Financial copywriting is notoriously difficult — not only do writers face the challenge of making a traditionally dry subject interesting and engaging, they also need to meet strict legal and compliance conditions imposed by financial regulators.
As financial services is such a heavily regulated sector, there are many restrictions around copy for advertising and promotion. Despite the regulatory restrictions, there are a number of financial services providers who are managing to get around this conundrum by creating engaging, non-advisory content that presents facts, figures and information in an interesting way. So what are the best financial copywriters doing and why does it work?
1. First Direct
First Direct, who call themselves the “unexpected bank”, add personality where they can and have a surprisingly personal and friendly tone for a financial services organisation. They revert to a factual tone where needed, such as for the necessary financial caveats, but still manage to maintain their lighter tone throughout most of their website, and on social media.
Their current home page contains an offer to “tickle your frills”…
…while on social media they make light of fairly dull financial news and respond to user questions in a light-hearted way.
First Direct’s slightly subversive humour makes their offers and advice seem more personable, removing the ‘dry’ stereotype and making their appeal to readers through a human voice.
2. Virgin Money
Another financial services provider bucking the stereotype of serious copywriting is Virgin Money. In their recent credit card copy, they used the spot that is normally reserved for financial footnotes and caveats to add a joking “no kittens were pierced in the making of this image” disclaimer. This helps to position their offer as one that cares, as one in touch with the desires of their potential customers.
They also use quirky three-minute explanation videos in an effort to make learning about finance fast and funny, with unexpected lines like, “Hang on, doesn’t putting my money in an ISA mean I can’t get hold of my money for like, ever?”. Again, they show themselves to be in touch with their potential customers’ typical reactions, and by forestalling objections in joking, colloquial language, they make a potentially daunting investment approachable and appealing.
3. Direct Line
Direct Line have turned to fictional persona, “fixer” Winston Wolf from the film Pulp Fiction, to demonstrate the features of their insurance portfolio. The voice of Winston is used throughout the website to highlight key benefits that he can “fix you up with”, plus a few bonus features, like “how to tie a tie”. This clever use of a persona voice is designed to make web users feel familiar with the content. It reassures them, in approaching investments, that they will be handled in an understandable way (the implication of being greeted by someone you ‘know’).
NS&I have cleverly used copy to personify their computer program. ERNIE stands for Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment and provides a friendly persona for the algorithm that picks premium bond winners.
This is a clever variation on having a recognisable persona: ERNIE has no visualised character, ‘he’ remains objective, fulfilling the process in a reliable and unbiased way. But NS&I’s copy, telling users about ERNIE’s celebrated status receiving interactions with people, makes the acronym a name, an understandable front for an otherwise disinteresting computer number-cruncher. NS&I have maximised their process into an appealing selling point.
5. Tesco Bank
Like Virgin Money, Tesco Bank have adopted a friendly tone throughout their website, using terms like “insure your dog or puppy” rather than the more impersonal “Pet insurance” to talk appropriately to the audience who are fond of their pets, meeting them in their language.
But they’ve also used unusual micro-copy to add interest to their insurance pages, such as adding a casual, pseudo-hand-written “been there, done that?” to draw attention to the ‘retrieve your quote’ button.
Such small details create a surprising difference in a user’s perception of their website – it becomes less formal, and gives the suggestion of personal adaptation and understanding as well.
Conclusion: room for creativity in financial copywriting
Although there is no getting away from regulatory requirements, these examples show there is definitely still room for creativity in financial copywriting. By thinking about who you are trying to reach, and making the tone (be it humorous, insightful or personalised) talk to that audience via their needs or wants, you can turn innovative writing into brand re-invention and real customer engagement.