I think about building brand in the alternative investment industry… a lot. I have pondered why it is such a struggle for asset managers. The reasons are involved.
It starts with the fact that the stories asset managers tell, are not easy to tell. They typically aren’t sexy (to most people), they don’t make you healthier, the processes are complicated, and it is hard to physically “see” product differentiation. Because of this, big blocks of words are required to adequately convey what is going on.
Unfortunately, brand is not built by absorbing large quantities of information / language across one or two interactions. Brand is built by shocking an audience with short, impactful bursts of information over an extended period of time. Therefore, if asset managers are going to build brand, they need to alter how they communicate. Long, heavy blocks of information must be broken down into shorter more frequent bursts of knowledge.
This doesn’t mean involved stories can’t be told, we are just re-shaping how they are told. Let’s use Nike as an example. Just Do It – simple, short and impactful. That said, do these three words embody everything Nike is about. Absolutely not. Their advertisements speak to diversity. The company is innovative, embraces technology, has a deep product line, focuses on emotional wellbeing, and is cut-throat when it comes to competition. Yet everything starts with three simple words.
So, what can asset managers learn from this. To start, slow down and breathe. Figure out what you stand for, think beyond performance, and embrace your values. Communicate in short bursts and don’t try to say everything at once.
And I am not naïve, I know a great deal of information is required before an allocator will make a decision. However, people can’t absorb huge swaths of information all at once. Deeply think about this in how you structure your delivery. Build into your story. Start small and continuously layer information. Be interesting. Before you know it, how you are perceived will change. You will be something more than a number. The human being at the controls within the institutions will start to gravitate towards you.
All said, don’t keep doing the same thing. It doesn’t work anymore. Your audience has evolved beyond a marketing deck and data room.