Launching an ETF in 2019? Rethink your marketing mix

ETF launch marketing 2019

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More than 300 new ETFs have been launched since Jan. 1, 2018. While the pace of launches in 2019 has slowed compared to what we saw in 2018, the urgency to claim investor mindshare is stronger than ever. The fierce one-two punch of an M&A-fueled consolidation of power of larger issuers (see: Invesco) and the race to zero in the fee wars makes it imperative to get out of the gate strong.

As you can imagine, newer ETF issuers face an uphill battle against their established behemoth peers that enjoy overwhelming resources and oversized marketing budgets. Despite playing David to the Goliath represented by BlackRock and Vanguard, many upstart issuers have been able to carve out a path to success with nimble media relations strategies and marketing that underscores their creativity and innovation.

So, which upstart issuers are playing the visibility and mindshare game well? Let’s take a look at some of the highlights since last year to see how a nascent ETF provider might climb the ranks and build a sustainable business.

Flaunt your originality. Last year, notable nonprofit organizations entered the ETF market via Impact Shares, the first-ever nonprofit ETF issuer. In its first year, Impact Shares partnered with the NAACP, YWCA and United Nations to bring three single-social-issue ETFs to market.

ETF launch marketing 2019

To better connect with the constituents of the causes and amplify their mission, Impact Shares teams up with its nonprofit partners for media opportunities whenever possible to drive home how it is a different type of socially responsible/ESG ETF.

Combine forces with outsiders. More ETF issuers are creating partnerships with thought leaders outside the ETF and even financial services worlds, delivering an additional level of experience and expertise to their strategies. You may be familiar with the advisory board model some issuers are using, but what differentiates smart ETF marketers is how they leverage the intellectual capital of their board.

ETF launch marketing 2019 ROBO Global

Last year, ROBO Global hosted an event featuring members of its advisory board to further highlight the expertise behind its strategy. Engaging with third-party subject matter experts offers a unique opportunity for ETF issuers to showcase a deeper understanding of a thematic strategy, while opening doors to an attentive audience.  

Think beyond the fact sheet. Every fund has a fact sheet and advisors and media alike sift through piles of them each year. Gregory FCA is regularly working with our ETF issuer clients, particularly those with timely thematic strategies, to think beyond the fact sheet and create memorable and tangible deliverables that stand out. We’ve all heard about crazy job-hunting stories and while you may not be able to put a billboard outside every RIA or family office building, think of marketing your ETF the same way you would market yourself in a competitive job market. Don’t do what everyone else is doing!

ETF launch marketing 2019 IBUY

In 2016, Amplify ETFs launched the first-ever online retail ETF, IBUY. In the process of gathering nearly $300 million in assets under management, this fund has captured incredible attention from traditional media during the fourth quarter in each of the past three years, thanks to the holiday shopping storyline. Last December, Amplify took storytelling to another level with a holiday care package (right) addressing all the key elements of the narrative behind IBUY’s investment case – consumers’ shift to greater online shopping.

As the ETF market continues to grow and competition heats up, developing a strategy that meets a need and building a comprehensive marketing campaign can help ensure your fund is top of mind among investors.