Winner takes all: The marketing of Wall Street

The Reformed Broker details his experiences competing for clients against the big guns like Fidelity, battling against marketing campaigns which over the years helped elevate such name-brand firms onto an "exalted plane of existence."

Eric Thayer/Reuters
A sign is seen on Wall Street near the New York Stock Exchange in this June 2012 file photo. Fidelity Investments and other brand-name firms have worked hard to corner the layman's investment market.

I was on the phone with a prospective client yesterday who had called us after visiting with their local Fidelity branch.  They walked in for a consultation and the "advisor" there shoved a variable annuity brochure into their laps within 30 minutes. "You go to a firm like Fidelity because you figure, hey, it's Fidelity," the guy says to me.  "How could anything go wrong, they're everywhere!"

I know exactly what he means, and I explain to him that it's really a triumph of marketing more than anything else that's elevated these name-brand firms onto an exalted plane of existence.  I wrote a whole chapter in my book, Backstage Wall Street, about the advertising and marketing tactics The Street uses to perpetuate the notion that they are anything special.  The Globe & Mail published an excerpt from it this weekend...

Look at the way most firms market themselves. The colors, themes, and stock images are always the same. Greens and browns in some cases – the rich and earthy colors that bring a bread-winning male back to his boyhood days in the forests and streams of his youth.

Reds, whites, and blues – evocative of patriotism and freedom. White backgrounds denoting simplicity, gold and silver trim alerting you to the fact that inside this brochure lie treasures and a wealth of important knowledge.

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