"Brand Aware” explores the data-driven digital ad ecosystem from the marketer's point of view.
Today's column is written by Aditi Javeri Gokhale, chief marketing and communications officer at Northwestern Mutual.
The digital era has been a boon for marketers. Customer data that’s available to us today has proven invaluable in the shift from mass messaging to precise customer targeting. But for all the benefits we derive from data, our ever-growing focus on it also carries a risk: We can lose the human connection to our customers.
And that human connection has never mattered more. The key to successful marketing, especially to a consumer audience, is realizing that behind all the data lakes, bots and trend lines are human beings who we need to connect with before we can expect them to want to trust us.
As social media marketing has grown in popularity, financial services companies have struggled to use these ever-expanding platforms to reach a younger, new-in-investing audience. We simply haven’t been able to make that emotional connection. And we need to, because we’re an industry – like real estate or health care – that’s involved with some of our customers’ most emotional decisions.
That’s where influencer marketing can come into play.
Until about 18 months ago, our social media channels at Northwestern Mutual were used for employee and advisor advocacy and company highlights. We’d been on YouTube since 2008, Facebook and Twitter since 2009, and Instagram since 2014, in addition to maintaining presences on other platforms.
But our efforts were purely transactional. We didn’t connect with customers on a human level, and we didn’t engage them. That’s why we realized we needed to shift to a more consumer-centric way of communicating on social. We needed to move from a monologue to a conversation.
It was time to experiment. Last fall we launched our first human-focused social media campaign, called #IfItWasUpToMyKid. It was a social-first program designed to bring our message and our value proposition to life in a very personal way, which was a first for us. We engaged popular YouTube influencers to create content – and to encourage their followers to create content – highlighting their kids’ ideas for dream home experiences for the family, which is something that is achievable with the right financial plan.
The campaign was rooted in data. In a study we commissioned, nearly 80% of parents said the memories they cherish most with their families are those made right at home. Nearly 85% of parents said their families would spend more time together at home if it were more fun. Social media users shared their kids’ dream home experiences.
The campaign also delivered. We saw conversations happening. We made connections with customers. And we saw double and triple growth in core KPIs such as brand mentions, follower growth and engagement, as measured through likes, shares, views, reactions, saves and comments.
We then decided to go deeper.
There are certain life events when consumers are most open to the benefits of financial planning. Weddings is a big one – you’re embarking on a life together, thinking about shared goals and how to get there. Based on that insight, we wanted to build a larger-scale, more ambitious human-centered program to help consumers understand the benefits of a process often seen as complex, boring or overly transactional.
At the start of wedding season in June, we launched Moneymates, an integrated campaign leveraging different influencer voices and perspectives to create a human connection with engaged couples and newlyweds and help them think about financial goals as part of planning their lives together.
We collaborated with engaged couples, newlywed couples and a celebrity wedding planner, among others, who served as beacons for what our target audiences are experiencing to go deeper in our brand storytelling. Our partners met with a Northwestern Mutual financial advisor, allowing them to share an authentic experience with their followers, including their concerns and how this process helped them understand the importance of being on the same page financially – and encouraging their followers to do the same.
The campaign is just now ending, and while it is still being analyzed, we can see that it’s succeeding because the engagement metrics and conversations continue to increase. We also know that the campaign has resonated in consumer, lifestyle and entertainment media – which, let’s be honest, financial services campaigns usually don’t.
But this one did. We used data and insights to strategically pick the right influencers and the right moments to tell real stories of human connection, and that made all the difference. The results that we see are more proof that a human-driven, data-powered approach is the most effective way to reach new audiences.