‘Bite-size, usable and shareable’: Inside BlackRock’s digital rebrand that’s taking cues from social media


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BlackRock is looking to move away from its image as a staid asset manager — and is taking cues from social media.

The world’s largest asset manager is rolling out a digital rebrand on Monday, starting with a website that’s simpler and friendlier for everyday people, chief marketing officer Frank Cooper told Business Insider.

The site will be mobile-first, Cooper said, with information that’s more “bite-size, usable and shareable.” If that sounds more like a savvy, digital media company than a money management firm, it’s because Cooper spent a year and a half at BuzzFeed before joining BlackRock in January 2017.

The changes come as BlackRock is trying to court more retail investors as it diversifies its business away from institutional firms. In the third quarter, the firm saw $24.8 billion of outflows from institutional customers, while retail brought in $1.7 billion.

BlackRock will also partner with “non-traditional publishers and content developers” to produce short-form content, a departure from its traditional white papers and other long-form research content. Subjects could include financial education and “making money more part of the culture conversation,” Cooper said. He declined to give more details.

The asset manager also plans to launch applications on voice-controlled speakers, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Home. These platforms could be just as relevant for working with big funds as they are for retail customers. For example, BlackRock could use voice functionality to deliver information about retirement, which could be relevant both for employers who set up a plan, as well as individual employees.

“Everything starts with the end investor,” Cooper said. “Eventually you’re serving a person. The more we understand and motivate that end investor, it benefits the entire ecosystem.”

Through the digital revamp, BlackRock wants to help consumers take small steps toward managing their finances, which will be reinforced with further messaging and rewards. These new ways to access financial information will help “nudge behavior in a positive way,” Cooper said. “Those little nudges are much more effective than the big-bang advertising you’ll see.”

Regardless of the specific platform, Cooper said he’s drawing on some general lessons from his career, both at BuzzFeed and as Pepsi’s CMO before that. Speed, going deeper in social media — “a new thing for BlackRock” — and short-form video and content are all areas of focus for the asset manager.

However, not every digital strategy translates to the financial services space.

“I can almost guarantee you that you won’t see a Super Bowl ad,” he said.

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