market

The latter first. Here’s a quote from their website:

A Peregrine study of 100 asset managers’ digital presence across Europe and the US found that managers tend to use the same 10 terms in their brief “elevator pitch” descriptions of their businesses: global (34%), long-term (32%), innovative (24%), leading (20%), experience (13%), independent (13%), expertise (12%), diversity (11%), values (11%), and responsible (10%)

It’s funny because it’s true.

I spend a lot of time drilling into the specific value-adds that our clients provide, primarily because a general tendency is for everyone to use the same words, pick the same colors, dress in the same suits, and repeat the same phrases.

I get it – there’s safety there. But if you want to really win people over, safety in numbers isn’t your friend.

Most high net worth investors and their advisors or family offices get an extraordinary number of pitches every day. When I worked in wealth management, most of them used to make a passing appearance on my desk. We weren’t even a big firm, but there I was, constantly surrounded by decks on their way somewhere – generally to one of the analysts if it made it past me or to my trash can if it didn’t.

If you’re marketing to the big wide world of mass affluent investors or DIYers, it’s even worse. Have you ever stopped to consider how much advertising you see all the time, every single day? So do they. It’s madness.

Trolls has the answer

Absorb the wisdom in this throwaway line by a supporting character who is questioning his queen’s effort to make every troll into a rock troll (you may have to see the movie to understand this plot point):

If we all look the same, how will anyone know we’re, like, cool, or something?

I love this line. It tickled me as a marketer because it is exactly right.

If you really think you’re cool, and you really have something special to offer, you’d better market that – not the stuff that everyone else is selling.

Yes, this can be hard

Don’t get me wrong, this is difficult. It’s so hard to stand out when you’re competing against a tidal wave of firms that all seem to be successful using the same “indicators” of how cool they are.

But the thing is, if you have a marketing budget, you already know that your idea has legs.

Sure, you probably have stiff competition. You have probably been rejected. But while your particular brand of investment strategy (or music) might not appeal to everyone, you must know that there’s an audience out there.

It’s a matter of forging the right connection with the people who can become fans.

We don’t need to trick them into it – and we also don’t have to rely on this idea that “the numbers will speak for themselves.” The reality is that even for firms with good performance, they often don’t. I meet really smart people with great numbers all the time who could be doing a lot better with a bit of great story-telling.

What you probably need most is all the great parts of marketing: connection, communication, and maybe a bit of client education – especially if you’re doing something that truly is innovative.

Here, let us show you

We can build it for you. And I can guarantee you this: no one is as excited about helping you define your strategy as we are, and no one is more passionate about making your clients light up with that winning combination of understanding and enthusiasm.

There’s more to investment management than a performance table, and there’s more to marketing than the same ten adjectives.

Get in touch and see what can happen.

August 24, 2021

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