CFP Board on awareness ads: Message getting through

Survey indicates public profile of certified financial planners on the rise

Nov 18, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

The first 16 weeks of a marketing campaign designed to persuade investors to seek out the services of a certified financial planner have raised the profile of the investment professionals, according to a survey conducted by the organization that confers the designation.

Awareness of planning professionals rose by 8% to 71% from the beginning of the campaign in April through the middle of August, according to a poll of more than 6,000 people who have $100,000 or more to invest.

Over the same period, familiarity with the CFP mark rose by 6%, and the notion that those earning the credential provide high-quality service rose by 6%. Those who think that CFPs are the “best in the field” and “worth the money” rose by 11% each.

The upward trend for most of the categories was from a baseline of around 15% to 25%, which made the increases all the more significant, according to CFP Board officials.

“I'm very pleased with the initial results,” said Kevin Keller, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc.'s chief executive. “Raising awareness is a long-term commitment.”

The organization, which grants the CFP certification and enforces related ethical standards, launched the marketing campaign in April. It is set to continue for four years, with an annual price tag of $9 million. The fee for CFP mark holders was increased $12 per month to finance the initiative.

So far, the campaign has involved a 13-week television advertising buy as well as print ads in major publications and online ads. The campaign is generating a big bang for its buck, considering that the CFP Board has made a modest media buy, according to Sue Davidson, executive vice president and managing director of Marketing Evolution Inc., which conducted the study for the CFP Board.

“[Consumers] are not just aware of CFP; they've changed their opinion of the brand,” Ms. Davidson said.

It remains to be seen whether CFP holders who blanched at the fee increase have changed their mind about the campaign. So far, the reviews have been good, Mr. Keller said.

“I've had positive feedback generally about the campaign, especially the television component of it,” he said.

The CFP Board made a conscious effort to break away from images popular in other ads about personal finance, such as retired couples walking on a beach or a middle-aged parent furrowing her brow about college costs.

One of the TV ads, for instance, features a pair of eyeballs and a steering wheel driving down the road. Soon, extra “hands” labeled “investments,” “insurance,” “estate planning,” “retirement” and “taxes” grab hold, as well, making the car swerve.

“Your finances can't manage themselves, but that doesn't mean they won't try,” says the voiceover, which encourages viewers to turn a CFP to get their financial house in order.

The ads also promote the fiduciary duty to which CFPs must adhere.

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