This week marks the 68th anniversary of the debut of Peanuts. (The comic strip, that is, not the savoury comestible.) The wildly popular strip, which ran continuously for nearly 50 years, resonated by lending distinct voices to its characters. Though in body they’re children, their plights are universal. Beyond knowing them, you identify with them. Most importantly, you’re interested in what they’ve got to say.Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip
So, is it possible for investment writers to achieve such a marvellous rapport with their audiences? We’d like to think so. Because clients, just like readers of the hallowed cartoon strip, appreciate sharp, concise messages rounded off with arresting punchlines. As with the immortal Peanuts characters, establishing a personality is key. Here’s how each of the strip’s beloved characters can offer a take on investment communications that stands out from the crowd:
1. Lucid Lucy
Lucy is as opinionated as she is bad tempered, but her unambiguous stance on events certainly assures that her opinions are heard. In an industry awash with hedging and uncertainty, investors value a perspective articulated with conviction – as Deutsche Bank clearly demonstrates by asking (and answering) the question: How to solve Europe’s three biggest problems?
2. Chary Charlie Brown
Charlie Brown is great at worrying, and truly exceptional at anxiety.
And sometimes, that’s just what your clients need: a clear message about what it is they should be worried about. For example, every retail investor writes about pensions, but this Schroder’s report manages to stand out, focusing on one particular question that, in the age of “pension freedoms”, is a concern for pretty much all of us.
3. Curious Linus
When linking news to financial performance, writers love the vagueness of terms such as ‘amid’, ‘while’, and the ubiquitous ‘as’. Curious and naïve Linus knows his ‘whys’ are often left hanging, but he tries to make sense of it all nonetheless. Similarly, clients appreciate deeper-probing insights into the causes and long-lasting implications of market developments. Observe HSBC, marketing its dedicated wealth-management services for expats, by publishing detailed research on the woes and joys of globe-trotters.
4. Perceptive Sally
As one of the youngest in the cast, Sally is forever being taught by those around her. Far from solemnly accepting what she’s told, she contrasts it with her own experience, famously defining rain to be water that does not come out of faucets. Investment writers, hopefully armed with a little more expertise, can similarly demonstrate both confidence and perceptiveness by surveying the actions of other industry players. Here is Allianz, applying this principle to its investor risk monitor.
5. Single-Minded Schroeder
Everyone knows Schroeder plays the piano, because he does it ALL THE TIME. You hardly ever see him do anything else. Imagine your business having that kind of reputation. The key to gaining it is identifying an angle, and repeatedly communicating your knowledge about it. Take, as an example, Rabobank. Though the bank originated as a lender to Dutch farmers, today agribusiness accounts for just 10% of its domestic retail loan portfolio. But internationally, it’s winning new markets on the back of communicating its agribusiness know-how.
6. Singular Snoopy
You recognise Snoopy to be a dog, but not quite; he also dances, plays softball and ice skates. Writing about equities or fixed income doesn’t mean you cannot entertain your clients with an offbeat report covering the financial aspect of an unexpected topic. Like Goldman Sachs, stopping to consider space travel. As a part-time celebrated WWII pilot, Snoopy would surely approve.
For 68 years, maintaining distinct characters has propelled Peanuts to become one of the world’s most revered and beloved comics. If well-crafted, resonant and individual voices have worked so well for Charlie Brown and his crew over the years, who’s to say the same principles can’t help investment writers, too?