Language gap

You know that point I’ve made a million times – well, more like a dozen really – about the language gap which exists between those few of us working within financial services and those millions of us outside?

I don’t think I’ve seen a better example than Invesco Perpetual’s current advertising campaign, appearing across a wide range of print, online and outdoor media much of which is clearly targeting non-hobbyist investors.

They’ve bet the ranch on a single execution with a single one-word headline, which makes for a campaign about as concentrated as it could possibly be.  Unfortunately, though, the word they’ve chosen is Patience, which is a terrible choice – boring and meaningless to most, but entirely counter-productive to quite a few.

To investment people, I suppose, it introduces an idea about long-termism.  Invesco Perpetual fund managers, it says, are there, Buffett-like, to stay.  I suppose that’s good, although in these short-termist times I fear there are quite a few investment people who prefer the here-today-gone-tomorrow flibbertigibbet approach, and rather fear that the Invesco Perpetual portfolios will be stuffed with patiently-held stocks bought in bygone eras like Kodak, Polly Peck, Racal and British Leyland.

But it’s what this word means to the 58 million people in this country who are emphatically not investment people that intrigues me.  Patience.  Why patience?  Patience how?

Looking for some kind of context – a known circumstance in which the word is often used and understood – many will think of football.  Those who support frequently-underperforming teams like mine know exactly what “patience” means.  It means: “Yes, results are rubbish at the moment, but please stop booing the manager and give him a few more weeks to try to turn things round.”  (Then, almost invariably, a few weeks later the Board will run out of patience and the manager will go, as for example Gus Poyet did at Sunderland yesterday.)

It’s difficult to imagine why Invesco Perpetual would want to spend a very large sum on conveying this grim message about their current performance and their own managers’ capabilities.  But that’s the sort of thing that can happen when you don’t speak the same language as most of your readers.

3 thoughts on “Language gap

  1. What a terrible headline. Offers absolutely no benefit to its intended target audience, so will not lead to people reading further with any kind of positive interest (“engagement” as we say today).

    And for any member of the non-hobbyist investor market who does give it more than a second’s reflection, it will simply reinforce the view that you have to wait forever to get any kind of return from investing – if at all. Long term’s one thing, but no need to dramatise its pronounced downside.

    I wonder how much Invest Perpetual paid for that “campaign idea”.

  2. “Patience: We all want a Ferguson. But most of us get a Poyet (and even more of us get Redknapp). But choose Invesco Perpetual and you’ve got Wenger – now and forever … and ever.”

    Have I summed it up correctly?

  3. Actually, although everyone has been too kind to point it out, this was an embarrassingly ignorant blog. What I’d failed to notice was that star fund manager Neil Woodford, for many years the key man at Invesco Perpetual until he left recently to set up his own firm, had announced the launch of a new investment trust to be called the Woodford Patient Capital Trust. Invesco Perpetual’s “Patience” advertising was a blatant and obvious attempt to spike his guns.

    Blatant and obvious to everyone involved in any way with the investment world except me, of course. Which leaves me feeling, and looking, pretty stupid – except for the unarguable point that if I didn’t get it, neither will millions of other people. And I suspect that even among those who did, quite a few will see the ad as some sort of endorsement of Woodford’s new fund, which wasn’t what Invesco Perpetual intended at all.

    So apologies for failing to spot the silly game they’re playing. But even now that I get it, I still think it’s a rotten ad.

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