Media-consumption habits are changing – how should financial services brands respond?

9th November 2023

Rapid changes in the media landscape in recent years are well understood, thanks in no small part to the excellent work of Ofcom, Reuters and others. Print is dying, publishers are consolidating and social reigns supreme.

But beneath the mega trends are some interesting nuances in consumer behaviour that we had a chance to explore with PRmoment and senior figures from the financial services industry this week.  As part of our ongoing analysis of consumer behaviour, we looked at financial service customers – from savers, mortgage holders and pensioners to business owners and investors – drawing on primary research and aggregated trend data from YouGov, Censuswide and others.

Here are a few of the headlines.

Local activation is essential to drive trust

While local news is going through a torrid period of cuts and consolidation, it’s equally clear that demand for accessible, community-oriented news is as strong as ever.  Amongst ‘financially engaged’ audiences, 40% read local news, online or in print. This rises to more than half among pensioners.  Meanwhile, over a third (34%) of company leaders regularly watch regional broadcast news for business intelligence. It’s perhaps no surprise that year-on-year traffic to BBC local news sites is up 55% in Q3 2023.

Why?  Well, local media remain some of the most trusted sources of news in the UK.  In fact, the latest Reuters Institute ‘Digital News Report’ shows that local news is only just behind BBC, ITV and Channel 4 in terms of trust.

To build trust and engage target audiences who may increasingly feel disenfranchised by what they perceive as London-centric national media, financial service brands need to complement national campaigns with meaningful and regionally relevant activation plans.  As we as targeting traditional regional outlets, this should include engaging local media like The Mill, whose titles are starting to re-shape the landscape in cities across the North and Midlands.

Understand the new terms of social

The dominance of social media as a carrier of news is hardly new – or newsworthy.  But the profound scale of this change in recent years demands some attention.  Amongst financial service audiences of a pensionable age, we found that there has been a 200% increase in using social media as the main news source in just the last four years.

As well as challenging news outlets, social media platforms are increasingly taking on traditional search engines for many consumers.  Frontiers’ ‘Uncovering the Secrets of Search’ study found that 82% of consumers prefer to use social media for search over a search engine.

At the same time, within the social media arena the battle lines are shifting quickly. The TikTok-takeover is real, making it the most downloaded app in the world last year.  More importantly, it has rapidly become the origin of 40% of content across ALL social media platforms, according to Statista, and proven beyond doubt the potential impact of authentic, creative and infinitely shareable content.

So, whether you’re developing new pensions guidance, looking to attract pet owners with a new insurance package, or trying to reach the start-up generation with financial services that can help their business idea blossom, it’s more important than ever to optimise content for social and embed it with the right keywords, captions and hashtags to make it discoverable through the lens of the social SEO algorithm.

Go for growth

By the conclusion of her spectacularly disastrous reign, it felt like everything Liz Truss stood for was too toxic to touch.  But in an increasingly divided political environment, the one thing that everyone in politics seems to agree on is the importance of growth.

Moreover, it’s the most important issue for your customers as well.  We spoke to businesses leaders last month who overwhelmingly placed growth at the top of their list of priorities for the next election. But as they navigate challenging economic times, businesses also want to hear from their financial service partners.

In fact, we found that almost a quarter of respondents would consider switching to a bank that could show it was helping its customers grow – rising to a third amongst female business leaders – while almost seven in ten respondents said they practical advice about how to succeed from their financial service partners.

In this environment, financial brands can stay above the fray of politics with a laser-focus on helping achieve growth and resilience in business or household wealth – and the industry can resonate more clearly by drawing on advocates that represent the diverse array of customers it is trying to address.

By Dominic Pendry

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