Lincoln National Corp.
1500 Market Street, Suite 3900
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102-2112
Telephone: (215) 448-1400
Fax: (215) 448-3962
Web site: www.lfg.com
HELLO FUTURE CAMPAIGN
In the late 1990s Philadelphia-based Lincoln National Corp., which marketed itself as Lincoln Financial Group, launched a successful branding campaign that targeted affluent consumers. But in the early 2000s it became clear that as baby boomers entered their retirement years and challenged preconceived notions about what retirement meant, Lincoln Financial Group would have to reposition its brand and message to remain relevant in the marketplace. The result was the "Hello Future" campaign that began in April 2005. It was aimed at both affluent baby boomers and the financial planners and other intermediaries that sold the Lincoln Financial Group products.
The "Hello Future" campaign, created by ad agency Martin/Williams of Minneapolis, Minnesota, presented an optimistic image of retirement as an opportunity to pursue dreams, whether they satisfied a lifelong interest or involved giving back to the community. One of the television spots, for example, featured an African-American woman who as a child was told by a guidance counselor to become a file clerk so she could meet eligible lawyers to marry. Instead she became a lawyer, then a judge, and finally, in retirement, a guidance counselor. Coming full circle, she advised a young girl to think higher than file clerk and to consider becoming a lawyer. In addition to television spots, the "Hello Future" campaign included radio, print, online, and alternative media elements. Although the budget was not made public, Lincoln Financial Group had reportedly spent $20 million in advertising the previous year.
The initial phase of the "Hello Future" campaign came to a close at the end of 2005. The dramatic increase in call-center volume and website traffic indicated that the message resonated with consumers. Moreover, the intermediaries were pleased and embraced the campaign.
Although it was nearly 100 years old by the late 1990s, Lincoln Financial Group was a little-known provider of financial services, operating under a variety of brand names, such as Lincoln Life, the Delaware Group, and Vantage Global Advisers. Working with ad agency Martin/Williams, the firm launched a branding campaign to bring all the subsidiaries under the Lincoln name and developed a logo that featured a silhouette of Abraham Lincoln. Moreover, the association of the great president with integrity, trustworthiness, and honesty was in keeping with the image Lincoln Financial Group wished to project as it began to target affluent consumers. Relying on the tagline "Clear solutions in a complex world," the campaign proved highly successful. According to research firm Wirthlin Worldwide, between 1998 and 2000 aided brand awareness among consumers with assets between $250,000 and $500,000 increased from 22 percent to 36 percent. In addition, between 1999 and 2000 aided branded awareness among consumers worth more than $500,000 improved from 31 percent to 38 percent.
Lincoln Financial Group underwent another significant change in the early 2000s. It introduced a new channel of distribution, moving from a network of financial advisors to a wholesale force that sold products to financial intermediaries (such as brokers and financial advisors). But it soon became apparent that many potential intermediaries were not familiar enough with what Lincoln Financial Group had to offer. A series of print ads was then introduced to make the pitch that Lincoln Financial Group products would make the brokers and financial advisors heroes to their clients.
While Lincoln Financial Group had made great strides with both affluent consumers and intermediaries, it was operating in a changing marketplace. Aside from increased competition in the number and type of companies offering financial products, Lincoln Financial Group and Martin/Williams recognized that a major sea change was about to take place. Just as the baby-boom generation, throughout its iconoclastic development, had differed markedly from its elders, forever defying the conventional wisdom of marketers, it was now in the process of redefining retirement. Baby boomers, especially affluent ones, planned to not only live longer but also to pursue a far more active retirement than their parents had, whether that meant launching a second career, giving their time to the community, or pursuing travel and other interests. And with that shift in paradigm, the financial needs of an older demographic would change as well. Lincoln Financial Group, as a result, had no choice but to adapt, but it also recognized a chance to seize an opportunity, to distinguish itself from the crowded field of companies offering financial products and to stake out a position in a changing marketplace.
Lincoln began to reposition and increase recognition of its brand in 2004 when it acquired the naming rights to the new football-only stadium in Philadelphia. Lincoln Financial Field became the home of the National Football League's Philadelphia Eagles, one of the most successful and popular NFL franchises. The company also gained exposure through sports by sponsoring the prime-time made-for-television golf tournament Lincoln Financial Battle at the Bridges, showcasing the world's most popular golfer, Tiger Woods. In 2005 it also sponsored the Lincoln Financial NBC Sports Report that appeared during the televised coverage of such high-profile events as the Wimbledon and French Open tennis tournaments, Notre Dame college football games, and PGA golf tournaments. In April 2005 Lincoln Financial Group launched the "Hello Future" campaign, retiring "Clear Solutions in a Complex World" after six years to take the next step in repositioning the brand.
"Hello Future" targeted two audiences: consumers and intermediaries. As had been the case since the late 1990s, Lincoln Financial Group focused on affluent consumers, roughly 45 to 64 years of age with an annual income of at least $100,000 or income-producing assets of $250,000 and higher. The campaign tried to appeal to both men and women equally. Nor was age a prime consideration: research indicated that a person's mindset about retirement was more important. About 10 years before people planned to retire—whether that be 55, 65, or older—they began to think seriously about making sure their finances were in order and thus became open to the "Hello Future" message. Thus, the campaign had to be nimble enough to appeal to people in their 40s as well as their 60s.
The other target of the "Hello Future" campaign were the intermediaries, who would actually have to sell the Lincoln Financial Group products to consumers. Intermediaries were divided into four channels: wire-house brokers like Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley; independent financial planners; banks; and insurance decision-makers.
Lincoln Financial Group had to contend with strong competition on a number of fronts. It faced direct competition from dozens of firms, but the most prominent were the Hartford Financial Services Group, Pacific Life and Annuity Company, Genworth Financial, Prudential Financial, and Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company. All of them had the financial resources to market their products effectively, making it more difficult for Lincoln Financial Group to cut through the clutter to have its message heard. Offering less direct competition was another crowded field, which included such firms as Fidelity National Financial and T Rowe Price Group and such Internet-oriented companies as E*Trade Financial Corp. Lincoln Financial Group was also in a sense competing against—and appealing to—the self-directed investor, who might be using the services of a discount broker or trading online through E*Trade or Ameritrade Holding Corp., both of which had spent many millions of dollars in humorous, sometime outrageous advertisements to gain name recognition. In the process they changed the nature of financial-services advertising, which was traditionally staid and played off the idea "we're the experts, we know what's best for you." Now old-line firms like Morgan Stanley were introducing humor into their advertisements and talking about earning trust, a key concept given the number of recent Wall Street scandals in which financial firms clearly did not have the best interests of their customers at heart.
The underlying strategy of "Hello Future" was to show baby boomers that Lincoln Financial Group understood the changing nature of retirement and to project a positive image of retirement as a time of optimism and opportunity. In short, retirement was a beginning, not an ending. The resulting integrated campaign, which broke in April 2005 with a two-page full-color ad in the Wall Street Journal, included a wide range of elements, including television and radio spots, print ads, online marketing, and a variety of alternative media plays.
A PICTURE WORTH MORE THAN A THOUSAND PENNIES
Lincoln National Corp. did not establish its corporate headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, until 1998. Its roots actually stretched back to the early years of the century and to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where a man named Wilbur Wynant established a nonprofit fraternal insurance company in 1902. Two years later, however, he skipped town, leaving his local associates either to fold the company or make a stab at reviving the business. It was reorganized in 1905 as Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, with the Lincoln name invoked to suggest trustworthiness, an asset all too often lacking in the insurance industry at the time. The company wrote to Abraham Lincoln's only surviving son, Robert, requesting a picture of his father for use on the company's letterhead. Within days the younger Lincoln sent a photo with the reply: "I find no objection whatever to the use of a portrait of my father upon the letterhead of such a life insurance company named after him as you describe; and I take pleasure in enclosing you, for that purpose, what I regard as a very good photograph of him."
The five television spots of the campaign carried a crossover message. While they primarily targeted the customer, they were also intended to polish the image of Lincoln Financial Group to make it appeal to the intermediaries. Each of the spots provided examples of people embracing retirement. In the "Guidance Counselor" spot an African-American girl in the 1960s was advised by a school guidance counselor to become a file clerk: "It's a great way to meet eligible lawyers." Instead, she was shown going to college, becoming an attorney, then retiring as a judge to become a guidance counselor herself. The spot closed with her conferring with a student: "File clerk? Have you ever considered being a lawyer?" The voice-over then summed up the message: "The one thing you've always wanted to do? It's still out there, just waiting for you to say, 'Hello future.'" Another spot showed a classic-car garage owner telling a customer that he had decided to sell his business in order to pursue a dream before he was too old. The new owner was then shown. Ironically, he had bought the business to follow his own retirement dream. The voice-over stated, "Maybe you'll finish your life's work early. Or maybe you'll hear a second calling and say, 'Hello future.'" The other spots featured a retired man teaching physically challenged children to ski, a family returning to Russia to discover their roots, and a doctor volunteering in a distant country. The 30-second spots ran on national cable and network programming, including during the Lincoln Financial NBC Sports Report.
The radio spots and print ads of the "Hello Future" campaign mirrored one another in a number of ways. They primarily targeted intermediaries, although the message reached consumers as well. The 30-second radio commercials played on the Wall Street Radio network and in large part relied on similar text to what was found in the print ads. "Maybe you'll finish your life's work early. Maybe your next retirement party won't be your last. Maybe you prefer days filled with challenge and purpose. Maybe today you'll wake up and say … 'Hello future.'" The print ads appeared in the Wall Street Journal and in business and finance periodicals such as Fortune and Money.
Online elements of "Hello Future" included content sponsorship on the Wall Street Journal Online and on the Smart Money website. In terms of alternative media, the campaign participated in a co-branding insert that appeared in Smart Money, sponsored the Times Square ticker in New York City, and also provided plastic bags for the delivery of the Wall Street Journal in 10 top markets.
According to an October 2005 interview with Stacy Hintermeister, vice president and group account director for Martin/Williams, there was no data available at the time to indicate what kind of impact the "Hello Future" campaign had on brand awareness. But other signs were positive, such as the doubling of call-center volume and website traffic. Anecdotally, the campaign was well received in the marketplace, and financial planners and other intermediaries expressed their approval and embraced the effort. Lincoln Financial Group was also pleased with the campaign, which helped in its efforts to strengthen strategic partnerships. Distribution in key segments increased, contributing to earnings growth in 2005. The campaign ran until the end of 2005, at which point it was reviewed and evolved for 2006.
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