Enhancing Financial Literacy With Relevant Stories -Vinit Kapahi

Financial Literacy is, by far, the most successful vaccine against financial anxiety. While the country’s financial literacy rate has been increasing due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, India has the lowest financial literacy rate among major emerging economies.

According to a recent report by SEBI, only 27 per cent of the country’s population is financially literate and possesses the awareness and proper money management skills.

The ‘life skill’ of money management isn’t introduced in educational institutions until it’s too late. To combat financial illiteracy, education needs to start in the classroom. With adequate financial literacy, people shall be empowered to create a robust financial plan that matches their life goals and expectations.

They shall also know how to factor in financial uncertainties arising from job loss, domestic or global economic downturn, geopolitical turmoil, or prolonged illness. However, the widespread misinformation and dated facts available on the internet make it challenging for people to find meaningful information about financial planning.

Given this delicate scenario, banking and financial services brands shoulder the responsibility of bridging the gap and nurturing a financially aware society. Here are my four cents about the role of BFSI marketers in addressing the situation:

Make your own stories

Celebrated author, historian, modern philosopher, and academician Yuval Noah Harari argues in his book 21 Problems for the 21st Century that ‘the Homo Sapiens’ brain is not designed to process complex numbers, statistics, and unstructured information. Instead, we learn from stories that are constantly shaping around us and then they are passed from one sapiens to another. ‘

This is a crucial insight for BFSI marketers, who are often obsessed with numbers and romanticise the same through their communications to the audience. While inculcating goal-based investing is an essential communication ask, they need to rely on human interest stories featuring different characters and life scenarios.

A good story keeps people at heart, which helps readers relate with the protagonist, understand the plot, and imbibe the larger message. Similarly, marketers need to understand their audience’s financial nuances and use them to build stories.

Stories based on real-life situations such as studies, marriage, the birth of a child, retirement, vacations etc., impart lessons, give a nudge to think and act in a specific direction, and can be passed on by word-of- mouth. Isn’t it the perfect way to strengthen financial literacy, which is often considered a complex subject?

Keep it real

Marketers are inherently creative folks. Their natural endeavor is to unleash their creativity when making or telling stories. However, these stories always flow on the sword’s edge and stand a chance of sounding real or gimmicky.

Only the stories that flow toward the side of realism can successfully deliver the message of financial planning. Today, consumers may not understand a complex message. Still, they can undoubtedly see through gimmicks and do not shy away from calling it out on digital channels. Here, a thumb rule is to weave stories that are relatable to customers.

Like in a movie, the customer is always the Hero of the Story, while the Brand plays the supporting role of the Trustworthy Best Friend by giving Hero the confidence to make critical financial decisions.

Be the hero’s best friend

We often turn to our best friends and trusted family members for their perspectives or help when in doubt. As a supporting actor, BFSI brands have an opportunity to be the Hero’s best friend in the story. It only takes staying ‘truthful’ and ‘trustworthy’ throughout your communication. The recipe for the magic sauce that instils trust is purpose, integrity, and ethics.

Consumers are looking for brands that positively impact societal issues, provide accurate, reliable, and unbiased information, and show concern for their heroes.

Build a positive dialogue

Stories carry emotion in them, which acts as a powerful tool. Emotions can sway people’s opinions and motivate them to act. These emotions could be love, friendship, patriotism, etc. However, one emotion that marketers should not tap into is fear.

Often, some narratives try to persuade people to buy their offerings by instilling fear in them, with the underlying message being “your family will be miserable without money” or “you’re too late to invest.”

Such an approach will only impart dread in the minds of consumers, not financially educate them. Instead of relying on fear, we should adopt positive dialogue and meaningful marketing messages that would resonate with customers.

With a population of 1.3 billion, the importance of financial literacy will have an enduring effect. Brands can go a long way with a customer-centric marketing approach to inculcate financial literacy among the masses.

A financially savvy India would be a significant force in the world. With shifting priorities and media consumption, being mindful and considerate as a marketer is of utmost importance. It is past time for us to become a part of the consumer’s journey rather than waiting for them to join ours.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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