Looking at the financial services landscape in Australia, it’s clear that the majority of financial services organisations play it safe when it comes to branding and advertising.

But the fact is that playing it safe can actually be dangerous. Looking like your competitors, and making it hard for your customers to see the difference in your product offering, is not a smart use of your marketing dollars.

Using a metaphor from the financial industry, marketing is like an investment – to reap greater returns you may need to take greater risks. Here are some that could be worth taking:

Get creative

Customers are bombarded with so many messages these days that conventional often means forgettable. Nowhere is this more evident than in financial communications. While no one wants to be frivolous about something as serious as money, coming across as a human brand that ‘gets’ its customers and has a fun side can do wonders for cut-through.

Be a thought leader not a thought follower

Being ahead of the pack when it comes to what people are thinking and doing places you at the forefront of your industry. You show that you’re progressive, passionate and that your customers can trust you to be on top of the latest developments.

Try a new medium

While you don’t need to get on board every new technological fad, there’s something to be said for stepping out of your comfort zone and surprising customers in a new way every once in a while. You’ll stand out as an innovator, and your message will stand out too.

Put your money where your mouth is

Many companies say they’re into innovation, but when push comes to shove they choose the safe idea over the big idea. Put your trust in your agency, take a leap of faith sometimes and don’t let rounds of organisational and legal feedback water down a cracking idea.

Approaching things from a fresh perspective and taking calculated risks can help us step out of our habitual thinking and really engage with our customers.

When the risky call pays off

One of my favourite stories from when I first started in advertising is about a meeting with a major client – one of Australia’s top companies – about their new branding campaign. About 20 key stakeholders were assembled in the boardroom. The agency chairman started the meeting by making a call on speaker phone, while everyone waited. He was placed on hold for around 15 minutes, and as time ticked by, people were getting annoyed and frustrated, and about to walk out of the room.

The chairman then explained that he was calling the company’s customer service line and that on average customers have to wait for around 30 minutes before the call is answered. The client had no idea this was the case and was extremely grateful for the discovery. They could now put a plan in place to deal with the issue and make their customer service the best in the market.

This was of course a rather risky move for the agency but it would have been riskier not to have addressed this, as the future of the brand was at stake.

Isn't it time to start protecting the future of your brand by identifying how you can stand out from the crowd and connect more meaningfully with your customers? After all, the biggest risk may be never taking one.

Written by Margot Cotter-Melton, Managing Partner, The Pure Agency.