/ Money

How savvy are you to the tricks of financial marketing?

Gold brain

Online financial marketing works – we know this because financial providers spend millions on it each year. The question is; do you fall for financial marketing?

Brands use neuroscience to study the effect of various messages on different areas of your brain – inducing activity in the emotional area of your brain, for example, generally means they have been successful.

We conducted an experiment into online financial marketing involving more than 3,300 people. Our experiment showed that marketers capitalise on the attractiveness of imagery and colours, as well as the human tendencies to think short term, follow the herd and procrastinate.

Take our interactive test to find out how marketing plays on your psychology.

Tricks of the marketers’ trade

In one of our examples we found that describing a 25% discount on car insurance as ‘12 months for the price of 9’ made it more attractive. Placing an image of a happy couple next to an advert for a savings product did the same. In both cases the underlying product remained the same – only the marketing was changed.

This should come as no surprise. Marketers have relied on human psychology to sell us products since the 1920s, when Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays used his uncle’s insights to revolutionise marketing techniques.

And while these marketing tactics aren’t confined to financial products, they’re certainly very common in this field. So when it comes to your wallet, it pays to read between the lines.

Test your savvy

Of course, most of us like to think we’re unaffected by such tactics. That’s why we’ve created an online test based on our experiment to let you pit your savviness against financial marketing.

We’re also on the lookout for the worst in opaque verbiage, florid piffle, and pleonastic poppycock for a future project in which we’ll help you better understand financial lingo. So make sure to share the worst financial jargon you’ve seen below.


Excellent article Harry on an area that really needs to be hammered home to the general public. As a savvy subscriber I did get them all correct : ). I should mention your link to a “questionnaire” is actually a dead link.

The whole area of advertising really needs to be examined as whether it operates for societies good. I am sure a snappy campaign title like ” Is advertising working in the consumers interest?” would reveal that in many cases it does not.

Increased sales of artificial drinks/soda etc being one of the more obvious cases.

Even though I got them all right, go me, I don’t agree with the answer to question 5.

I don’t trust dishonest companies from using a logo that they’re not entitled to. Too many travel website will show an ACAS sign when they’re not affiliated.

I’m a cynic when it comes to marketing. “They” want to sell you something, so will always use techniques to persuade you to buy their product – by these psychological methods, and by being economical with the truth. Can we ever change it? I would say we can’t – it has gone on for as long as commerce. Adverts are one thing. When you must be careful is then being lured further into taking the product; here I suggest all the key relevant charges and “unexpected” conditions should be emphasised at the beginning of the contract, not tucked away in the small print. A good example might be pension savings when you are hit by extortionate charges particularly when you stop paying in. The DT highlighted an example where someone built up a pot then moved abroad and ceased contributing; the pot declined through excessive charges despite a stock market increase of 60%, and the “provider” would charge 40% if he tried to withdraw his money.
What we (I suppose the FCA) should do is to take action when relevant information is withheld or obscured when you come to sign up and when untruths are told.
We also have to learn to understand what we are buying, and if we don’t understand it then don’t buy it.

Vivid says:
26 July 2014

The fact that we are reading this article in the first place, does tend to self-select for savvier people.