How Prudential Made Retirement Saving Relatable

How Prudential Made Retirement Saving Relatable

The key to a successful marketing message is to talk to people in a language they understand. The goal is to start a conversation rather than deliver a lecture. That’s one of the things that has really impressed me about the retirement campaign that Prudential has been running for the last few years.

Everyone knows that Americans today are living longer than previous generations. In 2014, there were more than 72,000 Americans more than 100 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up 44% from 2000. But many of us are ill-prepared financially to face those extra years. Almost half of Americans do not have access to a retirement savings plans at work and those that do are not saving nearly enough. The typical 401(k) balance of households nearing retirement is only $111,000 although many estimates say that $1 million or more will be required to retire comfortably.

An even scarier figure comes from the 2017 Retirement Savings Survey from GoBankingRates, which found that 55% of Americans have saved less than $10,000 for retirement (34% said they had no retirement savings at all, including 29% of baby boomers).

There are numerous reasons why people don’t take a more proactive role in their retirement. Finances and investing is complicated. If you don’t know who to ask, or even what to ask, it’s easier to do nothing. And retirement is in the future, there will be plenty of time to deal with it later.

Addressing those issues is where Prudential started the campaign. Rather than overwhelming the audience with facts and figures that would either scare them or put them to sleep, Prudential spoke to them in relatable terms.

Unlike typical financial services advertising, they didn’t go for a celebrity voice with sufficient gravitas like Tommy Lee Jones or Morgan Freeman. The face of Prudential’s retirement effort is social psychologist and Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert, who in the first commercial asked, “How old is the oldest person you have known?” Then he had people put stickers on a wall to visually graph how many people live much longer than the “official retirement age” of 65. (When that standard was set the average life expectancy was 61, today it’s about 79. You do the math.). Gilbert asks one other question in the 2013 spot: “How do you make sure you have all the money you need to enjoy all of these years?” It ends with the simple tagline: “Let’s get ready for a longer retirement.” There’s no solution offered, just something to think about. No phone number, no website address, no real call to action.

A later iteration was called “Do Something You Love,” and asked people what they love to do and then explained that a well-funded retirement is the equivalent of getting to do what you love to do. 

The version currently running continues that theme by having people write what they love to do most on helium balloons, and then cut the cord on half of them. Gilbert explains that this is the choice we could face in retirement, but by saving even one percent more of our annual income, we could continue doing all the things we love.

This effort isn’t entirely altruistic by any means. Prudential Retirement has $395 billion in retirement assets under management and is in the business of selling investment products. But more than four years into the campaign, it’s still a soft-sell educational approach with no blatant call to action.

Planning and saving for retirement is a long-term proposition and so is this campaign. The average American worker may not know how compounding works or the difference between a mutual fund and an ETF, but the idea that putting away a little bit more now will give them the freedom to do what they want later is likely to resonate deeply.

Anything that gets people to even start thinking about taking control of their financial lives is probably a good thing. Prudential certainly thinks so.

Click on the image to watch: Prudential: Overcoming Temptation (In Marshmallows and in Life)

Bob Keane
Public Relations
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Bob oversees the development of editorial content for JConnelly and its clients, including strategic messaging, news releases, blogs and other written materials that are vital ... Click for full bio

NBA Player Carl Landry Demonstrates the Value of Persistence in Life and Work

NBA Player Carl Landry Demonstrates the Value of Persistence in Life and Work

Written by: Jon Sabes

When you meet Carl Landry, stand-out college basketball player and nine-year NBA player, you imagine that becoming a professional basketball star was a straight forward run for the 6-foot-nine-inch power forward. 

However, when you go deeper into Carl’s background, becoming a NBA professional was less than certain and little came easily to the 33-year-old from Milwaukee:

  • He was cut from his high school team as a freshman and averaged less than ten points a game when he did play as a senior.
  • He started his college career not at Purdue, but a junior college where it was not clear he would play.
  • When he finally got to Purdue, he tore his ACL in his knee his first year and reinjured it the next year.
  • While his family held a party for him the night of the NBA draft, he slept in the Philadelphia airport after missing a flight following a workout for the 76ers.
  • In the NBA playoffs, Carl had a tooth knocked out, but came back in the same game to make a game-winning blocked shot as the Rockets beat the Utah Jazz 94-92.

Landry, who I interviewed on my podcast, Innovating Life with Jon Sabes (, is a remarkable example of the value of “persistence.” In a time where technology creates the image that anything is possible at the touch of a button, persistence is an under-appreciated trait. When I spoke with Carl, I clearly saw someone for whom success has only come through a force of will that made him a NBA player, but it also made him a better player every year he played. That’s the kind of personality that has produced greatness in business as well as sports.

Carl was, in fact, drafted that night he spent in the airport. The Seattle Supersonics chose him as the 31st overall pick and then traded him to the Houston Rockets where he rode the bench for much of the first half of the season. When All-Star teammate Yao Ming was injured, he stepped in and played a key role in the Rockets astonishing 22-game winning streak (the third longest streak in NBA history). And, that season, after sitting on the bench for 33 of the first 36 games, he was named to the All-Rookie second team.

Carl was the first in his family to go to college. “I told myself that this was my ticket out, so I did everything I possibly could to be the best person in school and also on the court,” he said.

His family life in Milwaukee showed him what he didn’t want to do. “Just being honest with you, seeing some my cousins, peers, they went to work for jobs paying six, seven dollars an hour or they didn’t go to work at all and then living off welfare. I didn’t want that.”

When he was first injured, he had to contemplate the end of a career before it even got started. “When you have an ACL tear, it’s over…no more basketball,” he told me. “I said, God, give me health again and I’ll do everything I can to leave it all out on the line and be a successful individual.”

On my podcast, Carl pointed out another interesting lesson he learned in the NBA: Not doing things just to fit in.

“Fitting in was easy,” he said. “Doing everything that everybody else does was easy. If I stood out in some type of way, I’m going to have different results. I’m going to have stand-out results.”

That’s called the “Law of Contrast” and it produces that exact effect of changing the outcomes that everyone else is experiencing.  Carl is smart, he recognized that differences make a difference, and doing whatever it takes is what is required to make real, meaningful differences.

Every off-season for the last 11 years, he has run a camp for kids in Milwaukee where he tells youth his story of hard work and persistence. “I always tell the kids to apply themselves and always be persistent,” he said. “If you dream, apply yourself and be persistent. With hard work, man, the sky’s the limit.”

When Carl says the sky’s the limit he means it.  He is smart to recognize that it’s important to dream big, because if we don’t – we may be selling ourselves short. “You have to dream bigger than your mind could ever imagine,” he said. “I wanted a nice house. I wanted a nice car. I said, and I got all of that. So, what do I do, do I stop now? Maybe I didn’t dream big enough.” That’s a big statement coming from a kid who grew up to be the first in his family to graduate college and go on to be not only a top NBA basketball start, but a good businessman, father and someone who gives back to the community.

I’m convinced that in whatever he takes on as a basketball player or in his post-hoops career, Carl Landry is not going to stop getting better at whatever he does, and in the process of doing so, make the world a better place.

GWG Holdings, Inc.
Investing in Life
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GWG Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq:GWGH) the parent company of GWG Life, is a financial services company committed to transforming the life insurance industry through disruptive and i ... Click for full bio