Member Spotlight: Morningstar on Building Trust and Innovation

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leslie-marshall-morningstarThe 2016 WOMMY Awards will be held on November 15, honoring  the year's most innovative word of mouth and social media marketing campaigns. And some of our industry's best and brightest will cross the stage as they are inducted into the WOMM Hall of Fame. It makes perfect sense that all of this will take place inside Morningstar's dazzling auditorium because our host is a company built on trust and innovation.

Leslie Marshall, Morningstar's Director – Events, Magazine and Social Media, gives us a behind-the-scenes' look into the independent investment research provider's marketing strategy, biggest wins and best opportunities to pivot.

What are three words that describe your organization?

Independent, transparent, trusted.

What's a big social success you've had? Was it spontaneous or strategic?

We approach social media in a strategic way and develop plans to participate in live moments, like conferences and events, when we can.

Going in to an event with a plan helps our team be more responsive and engaging. Social media is all about being part of live moments. We promote our conferences and live events via social media in order to bring people together to share ideas and discuss the future of investing.

For the 2016 Morningstar Investment Conference in Chicago, there were 4,034 uses of the official hashtag on Twitter with a reach of 2.9 million (Data: Unionmetrics). Top contributors to the conversation included financial advisors, influencers in the investing and #fintech community, journalists, asset managers as well as Morningstar employees. We also hosted a Social/Digital Hub in the exhibit hall where attendees could take part in "Flash" sessions addressing best practices. We broadcast the conversations live on the main stage and in the Hub via the Social Media Wall, which pulled in live uses of the conference hashtag.

What marketing lessons has your team or brand learned from missteps or pivots?

In today’s digital world, it’s an exciting time to be in marketing. We are in test and learn mode every day – from email subject lines, CTAs and website content to pricing offers, engagement rates and the use of video and images in social. Data drives our decisions. It's not about making mistakes but about learning and iteration.

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If your organization was a platform, which would you most be like – Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? LinkedIn? Periscope? SnapChat? Something emerging we haven't seen yet?

People don’t just need financial information—they need it in a form they can understand and use. Morningstar has always valued design as an effective way to communicate complex ideas. We work to create experiences that engage and enlighten people by using thoughtful, precise, and logical information design. From our early days designing elegant reports on financial data to the user experience we build into our products today, we help reveal valuable insights by making challenging information easier for all types of people to consume.

Instagram’s mission is to capture and share the world’s moments– from the everyday to the spectacular. We launched the Morningstar Inc Instagram account (@morningstarinc) in order to connect with a growing base of investors – millennials and women, and to highlight our great people, design and products. We’re excited to be part of the Instagram community and think it’s a great example of how we’re using a social platform to communicate our values and connect with investors.

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If your team could be on the cover of any magazine, which publication would you choose? What would the headline be?

Fast Company: Meet Today’s Modern Marketers

Our marketing organization is going through a transformation – maximizing our technology stack to be data-driven and responsive, recreating our company home page and digital brand experience as well as how we manage events to deliver an immersive experience. We’re studying how our brand is perceived among investors and evaluating our brand architecture. We work within the agile framework to be able to move quickly and foster collaboration with our marketing and design team around the world.

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What's the best piece of word of mouth marketing advice you've gotten or that you like to share with colleagues?

Word of mouth is about trust. We look to our friends, family and social networks for recommendations for everything from restaurants, new Netflix shows to where to get the car fixed, and which doctors and vets are the best. Today’s investors rely on the advice of their family and friends when it comes to recommendations for financial information and services.

At Morningstar, we’re motivated by our mission to create great products that help investors reach their financial goals. Our independent stance within the financial services world is unshakable. Staying true to our practice of long-term investing and advocating for investors’ rights, even when the crowds are doing the opposite, is how we remain a trusted voice of reason that rises above the market noise.

Investing is not just an opportunity, but a responsibility. We promote the practice of saving and investing as a way to not only bring financial wellness to individuals and their families, but to make the world a more stable and secure place. We’re spreading the word about the power of investing for the long term to help people rise up and achieve more than they ever thought they could.

Our membership in WOMMA gives our marketing team access to the latest research about word of mouth marketing. We also have the opportunity to learn and share best practice from marketing professionals in a wide variety of industries.

It's our turn to high-five you! What wins, new campaigns, research, stand-out team members or other good stuff would you like to share?

Morningstar is a 2016 Cvent Plannie Winner: Event Mastermind and a finalist in the 2016 Folio Awards: B2B – Use of Illustration category. These two awards reflect our commitment to produce exceptional platforms that reflect Morningstar’s thought leadership and demonstrates our core differentiators of design and research independence.

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