Thursday, September 11, 2008

Gentle guidance is good marketing

Recently, Mass Mutual launched a new set of ads that they’ve been describing as “thoughtful.” When was the last time you heard a marketing campaign that was “thoughtful?” Aggressive, creative, innovative, suave, - sure, marketing comes up with every adjective possible, but "thoughtful" could mean you actually want people to think about what’s been sold.

That, I suppose, could be dangerous.

In reality, Mass Mutual’s newest campaign is much more than thoughtful. It’s smart. Taking back the notion of what really counts in life from those annoying MasterCard “priceless” ads, these spots show people making what are, subjectively, good decisions in their everyday lives. According to Forbes,

The campaign is an extension of the company's core position and tagline -- "We'll help you get there(sm)" -- that underscores the company's understanding of the real, practical issues consumers face when it comes to life insurance and retirement, and positions MassMutual as the company that helps consumers take the steps that are right for them.

Creative executions pose the philosophical and practical question: "What is the sign of a good decision?" The decisions captured in the executions are all real, almost everyday scenarios, like cutting short a fishing excursion to head for safe harbor at the first sign of a storm. Like real life financial decisions, the scenarios depicted all have consequences that can affect people beyond just the decision-maker. The campaign illustrates the value and confidence that come with making sound decisions for individuals and families, small business owners or plan managers at major corporations.
It doesn’t hurt that the ads have great soundtracks behind them (Bob Dylan on the one where a father decides to move his top-of-the-skyscraper-amazing-city-view office to his home after looking at a picture of his young daughter). Or that MassMutual puts a lot of family-friendly policies to the test in its own workplace. They've also sponsored a two-part documentary on PBS about retirement decisions and financial stability.

From a retail and advertising standpoint, engendered trust and a sense of guidance are some of the most difficult things to “sell” to customers. Not to mention that the company aims to do this at a time when established financial institutions are in trouble one way or another. The emphasis on gentle guidance is what works here – moving away from the hard sell to the simple straightforward assurance is the right move, especially for a company that could, in fact, play on people's anxieties in an anxious time. You can bet this approach won’t be appearing all over the advertising landscape, but it might not hurt for companies to stop and consider what exactly they have to offer that would make consumers choose one brand, one company over another. Brand loyalty is, of course, better if it’s actually earned.

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