When it comes to content marketing in the financial services industry — or in any industry — Morgan Stanley is a standout star.
The company consistently creates exceptional pieces that showcase the broad knowledge of its experts and which also deeply engage audiences.
Recently we chatted with Mandell Crawley, Global Chief Marketing Officer at Morgan Stanley, to learn how the firm approaches content marketing and to find out which trends he’s keeping a close eye on in the space.
Check out the Q&A below:
Q: What role does digital content play for Morgan Stanley?
A: Digital content plays an important role for the firm. The digital evolution that’s happening across many different industries is also impacting our business in a very meaningful way.
We are leveraging digital platforms to tell our brand story and distribute our content, such as our research reports. Moreover, MorganStanley.com and our social channels have become what I think of as our digital stores; they’re how many people come to engage with us and understand us. The way we project ourselves into the world and the way we share Morgan Stanley’s intellectual capital is becoming increasingly digital in nature.
Q: What do you think the difference is between good content and bad content?
A: Good content has a clear point of view. One of our core values is leading with exceptional ideas, and with the pieces we put out we strive to be clear in what we’re saying.
Also, for content to be good the message has to compel action. We want our digital content to be compelling enough so that after consumers read it they want to learn more and engage more with Morgan Stanley as a result of it. It’s essential for content to have a creative identity, to be provocative enough to move someone to do something.
Q: We love the Ideas content on the Morgan Stanley website. How is it developed? What are the goals for it?
A: The foundations of Morgan Stanley are our pillars: our professional capital, our cultural capital, and our intellectual capital.
This content reflects our strong intellectual capital; it shows that one of our main value propositions is our ideas. The goal is to show that we have a clear point of view across a wide range of topics; not just what is happening in the markets but also on structural trends; on everything from the Internet of Things to autonomous cars and macroeconomic variables.
The Ideas section is a manifestation of our Morgan Stanley thought-leaders articulating a perspective on a wide range of topics. It is a great platform to share our thoughts in a more consumable way than dense research reports; the content is a bit easier to digest.
Q: One of the things we hear from other brands is that it is hard to get internal thought-leaders to contribute content. Do you struggle with that as well?
A: We actually have the opposite problem. We have about 350 research analysts so our issue is almost too much content that needs to be sorted through and prioritized.
We’ve had to establish a framework to provide a disciplined approach so that we pick the right topics to present. We are looking to highlight the ideas that will resonate with different audiences, including the general public and clients. We have a robust editorial team that debates different topics and what we land on are those that, again, we think are the most provocative and that have a clear point of view.
Q: What are of some of biggest challenges you face in trying to reach and connect with your audiences?
A: One of the challenges that we face, as do most marketers, is attention span. There’s so much content out there across so many platforms – desktop, mobile, print – and we have to compete for mindshare.
Another challenge is the technological era we’re in. The speed of change is so rapid, the devices and platforms are evolving so quickly. You can be delivering content on Facebook, but should you also engage on Snapchat? And what’s next after Snapchat?
Also, we want to ensure that content is being consumed by our target audiences – which is getting easier. With the evolution of programmatic advertising, exchanges, and other platforms we are increasingly able to ensure that our messaging and our content is being seen by the “right” consumers versus the masses. Having that ability at your fingertips is a major advance.
Q: How do you make that judgment? Which metrics do you use to measure whether you’re reaching the right audiences?
A: The beauty of digital is the transparency in the metrics. When we put out a piece of content we look not just at how many people engage, but also who are these people and what actions did they take.
We have target clients in mind, based on broad demographic and behavioral profiles, so we can
target those groups. Then we also look to reach current customers as well as certain industry influencers. The technology that’s available to us now gives us a much better ability to understand if these groups are engaging with our content.
Q: Do you have any favorite piece of Morgan Stanley digital content?
A: A piece in particular that I like a lot is a research summary about autonomous cars. I am a Tesla owner and so reading pieces about how the auto industry is being completely upended is personally interesting.
I also like it because it has a clear point of view and provides the firm’s perspective on the market; it shows the wide range of things that we’re thinking about. We actually showcased the piece across number of our owned platforms, even on the digital signage here in our headquarters.
Q: Final question for you: Are there any content marketing or digital marketing trends that you’re keeping at close eye on right now?
A: There are two. The first is virtual reality. VR is something that is still obviously in its relatively early days, but it’s interesting to think about how it will create an entirely different, very holistic, experience for consumers. It’s something we’re looking into on our side.
The second thing we’re watching closely is what’s happening with artificial intelligence. If you think of things like Amazon’s Alexa, AI is becoming increasingly important. It’s not fully there yet, but we want to do testing and learning so that when it is our content will be present.