SJP’s aim to appear posh has two significant implications which, says Lucian Camp of Lucian Camp Consulting, isn’t often considered in the field of financial advice.

    I’ve no intention of getting drawn into any of the numerous available punch-ups on the subject, but the fact is that I’ve given a good deal of brand, marketing and communications advice to St James’s Place over many years.

    Being different… is the single most important requirement when it comes to acquiring, retaining and developing clients.

    Without giving away anything that isn’t already completely obvious, I feel able to tell you that a key element of the St James’s Place brand is that it’s intended to seem pretty posh. People who have a bit of money, but aren’t necessarily very posh, feel that they’ve become a bit posher when they become SJP clients.

    (Of course this poshness angle works equally well, but in a slightly different way for those clients – actually a fairly small minority – who are indeed posh to begin with.)

    You may be thinking that so far, this blog hasn’t really got past a single statement of the bleedin’ obvious. But actually, the simple fact that SJP aims to appear posh has two significant implications which I’d say are not often much considered in the field of financial advice. These are:

    1. SJP actually does aim to seem different from most other advice firms. This is genuinely unusual. Spend an hour skimming through the websites of a couple of dozen others, and you’ll appreciate just how hard nearly all of them are trying to look, feel and sound exactly the same.
    2. SJP’s most distinguishing brand value – poshness – is, almost uniquely, not intended to connect with any of its target market’s financial attitudes, characteristics or behaviours.

    When financial services companies of one sort or another set about segmenting their market and targeting a particular segment, they almost always define the task exclusively in terms of financial attitudes, characteristics or behaviours – they identify a pre-retired segment, or a high-net-worth group, or a risk-averse investor type, or whatever. But useful though these financial insights can be, they’re entirely two-dimensional concepts in a three-dimensional world. I can think of literally dozens of attitudes, behaviours or characteristics with which it would be possible to engage far more strongly and distinctively, the desire to be seen as posh being just one example.

    In my view of the world, being different, and specifically being different in a way which connects strongly with the thoughts and feelings of a particular target segment, is the single most important requirement when it comes to acquiring, retaining and developing clients. To some extent, of course, especially in small firms, advisers can rely on the irresistible strength of their own delightfully different personalities to do this job for them. But even so, I’m surprised that more firms don’t seem to have taken on board one of the most obvious reasons for St James’s Place’s infuriating success.

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