CMO Close-Up with Jamie DePeau, Senior VP-CMO, Lincoln Financial Group

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Jamie DePeau was named CMO at Lincoln Financial Group in September 2011. She is responsible for corporate marketing, branding and corporate communications at the financial services company. One of DePeau's main projects over the past 15 months has been overseeing Lincoln's “Chief Life Officer” campaign, which earned the company recognition as BMA New York's Communicator of the Year award in September. In the following interview with CMO Close-Up, DePeau discusses the evolution of the campaign this year, including its latest election-themed execution. CMO Close-Up: What were your marketing goals for this year? Jamie DePeau: Lincoln is a significant player in the industry—life insurance, annuities, retirement and group benefits—playing in the high ranks in those industries. We have always had a very quiet profile in the marketplace by choice. With the change in our business objectives and changes in market sentiment, it became clear that Lincoln needed to raise its profile. So my primary marketing goal was to raise awareness and consideration of Lincoln in the marketplace. CMO Close-Up: Who is your target audience? DePeau: We are a b-to-b company for most of what we do. We are also a b-to-b-to-c company in a few sectors. We sell through intermediaries—most of our b-to-b audiences are advisers and other organizations who can put Lincoln [products] in their portfolios. On the b-to-b-to-c side, [our target audience includes] employers, consultants or end-user employees who can choose voluntary benefits. It is a bit of a diverse group of stakeholders, so it's important to develop a message broad enough to cover all stakeholders and yet distinguish us in the marketplace. CMO Close-Up: What are the changes in market sentiment you referred to? DePeau: The obvious one is trust. There is a shaken trust in financial institutions and services. There is also a higher reliance on the influence of family and friends [in making financial decisions]. There is also a higher level of skepticism about messages, and much higher reliance on education and tools. [Buyers are saying,] “Don't try to sell me based on a knee-jerk marketing piece. Give me content I can learn from and use so I can build my own knowledge.” CMO Close-Up: How did you develop the positioning for your “Chief Life Officer” campaign? DePeau: This campaign is research based. We selected gyro [New York] as our partner in June 2011 and immediately went about doing research. It was important to understand what the marketplace sentiment was after 2007 and 2008. We suspected different attitudes and trust factors, and we wanted to get additional insight into what was influencing decision-making. I think the reason the “Chief Life Officer” campaign has been so successful is that it pays close attention equally to both the science and the art of marketing. It is grounded in solid research and was tested every step of the way; and gyro helped us develop a message that is compelling and focuses on giving individuals the tools and information they need to be in charge of their lives. It focuses on them, not on us. CMO Close-Up:How has the campaign evolved over the past year? DePeau: When we launched the campaign last year, the first phase was launched internally. Building brand internally is as important as building brand externally when you have 8,000 employees, and we wanted them all aligned to the same messaging. We had a lot of exciting events and employee messaging. We launched externally [last year] on Thanksgiving Day with TV, and then we rolled out different media channels and integrated PR campaigns. We also have a microsite to provide content. Through the year, we have used surveys to test people's attitudes about being in charge, having control and optimism—leveraging the elements of the “Chief Life Officer” campaign—and we've been able to cut the data in a few ways and use it throughout the year. CMO Close-Up: Can you describe the presidential election-themed execution, “Hail to the Chief Life Officer”? DePeau: Looking at the incredible opportunity we have once every four years—with all eyes on the media tracking exactly what's happening in the election—and the timing of the election with the campaign, it was the perfect next step to take advantage of the media attention and create unique spots that were appropriate to run immediately after the election. In partnership with gyro, we created executions that were very strong and meaningful to people. We went on the air the day of the election on CNBC, and we ran prints ads in The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. CNBC and The Wall Street Journal have been our anchor media throughout the whole campaign. They perfectly attract our target audience and have been great partners. We decided to do something different and add in USA Today because of the strong national support it has, and it has a really great mix of business and consumer readers. CMO Close-Up: Do you have any results you can share? DePeau: Our hits to the microsite went through the roof—in the first week of running the campaign, we saw a 57% jump in “Chief Life Officer” Web hits, which demonstrated that the media was right, the message was appropriate and people responded in a warm and genuine way.
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