How can ethical finance be marketed effectively in 2020?
By Charlie Britten
30 Jun 2020
Ethics in business have often been an afterthought. Companies have often treated a reputation of doing good in society and the wider world as a ‘nice to have;’ on their business CV, reasoning that this was not foremost on their customers minds.
However, times have changed. The environment has become such a big issue that few firms can ignore it, even if some have been accused of ‘greenwashing’ by creating an eco-friendly image that is more about style than substance.
How 2020 has raised the bar on expectations
The events of 2020 have added to this. The response many firms have made to the Coronavirus pandemic has been well noted, with firms laying off staff rather than using the furlough system, or even using furlough when they have ample cash available to pay them. Some firms, such as Virgin Atlantic and pub chain Wetherspoons, have come under fire for such moves.
In addition, the Black Lives Matter movement has led to many older firms examining any past links to slavery, while across the board many will have reflected on their efforts to promote diversity and tackle discrimination and ask if they can do more.
Why financial firms face pressure
For financial firms, this is hardly the first time they have been in the spotlight for their business dealings in a crisis; after all, it was the systemic failings in the sector that led to the deep recession of 2008-09 and its lasting consequences.
This time round, their forbearance with people in debt and struggling to pay mortgages may have a major impact on their long-term reputations. Some banks, such as RBS, are still seen in a deeply negative light over the events of a dozen years ago.
Ethical finance is possible
Of course, a very small number of banks have taken a stance on ethics already and have used it extensively in their marketing.
The prime UK example is the Co-operative Bank, which adopted an ethical investment stance in 1992. This has been updated every few years based on customer surveys, either to maintain existing elements of the policy or add new ones. Amongst other things, this meant the bank refusing finance to industries such as tobacco, the arms trade, GM crops or anything environmentally damaging.
This approach did win the bank customers, although the institution faced a crisis of its own after nearly folding due to a poorly-managed takeover of the Britannia Building Society.
However, the Co-op Bank is not alone. Dutch bank Triodos is also committed to people and planet’, while MoneeMint, which grew out of Ummah Finance, has ambitions of becoming a favourite ethical banking option for the Muslim community with Sharia-compliant finance.
The way forward
MoneeMint’s digital operation reflects the growth of internet banking in recent years, something the pandemic is likely to have helped expand as more people have discovered it as a means of keeping tabs on their accounts while staying safe at home. The Co-op Bank itself launched its own internet bank, Smile, in the early 2000s.
Because online banking is geared to those who like to use the web a lot, the digital marketing opportunities are obvious. But it is not just the medium. The message of ethical responsibility is one that needs to be geared clearly at the right buyer persona, just as it would with any other products.
In particular, it is likely that the target market would involve a lot of younger, more environmentally conscious people, those of religious faith, involved heavily in civil society and voluntary efforts, as well as people of substantial personal financial means who won’t need to chase the very best deal, and may take something slightly less advantageous - such as an ethical investment - for the greater good.
Whether through content marketing, social media posts or PPC ads, it is to such people that the appeal of ethical finance could enjoy great returns on marketing investment.
How BeUniquenesscan help you
If you are a financial sector firm with a strong ethical position, BeUniquenesscan help you to market this through a digital marketing programme that will clearly and accurately target your buyer persona, enabling you to enjoy substantial growth for your firm.