27 Mar Building Financial Advice for a New Generation: Earnest’s Guide to Decision-Making
By Kate Newman
As a young professional in my mid-20s, meaningful financial guidance is hard to come by. For my parents, people like Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey were household names—but for my generation (who entered adulthood on the cusp of rising education costs, a financial crisis, and the housing bust), the go-to guru is, well, TBD.
This gap is just one reason I’m proud to share a recent project with online lending client Earnest. Last month, LaunchSquad and sister content agency Original9 Media launched Earnest’s Guide to Decision-Making, a microsite about the behavioral science behind some of life’s biggest decisions—such as attending graduate school or choosing a career. These decisions are inextricably tied to personal finance, and for today’s 20- and 30-year-olds, they’re being made in a world quite different from the one my parents’ or grandparents’ generation grew up in.
The site is an example of how branded content (with the right strategy) can not only embolden and fuel a PR program, but also jumpstart an important conversation. Sound relevant to your client or company? Here’s a behind the scenes look at how and why we created the Guide.
Make a Brand Statement
Earnest believes that financially responsible people deserve better financial options. With a personalized client service team, holistic underwriting model, and radical repayment flexibility, the company doesn’t prescribe to one-size-fits-all financial services—or advice.
For this project, we wanted to communicate how this brand belief extends beyond Earnest’s loan or refinancing products, and determines everything they do as a company.
In between product and feature announcements, a branded content project like this can not only solidify a brand message, but also share it in new and exciting ways. Think of it as a “manifesto” project—launched to make a brand statement to both consumers and press, and act as a guiding light for future marketing efforts.
Differentiate in a Noisy Space
As we researched the project, we found no shortage of personal finance tips or best practices, but we did find a lack of context around money. And that struck a chord: Just as Earnest takes a holistic look at every loan applicant, we want young professionals to be able to take a holistic look at their own financial decisions.
Many, if not all, of the big decisions people make in their 20s and 30s have important financial components—whether that’s taking on a student loan or saving for a mortgage—but they also have emotional and psychological components that are left out of traditional financial advice.
That’s how we landed on creating a “new-fashioned” financial guide for young professionals: one that explores the psychology behind our nuanced decision-making processes, and sheds light on how understanding this psychology can actually help you make more financially and personally rewarding choices.
The end result was a 12-page interactive site featuring nine original articles, Earnest data analysis and visualization, and illustrations. In a noisy industry like personal finance, contributing to a conversation with original data, design and interviews—or introducing a new topic entirely—will differentiate you from competitors and create a unique value add for consumers outside of your product.
Start a Conversation
A project like this is a real conversation starter: with clients, with press, and within the larger financial services industry.
Many of Earnest’s clients are starting new chapters in their lives—whether it’s going back to school, launching their own company, buying a home, or starting a family. This guide is an opportunity for Earnest to talk to clients about moments in their lives that aren’t necessarily relevant to a specific product, but ones that are certainly integral to their broader personal, professional, and financial fulfillment. After all, the better decisions Earnest’s clients make, the better Earnest can serve them over their lifetimes.
For press, the microsite offers a chance to highlight Earnest’s values and long-term thinking—but it’s also an opportunity to spur a broader conversation in the industry. Specific coverage of a project, such as this Forbes piece on the Guide, focuses on Earnest’s plan to be a “lifetime partner” for clients; while more general coverage, such as this Mic article, builds a platform for relevant experts within the company, like Earnest’s Chief Data Officer, Gian Gonzaga, PhD., to increase awareness about the psychology of money in general.
That’s a step toward making behavioral economics more accessible to decision-makers—and improving both the big and small financial choices we make every day.
Curious for more? Check out Earnest’s Guide to Decision-Making here.