The architects of 'financial communication' have to be more imaginative if they wish to touch people’s hearts and earn their embrace By Dharmendra Satapathy
When investors hear our language they are dumbfounded and perplexed. Investment language is ‘abstract’. It is impossible to picture the insipid definitions that appear in the texts.
While finance professionals may believe they speak English, the hapless customer hears French. One basic rule about good communication is, ‘help the listener imagine’; help him ‘picture’ it. Tell him ‘fast’ and ‘voila’ he can draw an image on his canvas popularly called the ‘mind’.
When I say, ‘a man boarded the aircraft’, in my mind’s eye, I see a man boarding an aircraft. It is clear picture without any ambiguity.
The listener may see a different man, wearing a different look, different clothes, belonging to a different nationality but in ESSENCE the listener does see a man and an aircraft (perhaps different looking one) and the listener, in his mind’s eye clearly sees the man boarding the air-craft.
Words like car, ship, hotel, food, clothes, fashion, beautiful, handsome are like projectors. You see them without actually seeing them. Good communication has to make the listener ‘imagine’.
Now let’s look at mutual fund / personal finance communication. The most common ‘consumer’ words being:
- Large cap
- Mid cap
- Small cap
- Multi cap
- Flexi cap
- Asset allocation
- Equity, etc.
Ask the man on the street to imagine the stock market and he is bound to see in his mind theatre with a ‘gambling den’ where scores of people are turning insolvent by the minute and the crafty ones turning wealthy at their cost
At best ‘cap’ may project a ‘hat’, ‘SIP’ projecting a picture of someone ’sipping a cup of tea’, ‘debt’ is a ‘person burdened by debt’.
One reason why people stay away from market linked instruments is because of the word, ‘risk’. While the financial fraternity wants to project short term volatility from the word ‘risk’ the financial products customer sees in his mind a picture of a man turned insolvent on the streets begging for a living.
This is the reason why the average customer thinks it’s less risky to try sky diving than to venture into market linked products. Ask the man on the street to imagine the stock market and he is bound to see in his mind theatre with a ‘gambling den’ where scores of people are turning insolvent by the minute and the crafty ones turning wealthy at their cost.
Else how would ‘sky diving’ feel safer than the ‘stock market’?
And so on this story of imagination of financial products and concepts retards the growth of customer’s wealth creation and the industry with abysmal inputs for ‘imagination’.
This is something like selling a car not based on looks and style but based on the following:-
- Four cylinder engine
- Two cylinder engine
- Multi - point spark plug
- Internal combustion engine
Would you as a customer ever get ‘turned on’ by these words?
Never. No chance. I bet you would imagine the car only as an abstract ugly contraption and nothing better. Car manufacturers know it. They understand communication. Look at how they bring in ‘contextual positioning’ by words and pictures of ‘a sexy model’, ‘a celebrity’, ‘colour’, ‘design’, ‘style’, ‘speed’ etc.
Does this make sense?
It surely does. The architects of ‘financial communication’ have to be more imaginative if they wish to touch people’s hearts and earn their embrace.
They have to ‘turn communication thinking upside down’. From seeing ‘communication’ through the manufacturer’s lens, they need to see ‘communication’ from the consumer’s lens. Consumer’s lens is words like prestige, style, look, entertainment, sports, success, love, respect, size, scale, intelligence, smart, nationality, identity and so on and so forth.
Now this is essential for the personal finance industry as well, especially for the leaders and communication sculptors (marketing teams).
Instead of exhorting the customer to own ‘Large Cap’ equity funds, it would be a lot better to say ‘own large companies that make India proud, those which are awe inspiring; like Tata Consultancy Services, HDFC bank, State Bank of India, Tata Motors, Maruti Suzuki, ITC, National Thermal Power Corporation, Hindustan Unilever, etc.’
How such communication would help investors ‘picture’ it?
People have seen Maruti cars, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank, State Bank of India, TCS offices so on and so forth. The customer has seen these brands. He has used their products. He has held them in awe. He knows they are mammoth organisations. He cannot see them sink. How can they? If they sink what happens to India? Now he begins to feel a little secured. His risk perception begins to climb down. He begins to realise how vital a component of the economy these brands and companies are.
He starts seeing the linkage between the market and the economy. Most people believe our economy is in good health and possesses stamina to run fast and run long. So the moment he sees that the market is intricately woven to the economy, his sense of fear evaporates into thin air.
Owning a piece of this action is very different than owning a ‘large cap’ fund. This imagination and the understanding that they would be part owners of this beautiful world of super organisations will force them into putting their hands into their pockets and pull out their investable surplus. Clearly my message is, ‘make your communication project a picture’. Pictures tell a story. Pictures evoke emotions. Learn how to ‘picture it’.
Written By: Dharmendra Satapathy