The fabled ISA season has struggled in recent years, with 2019’s experience showing that this once vital period for the investment industry at large – and the advertisers operating within financial services industry specifically – is losing some of its lustre.
It was back in 1992 when Nigella Lawson’s dad introduced PEPs (Personal Equity Plans - the forerunner of today’s ISAs) and started the annual trend of reviewing your investments every April. A vehicle which enabled investors to invest up to £6,000 tax-free, as they grew in importance, so did sales and marketing departments’ activity leading up to the 5th April deadline.
So important was the ISA season becoming that many advertisers spent around 50% of their annual budget in the first four months of the year – three months leading up to the financial year deadline, and the rest in April trying to grab that financial year’s allowance in the hope of getting a second bite at the fiscal cherry.
At Capital City Media we constantly monitor over fifty asset management companies’ advertising activity and track spend within the weekly UK IFA print media, as well as the institutional equivalents. To round things off we also do the same for both the personal finance pages of the national press and the hobbyist titles.
Whilst ISA season remains important - it gives advisers an excuse to communicate with their clients - our analysis shows a decline in advertising has once again showed a decline during this four-month period.
Partly this is because companies are realising people invest throughout the year. Consistency is, more than ever, key for companies, and a burst of activity for a month before a hiatus until the following year has always been a questionable strategy.
The importance of consistency of message and brand activity cannot be overstated because this creates trust and with trust, one believes, a higher propensity to buy.
There are three groups who have been active during this Q1 period for the past four years. The first consists of companies consistently spending high levels of advertising pounds (an average of £834,000 per company for the quarter over the past four years) within the personal finance pages of the UK national press, and includes names such as Artemis, Baillie Gifford, Aberdeen and Fidelity.
A second group - which includes Liontrust and Schroders - are spending, but not to the extent of the four companies mentioned in the first group (here the average is £78,000).
Finally the third group consists of asset managers who also manage investment trusts; it is this area of their business which is being promoted during this time, with similar spend levels to the second group rather than the first.
Regardless of the campaign spend, the key message is consistency.Brand awareness doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes time for consumers to become familiar with the distinctive qualities or image of a particular brand. But when it works, it really can make a meaningful impact for a business’ sales.