ORLANDO, Florida – Shortening the brand name TIAA-CREF to TIAA was the easy part. But how do you convince millions of people of various age groups that they should trust their financial assets to the nearly century-old Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association?
“The reality is we did a ton of science” about TIAA customers, says EVP & CMO Connie Weaver, a self-described believer in “the art and science of branding.”
That meant not only understanding customers by their “name, rank and serial number” but also grasping how they really feel about financial planning, Weaver says in an interview with Beet.TV at the annual Masters of Marketing Conference of the Association of National Advertisers.
“The reality is most Americans don’t feel very good,” says Weaver. “As an industry, we’re pretty complex and we throw a lot of words at people when it comes to investments. People of all ages would tend to shy away from that.”
Not surprisingly, TIAA-CREF communicated complexity to consumers, as ADWEEK reports of the company’s rebranding effort. That is partly due to its aged roots, as founded by Andrew Carnegie to provide a comfortable retirement for educators.
“If you think about how it’s grown over the years, it’s gone from being frankly the only game in town to having to compete in a highly vibrant, competitive environment and to remain relevant to people of all ages,” Weaver says.
Three key principles for the rebranding were having an intimate knowledge of customers, getting “radically simple” and becoming an engaged ally. “That’s building on the trust we have in an industry that a lot of people don’t trust,” says Weaver says of being an engaged ally.
The upside was that, facing such monumental change, TIAA had no shortage of options. “We had a lot of freedom to do things we had never done before,” she adds.
To plant its flag in public awareness and establish its mission and purpose, TIAA has used television plus “an awful lot of video,” according to Weaver. “As a matter of fact, almost half of what I’m doing is digital, but digital means a lot of video,” thus TV and video “are important and frankly they work together.”
For the very curious: CREF stood for College Retirement Equities Fund.
We interviewed her at the ANA Masters of Marketing annual meeting in Orlando. This video is part of a series produced at the conference. Beet’s coverage is sponsored by Cadent. For more videos from the series, please visit this page.