Targeted Musings on Financial Marketing

Using Visuals to Tell Your ETF’s Story: The Key to Investor Education

13 Sep 2019

It’s a common enough lament among ETF marketers, issuers, and financial advisors alike: nobody reads anymore. Driven in part by a shift to a mobile-first world, where most investors access the information they’re looking for on their phones or tablets rather than on a laptop, prospective investors (in particular retail investors) have precious little patience or attention span for reading lengthy, dry fund prospectuses or white papers. It’s clear enough that text alone cannot accomplish the critical task of investor education: after all, if an investor does not understand a fund, it’s highly unlikely that they will make an allocation to it.

The answer is visual storytelling, an increasingly critical tool in an ETF marketer’s toolkit. Visual storytelling can help emphasize and embellish the key topline selling points of an ETF, while simplifying the overall message. If your writer and design team work closely with one another, it’s possible to significantly lower the educational hurdles for a prospective investor, no matter their level of sophistication, while ensuring the fund’s top-line value propositions are clear, succinct, and digestible.

Though essential, these visual storytelling elements can take a number of different forms. On an ETF detail page, they can be as straightforward as a few simple graphics or icons accompanying three or four bullet points that explain what a fund does (the “what”) as well as why it matters (the “so what?”). Infographics—whether in the form of in-page SVG graphics, downloadable content, or as printed handouts for conferences and in-person meetings—are another excellent opportunity to harness visual storytelling in the service of investor education. Colorful infographics can provide a greater amount of nuance and detail without bombarding the reader with intimidating walls of text that can cause the audience to disengage.

In our experience, we’ve found that short, one-to-two-minute animated videos hit the sweet spot in terms of engagement, content density, and marketing effectiveness. Rather than forcing website visitors to hunt for the information they’re looking for on an ETF detail page, animated videos can present the most important value propositions in a simple, easily-digestible package at the click of a button. By illustrating the key, foundational concepts that inform the logic behind a given fund, animated videos can serve as an invitation and introduction all rolled into one. The short format forces ETF marketers to keep things simple, succinct, and to-the-point; a typical two-minute animated video is just 300 to 400 words at most.


Bottom Line: You Need More Visuals

Visual storytelling has become especially important as straightforward, market-cap weighted indexes have given way to thematic, smart beta, actively-managed, and alternative ETFs, which feature a level of complexity that may be unfamiliar or intimidating to most retail investors. By tying abstract concepts to visual aids, ETF marketers can more quickly and efficiently bridge the educational gap.

Naturally, visual storytelling is not the only component of an effective ETF marketing strategy, but it can help pave the way for richer, lengthier content. After watching an animated video and downloading an infographic, prospective investors will be far more likely to delve into lengthier content such as an investment case or white paper, once they have a firm grasp on the underlying concepts that help make a given ETF tick.

By harnessing visual storytelling in conjunction with their content production and marketing efforts, ETF issuers will be well-positioned to take their ETF education efforts to the next level, improving their connection with prospective investors and, eventually, boosting AUM.