Financial Brands Europe: Navigating the Pandemic and Beyond

Trends / Realness
Klaus Vedfelt
Jacqueline Bourke
Aug 11, 2020
2020 has certainly become one for the history books.  Amongst many upheavals, eurozone countries have suffered an historic economic contraction due to Covid‑19. While this is playing out asymmetrically across Europe with France, Spain and Italy harder hit, consumer confidence globally is rattled. Getty Images’ ongoing Visual GPS research throughout 26 countries shows that nearly all consumers (97%) believe there will be long‑term outcomes from the pandemic, most namely, a global recession. Furthermore, more than half of consumers surveyed during Covid‑19 say they are most focused on financial security right now, and want more of in their lives today (62%).

So what does this mean for financial brands across Europe when it comes to helping their customers navigate the pandemic? We at Getty Images have 25 years of experience understanding the impact of global crises on visual communications across industry sectors.  Similar to previous crises such as 9/11 or the 2008 financial crash, in response to Covid19, consumers are focusing on security and a re‑evaluation of what success looks like in life.  This presents an opportunity for financial brands across Europe to build greater trust and growth through the power of relevant, relatable visual storytelling.  

This is where Getty Images’ Visual GPS ongoing research into the financial services sector in Europe offers keen insights into customer behaviour, understanding the forces that underpin what people care and how they shape buying decisions. In 2020, we can help financial brands select the visuals that communicate long‑term support and reassure customers as they navigate through the pandemic and beyond.

Historically, financial services brands have struggled to create deep brand loyalty. According to the MBLM’s annual study of ‘brand intimacy’ for the last 10 years,  they consistently fall short against other industry sectors when it comes to understanding the role of emotion in consumers buying decisions. In the 2020 study, the Financial Services ranks only eleventh out of fifteen broad industries on brand intimacy, and no financial brands finished in the top 35 companies. This can even influence the bottom line; according to our ongoing Visual GPS research, 41% surveyed in Europe started purchasing from a brand that supported a cause they cared about. Understanding how people feel and what matters to them ‑ and what visuals drive that deeper connection ‑ is key.

So what do Europeans care about? In an Age of Inclusion, realness matters. According to our ongoing research, there is a general expectation that financial brands in Europe be consistently committed to diversity and inclusion in their advertising (71%). People expect brand communication from the financial sector to show real people in the world as they are.  Financial Services brands across Europe that celebrate diversity of all kinds will be rewarded.

Why? For a majority surveyed, inclusion is personal. 62% surveyed said they have experienced discrimination in their everyday lives. Visually, 72% surveyed say brands in the financial services sector need to show people with all body shapes and types.  And 26% of consumers want to see the ways in which financial products fit into people’s everyday lives. In uncertain times, trust, truth and transparency rise in importance. That's why choosing visuals which authentically show diverse people with real emotions in believable stories will deepen brand intimacy.

According to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer special report during Covid, people want financial services brands to earn their trust by providing easier and affordable access to the products and services they need. Technology is an important force that drives this accessibility, but is not without dynamic tension! The current Wirecard scandal playing out in Germany is an example of how brand trust can rapidly erode in the financial services sector. According to our ongoing Visual GPS research, 80% of people surveyed in Europe who have purchased from a financial brand need brands to prove they are committed to protecting their privacy and data.

On the brightside, 74% of people surveyed in Europe say technology helps them feel connected to the people who matter most to them. The Covid pandemic and social distancing has only elevated this trend further. Technology is not just a tool, it has powerful personal value. Two ways to approach visualising technology that people will most respond to: either show the emotional and meaningful impact of technology bringing people together;  or, use graphic illustrations that represent the connections that technology enables between people and their wider worlds.  
Before the global pandemic, consumers expect European financial brands to care about their wellbeing ‑ nearly half surveyed said they would not select a financial services brand that did not act in ways that showed it cared about their wellbeing. During the global pandemic, wellness has become an even greater need, with expectations of financial services brands extending not only to the wellbeing of customers, but also to their employees, suppliers, and partners.

So what does wellbeing mean in today’s world? Wellness is about financial, physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, family, and relationship fitness. It’s about staying in touch, and being more mindful and intentional. It is about redefining what success looks like in terms of a life lived well ‑ especially in these uncertain times.  It is about celebration and togetherness. 81% surveyed in Europe said they look for ways to celebrate the good things in life.

Visualising wellbeing is not simply about showing physical wellness. Approach it more holistically: Don’t forget to show visual stories around emotional and mental wellbeing.   Celebrate the front line workers, the smaller businesses, the local communities, the everyday heroes – those people and businesses who have supported, enabled and continue to care for us throughout this unfolding pandemic.
Remember, financial brands who position themselves as listening closely and supporting their customers’ changing needs through these turbulent times will gain deeper loyalty from their customers. To create a more meaningful emotional relationship throughout the pandemic and beyond, harness the visual insights of these forces: Realness, Technology and Wellness. 
Visual GPS: The Australian and New Zealand Consumer