BMA NYC honors Vanguard as top communicator

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When a company's name becomes a verb, you know it's catching on. Just ask Google. Investment management company Vanguard Group in a marketing campaign this year advised institutional and individual customers to begin “Vanguarding” instead of just investing. Honoring the campaign that turned another brand into a verb, the Business Marketing Association of New York City honored Vanguard last month as its Communicator of the Year. The award, in its 49th year, honors high standards in b-to-b communications and campaigns. The BMA chapter recognized the Malvern, Pa.-based company for its “Are You Just Investing or Are You Vanguarding?” campaign. “The campaign detailed our unique but hard-to-convey message that differentiates us from the competition,” said Colin M. Kelton, principal-planning and development at Vanguard. Kelton said the “Vanguarding” campaign helped underscore the company's unusual structure among mutual fund companies; it is owned by the funds themselves and cannot spend on shared management, marketing and distribution services more than its owners contribute. “These are concepts that are tough to get across, and turning our name into a verb helped to communicate these ideas,” Kelton said. Vanguard's campaign, launched in March, employed optimized display, search, site direct buys, newspaper and magazine advertising, as well as placements across a variety of news, finance, business, lifestyle and thought-leader publications. Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners, New York, which took over Vanguard's $50 million account in October 2009, developed the campaign. “The notion of "Vanguarding' was to use branded terminology to get consumers to stop and rethink investing,” said Steve McCall, director-client services at KBS&P. “At the brand level, our task was to create a clear and obvious separation between Vanguard and all other investment firms, and disrupt deep-seated perceptions that all investment companies are created equal.” The recession played a subtle part, free from scare tactics, in the campaign's messaging. For example, the print ads proclaimed, “Reacting to the stock market is just investing. Taking stock in the long term is Vanguarding.” Audience segmentation played a role in the choice of media. To tell the bigger Vanguard story and build overall awareness, broad-based channels such as lifestyle print and portal sites were employed. More-targeted digital media were used to address customers showing greater propensity to buy; as online viewers researched specific investment products or companies, they were exposed to specific product messages listing key selling benefits and with calls to action to drive them to the Vanguard website. The campaign also featured unusual types of media. One unit involved a “digital ticker takeover,” involving a real-time stock quote that is taken over by the message: “If you're looking at this, you're not Vanguarding.” KBS&P worked with the Media Kitchen, its in-house media company, to develop the on- and offline media strategy for Vanguard. “We chose Vanguard for this honor because of its unique, integrated campaign, using not just print but all aspects of communication, which is so complex but so important today,” said Ned Clausen, BMA New York president.
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