How Brands are Bringing Year-Round Staying Power to Financial Literacy Initiatives

Today, there are awareness days and months for just about any topic that comes to mind. Financial literacy is one of them, and for more than 20 years, April has carried that torch in the U.S. This year, not only has financial literacy remained top of mind, but the dialogue has extended far beyond those four weeks, and for good reason.

In a previous Dispatch article on how financial brands can attract younger customers, we found some alarming figures about financial literacy: A 2022 test from the TIAA Institute saw Gen Zers correctly answering 43% of the questions and millennials just 48%, underscoring a need for more impactful financial education.

From high-profile celebrity and influencer partnerships to large-scale education campaigns, brands have put the full weight of their resources behind Financial Literacy Month. But, what happens when the clock strikes midnight on May 1 every year and Financial Literacy Month comes to a close? With 88% of U.S. adults feeling unprepared to call their own financial shots, there is a clear need for year-round engagement around financial literacy.

What does it take to bring impactful, engaging, always-on financial literacy initiatives to life? Here are four principles for breaking through – from conversations with communications, marketing and brand leaders behind some standout campaigns.

1) Show Up With Personality and Creative Conviction

Since launching in 1999, the Invesco QQQ ETF has historically outperformed the S&P 500 Index. As an NCAA sponsor, Invesco QQQ had an opportunity to reach a mass consumer audience in a meaningful way. A core part of their NCAA sponsorship is a financial education program, “How Not to Suck at Money,” a free web-based “edutainment” tool where players learn the basics of personal finance through choice-based gameplay. The site was launched in November 2021 and is promoted every April (and year-round).

“As a brand strategist, I knew we had the tall task of making an asset management brand worthy of Gen Z’s time. We needed to build something that could compete with TikTok and YouTube, so we created a bold and somewhat irreverent sub-brand to connect authentically. Influencers and brand ambassadors were integral to our launch strategy to help us reach and build credibility with this new segment. This user-centric approach paid off, as we achieved 91% player satisfaction!” - Cate Megley, former Senior Manager, Brand Strategy at Invesco

2) Find Moments to Meet Your Audiences Where They Are, Literally 

On a mission to help parents raise financially smart kids with an easy-to-use banking app and in-app educational content and games, Greenlight understands Gen Alpha and Gen Z better than most. In a recent survey, the company found that financial anxiety starts as young as 14 years old, and 77% of Gen Alpha kids and Gen Z teens consider it “cool” to be financially savvy. Tapping into these insights, Greenlight focused on building and participating in experiential events to meaningfully connect with their youthful demographic.

“We know that Gen Z wants to be active and engaged – so we brought financial education directly to local communities. Our Million Bazillion Live! tour has traveled to 20 cities across the country, bringing interactive financial literacy to 50,000 middle school students. We also participated in a financial literacy expo in New York City, where middle school students who completed a financial literacy program received funds from a district grant, deposited into Greenlight accounts.” - Jessica Tenny, Director of Communications, Greenlight

3) Use Product Moments to Talk About the ‘Why’

A pioneer in fractional investing, Public is an investing platform on a mission to make the public markets work for all people, offering everything from stocks, bonds and crypto, to options, ETFs and alternative assets. Rather than going all-in on standalone Financial Literacy Month campaigns, Public goes all-in on year-round financial literacy, with in-platform learning journeys tailored to individual investors’ experience level. Financial literacy is also a centerpiece of their product storytelling.

“We look at every product launch as a moment to tell a story about the ‘why’ behind what we’re doing–whether that’s the need for brokerage transparency in options trading or broadening access to bonds beyond the 1%.” Rachel Livingston, Director of Communications, Public

4) Build Engagement Through Consistency, Access and Authenticity 

Betterment’s commitment to financial literacy has been well documented over the years – including through their annual Retirement Readiness Report, which has become a staple of their comms and marketing program each year. The report is central to their Financial Literacy Month social campaign and the company has hosted a number of educational webinars throughout the month.

“In a sense, our whole communications program is dedicated to financial literacy and accessibility. If you look at our website, there is a plethora of content and it is all designed to be engaging for anyone; not just our customers. I’ve emphasized this before, but it’s also important to be authentic and honest with your customer base as well. Give people an opportunity to interact directly with your company. This is how you build engagement and trust.” - Raoul Bhavnani, Chief Communications Officer, Betterment

While these campaigns represent only a small sample of creative activities, they prove that going “all-in” on financial literacy no longer equates to a few tweets throughout April. Instead, the topic demands considerable attention throughout the year.

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