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Interview with Danielle Ferguson

MoneyHelper is the culmination of two years of research and the merging of three legacy brands; Money Advice Service, Pensions Advisory Service and Pension Wise.

Sitting underneath the umbrella of its parent, corporate-brand the Money and Pensions Service (also known as MaPS), MoneyHelper is the organisation’s latest move in an effort to provide consumers with a single destination for financial support. Joining forces with M&C Saatchi, the MaPS brand and marketing team went about developing the brand strategy and visual identity for MoneyHelper.

My guest this week, Danielle Ferguson, Partnerships Marketing Manager at MaPS told me all about the journey the organisation has been on.

“MaPS was created as a single body and the point of that was to bring together products, services and content…to make it more efficient, make it easier for consumers to find what they are looking for and to provide a joined-up service.

“This led to bringing together those legacy brands into one single consumer-facing brand.”

A research-led project

“We carried out extensive research to find the most effective way of bringing the three legacy services together as one…through a lot of the research, we concluded that a single consumer brand would be most effective at achieving our aims.

“MoneyHelper resonated as the strongest performing brand identity to take forward…it does, essentially, what it says on the tin. We know finance can be quite a challenge to navigate, it can have quite a lot of jargon, so ensuring that it was quite clear and understood from the get-go was key.”

It’s clear from speaking with Danielle that the decision-making process was heavily influenced by the research being carried out.

“What came across quite a lot in the consumer research was that people want to be given guidance, they want to be signposted and nudged in the right direction but they want to be given the tools and confidence to take that action forward themselves.”

Carrying out the research

“There were two main streams [of research]; consumer research which was looking at the naming of MoneyHelper and seeing what people needed and then there was the user experience research which was around the website.

“There was [also] a lot of user testing, focus groups and there was individual testing with people particularly within our struggling and squeezed demographic groups.”

Testing was also not confined to the initial planning phase, instead spanning a period of years to reach conclusions.

“We also tested at various stages to make sure things were fit for purpose, we also had the pilot stage about three weeks before the full launch where we launched a Beta version of the MoneyHelper site to the industry and sought feedback before the site went live to consumers.

“We’ve used a lot of that research for future activity…there’s definitely an interactive process [in place].”

Avoiding risks when rebranding

In marketing, rebranding is perhaps one of the riskiest activities a firm can undertake, particularly where awareness of an existing brand (or brands, in this case) is high.

“One of the key risks was around our legacy brands; our legacy brands have a lot of ‘clout’ and high awareness amongst our consumers and that was important to retain.”

As a result of this, Danielle explained how the organisation decided to take a slightly different approach with one of its legacy brands. “Pension Wise has been retained as a named service for MoneyHelper.

“There was quite a lot of brand equity in Pension Wise…it was important to retain that as well.”

Operating within the public sector (as an ‘arms-length’ organisation), MaPS needed to be mindful of communicating clearly and safely with consumers.

“There are a lot of scams in the pensions area and we wanted to try and mitigate that as much as possible.”

Unsurprisingly, digital channels have been a key focus throughout the rebranding process, with the merging of multiple websites forming a large part of the work carried out.

“To help consumers prepare, we have website redirects so that when somebody gets redirected from one of our legacy websites they get a popup that says, ‘looking for one of our previous brands? We’re now MoneyHelper’ and that’s leveraging the awareness of our legacy brands to build credibility in MoneyHelper.

“The main risk was making sure that we kept building awareness of the new brand, but also leveraging the strong equity of the other brands going forward.”

Rolling out the brand

“We developed brand marketing and assets, we had brand guidelines, tone of voice, we had a webinar announcement in March which was when we publicly said we’re changing to MoneyHelper.

“We [also] have a toolkit on the website to help people change their references from the legacy brands to MoneyHelper but also support in how they could cascade the messaging down to their audiences.”

Launching the new brand, it’s fair to say, has involved a carefully coordinated series of events. Danielle, however, is quick to point out that the rebrand process does not end with the official launch.

“As much as we fully launched on the 30th June (2021), we’re not expecting our partners or stakeholders to make that transition immediately…we know it’s going to be a transitional period, so we expect over the next six to twelve months people to start making those changes bit by bit.”

What does success look like?

I wanted to understand, with such a large project, how does MaPS determine what success is and how to measure it?

“Our ultimate measure of success is seamlessly transitioning from our legacy brands to MoneyHelper and that’s through all of the touchpoints; so that’s digital, telephony, social media, print and partner channels.

“We’re constantly monitoring traffic and brand awareness to see that brand awareness increases throughout our different stages, so we have different times mapped out where we’ll be reviewing that.”

The role of a Partnerships Marketing Manager

I also asked Danielle about her role, a position she has worked in for around a year now.

“It’s a bit of a hybrid role; I sit in the brand and marketing team but my main internal stakeholders are the partnerships team and that’s our regional managers and partnerships managers across England, but also our devolved nations.

“It’s helping [our team] to communicate financial wellbeing to their stakeholders, so that can be really vast, from charities to banks, trade associations [etc].”

As is a common theme throughout my recent interviews, I asked Danielle what she feels makes working in marketing within financial services unique.

“For me as a marketeer, being able to see the impact of my work is really important and satisfying. Because finance is driven by data and statistics, you can get a real sense of the scale of how you’ve supported people.

“What’s quite unique about financial marketing is how you ensure that consumers are at the heart of what you do and demonstrating credibility and trust at every level.”