Stand Up To Stand Out

by | May 24, 2019

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How strong is your brand? Simon Barbato, of Mr. B & Friends, takes us through a case study approach to demonstrate why having a clear brand strategy is crucial to the ongoing success of your financial planning business.


With over 25 years experience in developing brands and marketing campaigns for organisations in the financial services sector, I can say with some confidence that it’s not enough to rely solely on your products and services to see your business succeed.

In the IFA sector, there are in excess of 15,000 individuals and firms competing for clients’ attention. Finding a way to stand out is essential and in this market, first impressions really do count. Clients are becoming increasingly more discerning – and sometimes cynical – of what’s on offer from the myriad of providers so therefore achieving that critical positive first impression could be the difference between success and failure. The challenge is to find your voice in a market where clients are increasingly confounded by the ‘noise’ of multiple providers with similar offerings.

Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.

It’s so much more than a logo. Your brand – and how it is presented to the outside world – is you and your organisation’s voice. It encapsulates what you do, how you do it and why your clients value you. It’s the platform for your reason for being and carries your credibility, capability and reputation. Your branding is the way you tell that story in a wide array of applications such as website, collateral and your client touch points. Successful brands can, on average, capture three times the sales volume of weak brands according to a large study analysing shopping habits by Kantar Millward Brown.

In the IFA sector, there are in excess of 15,000 individuals and firms competing for clients’ attention. Finding a way to stand out is essential and in this market, first impressions really do count. Clients are becoming increasingly more discerning – and sometimes cynical – of what’s on offer from the myriad of providers so therefore achieving that critical positive first impression could be the difference between success and failure. The challenge is to find your voice in a market where clients are increasingly confounded by the ‘noise’ of multiple providers with similar offerings.

Interactions with a strong brand create positive associations in the mind of the customer or client. If the product USP addresses a consumer’s need then it is the brand that represents consumer choice.

There are a number of factors that should be considered when developing your brand; a clear and differentiated positioning that concisely articulates your product and service proposition, a brand identity – visual and verbal language that is aligned to the client you are looking to work with and a well thought through client experience strategy that enables your clients to achieve their goals, minimise their effort and make them feel valued as a customer.

Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room

Brand development of this nature is not just the preserve of large organisations – we’ve helped companies of all sizes to define their brands in order to thrive.

To illustrate the point, I’ll share a few case studies – examples of how brand has had a positive impact on three different companies operating in different parts of the financial advice spectrum:

Many clients – retirees in particular – will rely on their investments to help fund their cash needs and lifestyle. When it comes to portfolio management, there are generally two ways we can approach this: yield and total return. I shall consider both of these below:

1. Capital asset management

This is a boutique wealth management company which guides high net worth individuals in both the accumulation and decumulation stages of their life and wealth. CEO Alan Smith is a true client partner. His approach is based upon understanding that the client’s capital is so much more than money, and therefore he – and the business – look holistically at the things that matter most before planning a roadmap that will help clients to achieve their goals, and dreams. Alan approached Mr B & Friends to create a new brand strategy and visual identity that portrayed his approach, in a style that connected with his discerning clients.We developed a positioning idea of ‘Planning tomorrow today’, which perfectly captured the client–centric and future–focused proposition he was able to deliver. These few words from Alan sum up the importance of brand in financial planning rather succinctly: “In a crowded marketplace, it’s important to differentiate and create a positive and striking brand image. It needs to reflect the soul of the business, what it stands for and what customers can expect if they engage. Financial services is generally seen as a stuffy industry with old fashioned branding and I think that many consumers are looking for more modern, engaging and positive brands to help them. Many firms in the sector could probably do with a brand refresh to reflect how the market is evolving.

2. Dentons wealth

Dentons Wealth is a hugely successful subsidiary of Dentons Pensions, a SIPP and SSAS provider. Today Dentons Wealth manages over £250m AUM for a portfolio of more than 800 clients. Our brand work here was to adopt a flavour of the parent corporate identity, but provide a clear value proposition for the subsidiary.Transparency was a key driver in their working practice and became central to the brand positioning idea. This led us to develop a visual and verbal language that communicated this idea through visuals and copy. Our work extended to literature, website and a range of customer communication touchpoints.

3. Maze wealth

Maze Wealth was a very different client. A small regional financial planning firm, run by a husband and wife team, the business owners wanted to rebrand and create a new name and identity to use as a platform for growth. The name was inspired by the famous Gordon Ramsay restaurant, reflecting impeccably quality and first class service.

The brand identity developed took on board the values that the business owners had identified and translated it into a stylish design execution that worked for their target audience. So, these three different companies with three different approaches to brand However, what’s common to all three is the impact that brand has had on creating their own sense of identity, achieving a positive first impression and guiding how they present their business to the world. These companies have been transformed from being service providers into trusted partners who stand for something, and that in turn helps them to stand out from the crowd.


About Simon Barbato
Simon Barbato is Founder and CEO of Mr B & Friends, an independent brand, marketing and digital agency. Having started agency life in London working for renowned ­ firms such as Ogilvy and Light & Coley, Simon was determined to start and grow his own business.

Established in 2006, Mr B & Friends has grown to become one of the leading agencies in the South West. Headquartered in Bristol’s thriving Temple Quay, the company has clients across a number of sectors, including ­financial services. The agency specialises in helping ambitious brands from household names to innovative SMEs to develop brave thinking, beautiful brands and successful marketing that engages consumers.

Simon works with clients at a senior level to help develop their organisations by using brand, creativity and digital as a competitive advantage. He’s fascinated about business, and gets motivated by what leaders are trying to achieve within their organisations. It’s this blend of entrepreneurship, commercial acumen and outstanding brand development skills that clients buy into and provide the inspiration for the agency mantra; Where Next?

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