Close-Up with Martha Willis, CMO, OppenheimerFunds

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OppenheimerFunds is one of the largest asset management companies in the U.S., with some $182 billion in assets under management. The company sells mutual funds, qualified retirement plans and other products through financial intermediaries, primarily financial advisers and institutions. Martha “Marty” Willis, CMO at OppenheimerFunds, has been on the job for about a year, and in January launched a new campaign to promote the company's products within the financial adviser community.

CMO Close-Up: Tell us a bit about your market and what's underscoring your new campaign?

Martha Willis: At OppenheimerFunds, we have a high conviction in the funds we're managing and are always trying to outperform the market. We've traditionally tried to sell through our sales organization, but that can cover only about 20% of our customers. I'm trying to broaden our thought leadership, make it more public and get more credibility in the marketplace for what we do.

What we're trying to do right now is manage all our investment strategies with a global view. That's increasingly important as the world is changing, especially in emerging markets. The biggest growth opportunity for investors is to capitalize on that, investing in companies that can benefit from this trend.

CMO Close-Up: Why focus on emerging markets?

Willis: There have been very few asset-management firms that have fully capitalized on that. As consumers, we all buy products from around the world. But very few asset managers have taken a global perspective in regard to investment strategies.

Our campaign is called “Globalize Your Thinking,” to help make people aware of this investment change. The fact is, investors need a macro-global view. It's no longer just the U.S. that's your hunting ground. It doesn't mean the end of U.S. investment opportunities, but rather going anywhere in the world for the best investment opportunities. We're trying to inform people, educate them and globalize their thinking.

CMO Close-Up: How are you getting the word out?

Willis: We're using traditional print publications that target financial advisers, such as Registered Rep., Financial News and Investment Advisor.

In addition, we're going to more of the mega-financial publications, such as The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Bloomberg News and Dow Jones. On this front, we're developing integrated partnerships and using a lot of their elements. One example is placing ads opposite the column by Tom Keene, a highly respected economist, in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Also, there are about 150,000 Bloomberg terminals used by financial advisers, and our ads are all over those terminals, like Flash online advertising. In addition, Bloomberg is launching a new mobile site as well as one for the iPad, and our ads are a part of that as well. And we were a lead sponsor of the Bloomberg Link conference in New York last month.

CMO Close-Up: What kinds of calls to action does the campaign feature?

Willis: All this advertising drives viewers to our site,, where we provide information for advisers—“snackable” pieces of content that advisers can send on to their end-customers. They include white papers and investment ideas, but also multimedia. So instead of handing the customer a brochure, the adviser can share these little streaming infomercials instead. And all our videos are on our YouTube channel as well.

Sharing—syndication of this material—is big; and we're hoping advisers will put these on their sites. The idea is graphical, how to enable people to more easily digest this material. We think there is long-term opportunity here.

CMO Close-Up: We understand you're using quick-response codes to good effect. Please tell us more about this?

Willis: Whenever you see a QR code in one of our print ads, you can scan it with your smartphone and pull up a video of a fund manager talking about investment opportunities. From my perspective, an adviser looking for an asset manager wants somebody on the forefront of knowledge. If they're using dated instruments or tools, they don't look like they're on the forefront of knowledge.

Also, in the past we'd invite advisers to New York to meet our fund managers, bringing in about 1,000 advisers each year. Recently, though, we did a test with a print QR code, and we also promoted it on our website. We had 20,000 people overall who downloaded our video on the site, and the print QR code alone was responsible for 1,000 views in 2½ months. It ordinarily would have taken us 20 years to get this kind of exposure using the in-person model.

CMO Close-Up: It sounds like part of your strategy is to be extremely helpful to financial advisers in doing their jobs, right?

Willis: Yes. Advisers are looking for unique stories to share with their clients to help with their investments. This global effort will do that. This is a trend that will change the investing world over the next 30 years.

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