Consumers are bored with brands lecturing them on financial matters. With this in mind and taking the recession into account, Prudential has initiated a brand strategy of promoting itself as a plain speaking and trustworthy provider of pension advice.
Prudential’s brand ambition, among others, is to be known and seen as a leader in retirement. Chris McElligott, senior marketing manager of Prudential, says: “Effective retirement planning has become a key societal issue and Prudential is positioning itself as a company people can rely on to offer comprehensive, effective, useful information in this crucial area.”
He continues: “We must make sure we are part of the consideration set whether people are saving towards retirement or about to retire.”
Last year, working with agency Sound Creative, Prudential decided the best way to rise to this challenge in an innovative fashion was an interactive and engaging live online TV show that reignited brand advocacy.
The Prudential Pensions Surgery, streamed over the web to a target audience of Prudential customers who were between five and 15 years from annuity. Consumers logged on to watch content they had participated in generating by submitting questions beforehand. The brand then made the programme available to view on its website Pru.co.uk and spawned a massive level of consumer visits.
The 160-year-old brand’s audience is both people who have an existing relationship with the finance expert and non-customers. The primary target tends to be “empty nesters” aged between 45 and 54, who have already started a pension but could do with saving more or have stopped paying into it.
These people have often reached a point when they have started to take a more active interest in thinking about what kind of retirement they want to have. Prudential’s understanding is that this audience may well have started to reduce other financial burdens in their life. As a result, they may have the opportunity to increase the priority they place on retirement planning and do more to improve their retirement prospects.
Old-style ways of engaging these consumers, such as direct mail campaigns and invites to seminars, were not providing the traction the brand wanted and the challenge to get people to top up their pension was greater than ever.
“Traditional direct mail had not provided a significant response, despite careful targeting,” comments McElligott. “We needed to find a way of conveying a fairly dry topic in a more engaging, entertaining way.”
The idea of a live online TV show, where the content was driven by the target audience aimed to help build advocacy and engage consumers on a personal level. This kind of interactive approach, where questions were sourced from its target audience beforehand, would also help the brand understand customers’ key issues. This could deliver useful insights and be used to inform the content of future communications to them.
To add some kudos, Prudential brought in Alvin Hall, consumer finance personality and author of Plan Now, Retire Happy. Hall participated in the event alongside a Prudential product expert, driving home the brand’s core messaging into the content.
The crucial views and engagement were ensured through agency Sound Creative’s close relationship with Prudential’s channel and online marketing teams. The agency created two bespoke HTML emails directly targeting Prudential’s database of over 40,000 customers, while an alert on Prudential’s homepage encouraged customers to submit questions prior to the show. The alert also gave notification of the forthcoming show, effectively creating an appointment to view.
“We seeded the event among our customer base, via emails sent two weeks, three days and 24 hours before the event,” explains McElligott. “It was also promoted on the Pru.co.uk homepage for three weeks before the event and an online PR strategy was used to increase the event’s profile.”
The consumer interaction generated a healthy response of more than 100 questions. The surgery ran for half an hour combining a mixture of questions that were posted live as well as those received ahead of the surgery.
Sound Creative’s work aimed to produce an unusually high level of customer engagement in the financial services sector by revolutionising the dry, traditional communications in annual pension statements and giving people an entertaining medium for their pensions queries. The on-demand version of the show with its 15,000 views delivered the second highest clickthrough rate from Prudential’s homepage.
“The surgery’s 15,000-plus unique viewings is a higher level of response than all our other direct mail campaigns combined in 2009,” says McElligott. “The cost per sale was five times lower than a comparable direct mail campaign and has provided us with a good sized prospect pool. We understand much more about what these people are really concerned about, so we can tailor communications accordingly.”
Prudential was also able to get round strict Financial Service Authority regulations because they do not extend to live broadcasts. When an edit was made for the on-demand version, it was gone over in fine detail to ensure it was compliant with FSA guidelines.
Prudential hopes that this work will not only position it as an authoritative expert brand that not only delivers sound advice but also responds to the thoughts and ideas of customers.
“Our day-to-day work is in broadcast and we first talked to Prudential about doing a DVD, knowing that the majority of people are more than willing to watch TV. We developed a tool that combined the power of TV, social media and on-demand TV.
We used an HTML email to alert the database of Prudential customers to the screening of the show. The HTML element contributed to engagement rates because the email was interactive and pleasing on the eye. Within the email, you had the ability to submit your question for consideration so it cut down on the number of clicks necessary.
One online TV show costs about the same as seven traditional seminars that pensions brands typically deliver in regional hotels. However, we delivered the equivalent engagements of 115 seminars, which in turn would have equated to an investment of over £250,000 – thus we saved Prudential about £230,000.
The term “surgery” was also innovative as it gave the brand the association of an advisory service rather than a selling environment. Feedback from Prudential’s customer forum proved the show was an engaging and motivational event that gave clear, unbiased advice.”
Highlighted innovators: Chris McElligott, senior marketing manager of Prudential, and Howard Kosky, group chairman of Sound Creative