A lot went wrong for Merrill Lynch during the financial crisis, to put it mildly.
But not everything did.
Merrill Lynch Wealth Management surveyed clients over the past year, and found that they continue to value their relationship with their advisers highly, even after going through the wringer of the market meltdown and financial crisis.
That explains why the wealth management unit’s new brand platform revolves around its advisers, says Joan Khoury, head of marketing for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.
“We built the platform from our source of strength, with good data behind it,” she says.
The brand platform, dubbed the “Power of the Right Advisor,” debuts this week and will be rolled out throughout the course of the year.
The platform is to include a new advertising campaign and financial planning Webcasts designed for clients. Merrill Lynch Wealth Management’s campaign will run the gamut from print advertisements to major league baseball sponsorships to online financial media and search engines.
The business also plans some innovative marketing: “Power of the Right Advisor” is to appear just above CNBC’s stock ticker. Merrill Lynch Wealth Management intends to use innovative advertising approaches as well, such as including scannable codes on print ads so that consumers can link directly to its online presence through mobile devices.
The company will use such cutting-edge approaches even without being able to predict exactly how well they will work, says Khoury. “We’re very big on testing and learning,” she says.
Merrill plans to delve into wealth management challenges and solutions more deeply with the help of new media; for instance, within 90 days, it plans to have its own content-rich YouTube channel.
Some of the company’s advertisements are aimed at clients and potential clients. But it has also developed ads aimed at recruiting advisers. One touts the sheer size of the business. “$1.5 Trillion in Client Balances is More Than a Vote of Confidence,” it reads. “It’s personal trust in the power of the right advisor.”
Another beckons women to advisor careers with the company: “The News Isn’t That We Have the Most Top Women Advisors. The News is That We’re Looking for More.”
Merrill’s recruitment targets include advisers at other firms, but also “people who want a career change, who want to make advising their second career,” says Khoury.
Ads for that purpose will appear in Web sites such as CareerBuilder and LinkedIn, as well as financial adviser trade publications.
Merrill intended its ads to balance emotion and pragmatism, says Khoury.
One that the company has queued up for clients pictures a little girl at play on a country porch, her mother looking on tranquilly from a porch swing. “An Advisor Who Knows The Future You’re Planning For Outgrows Her Shoes Twice a Year,” the ad reads.
It all grows out of research the company conducted among clients, prospects and advisers, Khoury says. That research uncovered a change in mindsets.
“It used to be that clients had more of a ‘set it and forget it’ kind of strategy,” she says. “Now it’s really more about vigilance and being more closely connected to the adviser and the firm.”