Financial services firms are not known for their tender side, but Charles Schwab is aiming to defy stereotypes with its Own Your Tomorrow campaign. Along with print and TV ads, branded storytelling that fosters an emotional connection is an integral part of the campaign.
The campaign’s foundation is the premise that "if customers are more engaged and take ownership of their finances and lives, they will have better futures and outcomes," says Kirstin Falk, MD, brand storytelling and innovation at Charles Schwab.
Launched in partnership with Vimeo, each series within the campaign revolves around a different question and uses a different storytelling format.
For the Why This Road? three-part series, filmmakers showed pivotal moments in the lives of three individuals, each of whom ended up on an unplanned path. For example, cameraman Chris Yacoubian became a volunteer crewman, committing his time to saving others with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
The series earned more than 11 million impressions worldwide, one of the most successful branded content series ever published on Vimeo.
Inspiring Clients, also a three-part series, features stories of Schwab clients who overcame overwhelming obstacles. Bill Durden, a fisherman lost at sea, used mental strategies learned while in the Navy to push himself to tread water for 20 hours before being rescued.
Absent from the latest video series, Why Not Now? are Schwab customers or any mention of investing. To date there are four films offering inspiration for taking a leap of faith to make a life change. One story focuses on Mardelle Peck, who started racing motorcycles at the age of 65, and another talks with Vivian Stancil, who is blind and learned to swim at the age of 49 after being told she was going to die if she didn’t lose weight. She’s since won more than 200 medals in swimming championships.
In each of the series, "we focus on individuals who have stories that are powerful and inspirational," says Falk. "I am so grateful I could bring their stories to life."
The aim of the series is to tell human stories that create an emotional connection with the viewer. Each film emphasizes Schwab’s basic tenet that "through personal engagement and a relationship of mutual respect, your financial goals and a better tomorrow are within reach," she says.
Falk’s role at Charles Schwab, where she’s worked for four years, is to build those stories in new and innovative ways. "Typically, content is very centered on product advertising," she explains. "We use stories to celebrate these moments of ownership where the individual had to make a choice or a sacrifice."
The content for each of the series is filtered through a story lens. "The first layer is always: Is this a good story? Is it entertaining, compelling, beautiful? We are looking for unique stories to tell. We look for the friction or tension, for the curveball in how the story unfolds. We look for an ownership moment. The relevance for us is does it articulate our brand values, the Own Your Tomorrow story," explains Falk.
"The entire marketing space is evolving, with new formats, platforms, and storytelling methods," she notes. "Platforms such as Instagram have flipped the old ways of advertising. So we are constantly innovating."
The branded storytelling team pilots new channels and formats, such as Instagram stories and Snapchat, and then shares what they’ve learned with the marketing teams at Schwab.
"From a storytelling space, you have to be open to constant exploration and innovation," says Falk. Brands are layering back in an elegant way of storytelling, with content that emotionally resonates, with stories that show benefit of brand promise versus transactional-based content.
"We are a small scrappy team at Schwab," she adds. "We don’t have huge marketing budgets, but we are fortunate because our CMO has made it clear he expects us to create content that is culturally relevant for our audience and consumers."