National has earned a reputation for having created some of the US
insurance industry’s most successful marketing campaigns. The chief
of the insurer’s marketing unit provided Charles
Davis with insight into its approach and strategy in the
current economic climate.
In the often stodgy world of life insurance marketing, US life
insurer Jackson National stands as a notable exception to the rule,
constantly surprising its adviser and consumer audiences with the
kind of out-of-the-ordinary creative that makes critics stand up
and take notice.
After landing 16 awards from various industry and communications
organisations in 2007 alone, Jackson National’s marketing team is
determined to keep pushing the envelope, presenting life products,
annuities and other financial services products in ways sure to
keep the accolades coming.
LII spoke with Kathy Schofield, vice-president of
marketing, who heads the insurer’s creative team, to walk through
several award-winning campaigns and discuss marketing in tough
With more than $82 billion in assets, Jackson National Life,
headquartered in Lansing, Michigan, is a leader in fixed annuities
and variable annuities (VA). The company also offers life insurance
and institutional products. Jackson markets its products in 49
states and the District of Columbia through independent and
regional broker-dealers, financial institutions and independent
Jackson’s unit Jackson National Life Insurance Company of New
York markets products in the state of New York. Through its
affiliates and subsidiaries, Jackson also provides asset
management, retail mutual funds and retail brokerage services.
Schofield’s team had an amazing year, winning awards for
everything from multimedia presentations to annuity kits and sales
brochures, and the Denver-based team is far from running out of new
ideas. While the current economic climate has influenced the way
Jackson National speaks to consumers and advisers, Schofield was
quick to add that the insurer is working to position itself in
products that make sense in tough times.
“Every campaign has a different objective, but we start with the
objective and work from there,” she said. “There is always a
different business objective, but we want to begin each marketing
campaign with a keen understanding of the audience, the goal and
how we want to achieve it.”
For example, Schofield cites Jackson National’s awarding-winning
Perspective II Variable Annuity sales kits, which won a grand
design and a communicator’s award for distinction among 9,000
entries in the Insurance and Financial Communicators Association’s
awards, the industry’s premier marketing awards competition.
In a volatile economy, variable annuities offer a strong sales
proposition, offering protection with guaranteed income in an era
in which equity-based offerings are a much tougher sell. That makes
the VA kit more important than ever, yet Schofield said the company
began working on the VA kit long before the market began its
“The VA product kit has been through quite an evolution, as we
continue to hone the message and make sure we are talking straight
to advisers and consumers,” she said.
The challenge facing Jackson National’s marketing team was
distilling a veritable book-length sales kit into something that
advisers could quickly translate into sales.
“VAs are complicated, a bit scary, heavily laden with acronyms
and verbiage, so we had two books – a benefit guide and a portfolio
builder – and it was kind of an overwhelming thing, so we broke it
down into more bite-sized pieces,” she said.
The result is a “basics” piece outlining the overall product,
with separate pieces for the various managed and passive options
and another for accumulation, income and GMWB product bases. By
taking a fairly massive book and breaking it down into manageable,
user-friendly pieces, the VA kit was transformed into what
Schofield described as a “quick, easy sales tool.”
Imagery was updated from a metaphoric “build your future” theme
complete with construction images to more of a lifestyle image –
“people instead of things,” as Schofield described it.
The result, she said, is a kit that is easier and less costly to
produce and far easier to update. Feedback from Jackson National’s
adviser base has been “overwhelmingly positive, effusively
positive,” she said.
“We have a lot to overcome with the press on VAs,” Schofield
said. “The 10-year-old ideals as to what a VA is are really
embedded in advisers, too, and we have to change thinking on that
Another award-winning campaign in 2007 fueled the launch of
Jackson National’s mutual funds business. A latecomer to the funds
game, Jackson National profited from the ability to study what
everyone else was doing.
“We did a really huge analysis of what everyone is doing in the
mutual funds space, and we knew we had to overcome the fact that we
had no experience in the mutual fund business, so we decided to use
that to our advantage,” Schofield said.
The analysis showed that mutual fund marketing is dominated by
images of money managers and testimonials, so the team decided that
when launching a new line of business, it ought to start with a
potential mutual funds market sure to listen, so they targeted
Jackson National’s top-selling VA producers.
“They already knew the investments inside our VA and they knew
our investment models and they could get the fact that our mutual
funds would be very much like the sub-accounts in our VAs,”
The creative result: “The Things You Do For Love.”
“We knew these people knew us and loved us, so we used an image
of a tattoo, and another with graffiti and another of a tree carved
with the traditional romantic inscription, with the tagline “Now
There Is More of Us to Love…”
Schofield acknowledged that the tattoos were “pretty
controversial,” and in fact they never became part of the public
campaign, but the overall theme clicked with the adviser base, and
a year later, the mutual fund business is “quite respectable” given
If she has it to do over again, Schofield said she’s urge the
team to push the envelope.
“It was a test bed to put some creative out there that
challenged people a bit, that pushed the envelope, and the more we
push, the more the line moves. It’s just too easy to put the money
manager out there with a quote next to his head.”