By Cyril Tuohy
Although Prudential’s widely recognized branding campaign featuring those near retirement age has impressed its financial services contemporaries, one may be surprised to learn that the campaign is not trying to sell life insurance at all. At least not in the way one might expect.
Launched in 2011, Prudential’s marketing campaign was a bold departure from the staid, product and statistics-centric approaches common among life and health insurers. Marked by its use of narrative techniques and philosophical questions about life and longevity combined with eye-opening behavioral statistics linked to Google’s analytics tools, the campaign’s goal was to grab attention and spark conversation about the long-term future.
That strategy has appeared to work.
The Financial Communications Society (FCS) named Prudential the 2012 FCS Financial Marketer of the Year for its “Bring Your Challenges” advertising campaign, suggesting other life insurance companies and financial advisors can learn something.
The success of the campaign, said Colin McConnell, vice president and head of advertising for Prudential, was built around the idea of having an honest dialogue about retirement.
“One of the things we’ve been trying to do is not to be advertising, but send an important message to stimulate dialogue and get people to think intensely about their financial future,” McConnell said in an interview with InsuranceNewsNet.
The life insurance industry is littered with past advertising campaigns that have fallen flat. Sometimes ads bludgeoned the audience with a company’s complicated insurance products and nifty rider features. Yet those same campaigns rarely “spoke” to its potential customers. No surprise, then, that many consumers admit they are underinsured for life coverage despite the millions spent on ad campaigns.
Prudential’s campaign skillfully sidesteps trudging up mountains of mortality data, and referring to the perennial insurance product terms. “Term life” and “annuity” aren’t even mentioned until you specifically solicit the “Prudential Perspective” on its Web page. This is where the carrier invites you to consider its investment, retirement and insurance solutions. Graphic-intensive bar charts and tables are better left to Google analytics, if viewers care to click to a separate Web page.
Prudential has found that just a few statistics are enough to get viewers thinking about longevity, and how widespread the challenges associated with it are about to become. The campaign claims that, of babies born today, 1 in 3 will live to be 100 years old. That statistic is higher than that of a baby’s odds of developing a peanut allergy (1 in 50), of playing a musical instrument (1 in 13) or of having blue eyes (1 in 6), according to the campaign.
Further, Prudential’s Web site explains that by 2020, as many as 55 million people in the U.S. will be retired. It compares that statistic to six times the population of New York, 20 times the population of Chicago or 134 times the population of Miami. Researchers explain that humans are hard-wired to think for the short term and the challenge of longevity is a recent phenomenon in human history.
Instead of piling on the challenges laundry-list style, or boasting about how prepared Prudential is to help consumers make their way into an uncertain financial future, the campaign seeks to break up the tasks to make them more manageable – and remind people that Prudential is there to help.
“The idea is to break things down into little pieces so that it can be palatable,” McConnell said. “And that it can be fun if approached the right way.”
The campaign maintains the bond between the often daunting retirement challenges faced by consumers and the solutions provided by Prudential. The dialogue around the campaign has been brisk, McConnell said, judging by comments on blogs and social media. “People have paid closer attention to the message.”
“It’s forcing people to think about the topic of longevity,” McConnell said. “Usually there’s a lot of Twitter noise around ‘I like’ and ‘don’t like,’ but it has stimulated a lot of discussion and thought around the topic of longevity.”
Whether the campaign will lead to more life insurance sales has yet to be determined. But for the moment, Prudential’s novel approach has consumers talking and thinking about how to start to cover themselves for life.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer living in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. He has also written about food, restaurants and travel. He can be reached at [email protected].
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