In early May of 2013, Scottish firm Aberdeen Asset Management announced plans to run its first ever global brand advertising campaign. Launched on Monday May 20th, the campaign will run for six weeks in over 20 countries and focus on traditional print, outdoor and digital media.

Piers Currie, Group Head of Brand at Aberdeen, tells Money Management Executive that the campaign aims to deepen its penetration in key wholesale markets such as the U.S. and to foster a stronger awareness of what the Aberdeen brand stands for globally.

What's the story behind the decision to embark on this campaign?

Last year, we arrived in the FTSE 100, which means we are one of the 100 largest listed companies on the London stock exchange.

This means the visibility of our business is exponentially increased, we get new shareholders, and our reporting gets covered globally. Our holding board challenged us to come up with an image, in corporate identity terms, that represents Aberdeen Asset Management Group.

About 5% of asset management groups are genuinely international. The ones I can think of are Franklin Templeton, BlackRock and Schroders. Our desire is for it to be understood that we are a global asset management group. Distributors for wholesale markets globally need to know that you are running an efficient global entity.

The key concern for Aberdeen is that only 20% of our client base is in the U.S., whereas the U.S. market as a whole is 50% of the world's wealth. Part of the campaign we are running is to try to get awareness for what we are as a business in the U.S. market. Last year, we opened an office in New York (we already had an office in Philadelphia) and doubled the amount of people responsible for distribution.

Asset management companies have a very commoditized proposition about what makes them different so we needed to try and find an identity to discern the difference between us and all the other asset management groups in our space.

The refresh of brand identities has been quite popular of late for a lot of groups. We've noticed Columbia, BNY Mellon, Bank of America and Oppenheimer Funds have all done identity refresh programs in the last three or four months.

I think what's happening is part of a bigger story. After 2008, a time of apocalyptic events for global capitalism and asset management groups, they are now trying to have a conversation where the banks disappeared. BlackRock really led the way last year saying "Let's talk about investing again, let's be open and articulate and say that it is important that people are in the market and understand what they are doing."

We've come to a place that our agenda is coinciding with this larger trend.

I think we're seeing a very important step change where the people that buy funds, particularly in the intermediary channel, want to know the type of firm they are dealing with. I think this has become as important as just slapping down a short term performance stat. People are looking behind performance measurements to really try to understand who is it that is running their money and what is their motivation. I think that means brand has become a very significant influence in decision making.

So this goes back to the "Simply Asset Management" moniker for the campaign?

Absolutely. We did a lot of research to figure out what it is that we at Aberdeen are about. We got down to a positioning statement with a couple of brand consultants. The statement was "No pretense".

We gave three ad agencies an opportunity to try and pitch for articulation of what we mean by this; how we keep it real and are just down to earth. The resonance of the culture is really an important part of why people buy us as an entity. So Simply Asset Management was really a reaction to that. This is all we do. It reflects itself in our corporate ownership structure and how we manage money, we want to be clear and transparent. Simply asset management is an emblematic way of identifying what we care about and what we stand for. Also it's a promise for us to be very clear about what we are doing.

Are there any channel specific campaigns in the U.S.?

The U.S. is a continent rather than a country. We can achieve channel effectiveness in the U.S. whereas in country markets such as Europe, we can get visibility on a national basis. We are more modest about what we can try to do when competing with some of the huge goliaths of the financial services sector here. For us, the articulation of the campaign is through wholesale channels in particular with some iconic flashes in the pan to get some awareness and visibility, which is difficult to achieve without getting beyond the ghetto of the trade media. The U.S. is the biggest, largest most powerful continent for distribution in the world and we realize that we can not do it all by just writing big checks, we have to be channel specific.

The first part of the campaign is already up and running. Is there a next leg planned?

Yes. There is a saying that a brand is not just for Christmas, a brand is for life. When you become one of the largest companies in Europe, you have to do it forever. We have to benchmark ourselves against the communication strategies of some of the largest companies in the world. We will continue what we are doing, but deepen it and widen it, making the experience of the brand relevant to our clients and our prospects and our staff.

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