Brand Personality: AGF, iShares and RBC DS

Why Should You Care?  Brand personality measurement focuses on emotional dimensions and triggers in a relationship… and they are very predictive of loyalty.  Leading edge companies manage the experiences they deliver in order to build and strengthen their well-designed brand personalities.  They do it to optimize the loyalty among their favoured clients.

Though facts and figures are essential food for decision making, an endless body of evidence shows clearly that people regularly make decisions that are driven by emotions and not by pure, simple fact-based logic.  This certainly includes both investors and advisors.  So, measuring dimensions that relate to emotionality can be highly constructive.

One of the tools Credo uses to measure dimensions that connect to emotions is the Credo Brand Personality Spectrometer.  This tool is based on data collected from thousands of Canada’s financial advisors.  We ask them to identify the companies that they have on their books and we then ask them to tell us which personality traits they associate with these companies.  Below is a graphical analysis of two well-known investment management shops that operate in Canada: AGF and iShares (obviously, the ETF operating brand for BlackRock.)

What does this graphical analysis tell us?  Firstly, it shows that any two companies can be compared in terms of brand personality and that two brand personalities can indeed be very different.  A brand personality that appeals to one person may not be appealing to another.

AGF is seen by advisors as being relatively Professional and Trustworthy; at least, 65% and 61% of advisors respectively ascribe these traits to AGF.  By contrast, only 48% and 39% of advisors ascribe these personality traits to iShares as a brand.  These seem like big differences and they are.

AGF has managed to build perceptions of itself among advisors as relatively professional and trustworthy by delivering a host of experiences to the advisor marketplace over years.  Many wholesalers and portfolio managers (PMs) from AGF have built real, personal relationships with members of the advisor community.  Many advisors know they can pick up the phone and speak with an individual they have spoken with on occasion in the past.  And, when those wholesalers and PMs show up at an advisor’s offices, they present themselves in a unique AGF style.  The same is generally not said for iShares… and this shows in the data from the Brand Personality Spectrometer (BPS).

While AGF has supportive ascribed as a personality trait by 56% of advisors, only 13% of advisors ascribe supportive to iShares.  This shouldn’t surprize to many industry folks: AGF has a team of supportive sales reps who are handsomely paid through the fees the company charges.  iShares, by contrast, is the consummate supplier of low-cost ETFs. It doesn’t have in place the support resources to provide the sales team support that an AGF budgets for.

(As an aside, we all know that’s not really true.  Were it not for AGF’s twisted share structure, BlackRock could buy AGF, lock, stock and barrel in an afternoon if it wanted to.  Especially considering AGF’s currently depressed share price.  And at Credo we don’t think that would be a bad idea.  AGF’s sales team is far stronger than iShares’s smaller team.  This acquisition would immediately deliver a sales team presence in Canada that would enable iShares to properly compete with a better tooled BMO ETFs… but that’s a different story that doesn’t belong in this edition of CredoVision.)

AGF is also far more consultative than iShares.  AGF scored 41% on being consultative while iShares scored only 9%.  Again, AGF’s team of people are clearly better connected to the advisor community, delivering guidance and assistance whenever and wherever possible.

iShares is seen as a leading player in the industry with 36% of advisors ascribing leading to iShares.  Only 34% of advisors see AGF as leading…and in the grand scheme of the Canadian mutual fund industry, 34% isn’t a strong number for leading as a personality trait.

Overall, iShares currently has “less personality” than AGF. This is largely because they have fewer people on the street bringing the brand to life with advisors.  One of the things we watch, over time, however, is the evolution of brand personality.  Like a fingerprint, every company has a unique brand personality profile.  Unlike a fingerprint, however, this profile evolves over time.  It evolves because the company changes its tactical initiatives and delivers different experiences to its customers and the broader community.

Of course, a similar approach is applied with Canada’s advisors and their dealerships. Below is an analysis that shows what investors who work with RBC DS think of their advisors with respect to brand personality.  It is clear that RBC DS advisors are seen as professional: there is an 80% probability that an investor working with an advisor from DS will indicate that his advisor is professional.  Further, there is a 76% probability that the client will indicate that their DS advisor is knowledgeable but only a 68% probability that a DS advisor’s client would ascribe trustworthy to him and only a 63% probability that he’ll be tagged as honest.

What Should You Do? Think about the many experiences you deliver to your clients and prospective clients each and every day.  Consider the experience from top to bottom and explore how it will change your customer’s expectations and perceptions of your brand.  An exercise as simple as this can enable you to identify modifications to the experiences you deliver that will improve your ability to maintain a loyal client base.