Transamerica re-establishes reputation after 'dark' period

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To the extent that Transamerica Insurance & Investment Group is known to the general public, it's for the dramatic Transamerica Pyramid, its soaring former corporate headquarters in San Francisco. Now, two years into a reputation rebuilding program, Transamerica, now in Los Angeles, is hoping to make the financial products and services company known for more than striking architecture.

The company is doing this via a renewed commitment to targeted advertising and PR, measuring its success with reputation analytics reports. The company hopes to measure its progress in re-establishing itself, following its 1999 acquisition by international conglomerate Aegon, as a key provider of insurance products and annuities.

"When Aegon acquired us, they knew they had a well-known brand, but it took a little while to figure out what to do with that," said Bill Tate, senior VP-CMO at Transamerica. "During all of this, we didn't do a lot of brand-building, and now it's sort of like starting all over again."

Tate estimated that in the approximately six-year dark period of zero reputation and brand building, Transamerica lost one-third of its brand power, a gauge of awareness and favorability measured by CoreBrand.

"This absolutely impacted our bottom line," Tate said. "In today's rapidly evolving financial landscape, it's essential to be relevant in the eyes of your customers." For Transamerica, while consumers are important in ultimately choosing particular financial products, Tate said, its marketing model is strongly b-to-b, with an outreach to its distributor network of recommenders, such as banks, brokerages and independent agents.

The company's plan, begun two years ago, was to recapture brand strength within three years. Its tools of choice have been advertising—including print, broadcast and some billboards in airports—backed up by public relations efforts. Trade publication positioning emphasizes such brand attributes as innovation and financial strength to Transamerica's b-to-b recommenders.

The company receives an annual brand-strength report in the spring from CoreBrand, with other periodic analyses serving as quality checks.

Since the program isn't yet completed, Tate avoided talk of any bottom-line impact. And he added, "There are certain campaigns you can absolutely measure, such as direct marketing or consumer goods, where a dollar of marketing is measured by what comes out the other end. In financial services, there are many contributing factors that go into a buying decision.

"But one way to show progress is how we rank against our main competitors, year by year, from where we were in the past and where we think we should be. We've been pleased that we're gotten good traction and growth, and I can honestly say we're a little ahead of schedule in recapturing brand strength."

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