Marketing ETFs to investors goes beyond a battle of low fees

With thousands of ETFs to choose from, marketers need innovative strategies to stand out from the crowd.

The popularity of low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) among both seasoned and novice investors continues to snowball.

BlackRock’s iShares, Vanguard ETFs and State Street’s SPDR (SPY) dominate the global ETF marketplace in terms of assets under management (AUM). iShares AUM was US$2,360.25 billion as of October 15, 2021.

Low fees have been one of the defining facets of ETFs, and it continues to be an important selling point. None of the top ETF fund providers shy away from promoting cost-effectiveness. And why should they? After all, investors love the low fees. Vanguard describes ETFs as “highly effective, affordable investments.” BlackRock says iShares are “easy and cost-effective.” State Street highlights “lower expense ratios.”

Even the newly launched bitcoin ETFs are trying to follow this model to carve out their own market share with lower and lower fee offerings, reports Bloomberg.

But in an increasingly competitive marketplace how can marketers help ETF entrants stand out from the crowd beyond their low fees? We looked to the “big three” for some clues.

Investment philosophy

For novice investors, making investment decisions can be daunting and complex. A recurring theme within the big three’s marketing materials is investor education. On its website, Vanguard presents the following four guiding principles to promote investment success:

  • Think about goals
  • Stay balanced
  • Keep costs low
  • Be disciplined

These four nuggets of advice reinforce the importance of crafting a crystal-clear message that invites investors to harness the power of the fund’s investment philosophy.


Sharing information based on feedback from investors is a great way to promote transparency. In a recent article Marketing ETFs in uncertain and volatile times, Alex Craddock, Global CMO of iShares, recommends posting informative content to reassure investors. Providing insight into a trending investment theme also helps engage your target audience and encourages them to follow you. iShares’ paper A sea change in global investing, for example, addresses investors’ concerns about climate risk and sustainable investing.

Font in focus

With mobile devices accounting for approximately half of digital traffic today, optimizing digital marketing for smartphones is vital. On its website, the iShares paper is posted with a large black font against a bright green background to evoke an energetic sense of confidence. The strong colour palette is instantly memorable.

The bold title fonts used on iShares’ website and in State Street’s ETF Education section are particularly effective for a smaller smartphone screen. Eye-catching statistics, like State Street launching the first U.S.-listed ETF in 1993, pop off the page.

Celebrity power

In a very different bid to get people to sit up and notice, State Street enlisted Hollywood actress Elizabeth Banks to create a video raising awareness about its ETF mid-cap assets. During an interview with Bloomberg, Matt Bartolini, Head of State Street’s SPDR Americas Research, said he wanted to get the message out to investors and clients in a “fun, digestible way.”

The right support

While all ETFs provide the promise of lower fees, offering the right support to help guide investors can be the most effective marketing tool. Marketers face the challenge of curating these resources into manageable bite-size pieces that can give scrolling investors pause for thought. In a hyper competitive marketplace, small tactics like ease of viewing on mobile, timely and transparent resources, and a clearly articulated investment philosophy can make a difference.

Looking for support in refining your ETF messaging? Ext. has the expertise you need. Contact us today at 1.844.243.1830 or