Under New CMO, Northwestern Mutual Puts the Play in Today

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Northwestern Mutual is aiming to take the anxiety out of financial planning by encouraging consumers to "Spend Your Life Living" in a new campaign, its first in two years. In a series of spots, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based brand highlights the importance of living in the present.

"There's this constant tug of war between things people need and things people want," says Aditi Gokhale, who was promoted to chief marketing officer, Northwestern's first, in May from CMO of subsidiary LearnVest. "We wanted to reframe the conversation—tomorrow's important too, but today is [also] important."

For the last six months, Gokhale and her team, which is based in New York and Milwaukee, spoke with customers and researched their perception of insurance and financial planning. She says that the new campaign aims to avoid anxiety, an emotion many people said they typically associate with the planning process.

In one 60-second spot, a dad mows the lawn on a hot summer day as his family bakes in the sun and his daughter begs to go to "Jessica's house." In a moment of divine inspiration, the man decides to bulldoze the backyard into a pool for the family to enjoy. "This is what our version of financial planning looks like. Tomorrow is important, but so is making the most of the house before they're out of the house," a voice-over says. Three additional spots, centered around a young girl on vacation with her parents, a student studying abroad and a woman who starts her own business after being continually stymied by her male boss, convey a similar theme.

"Despite what financial planning companies have been screaming at people for decades, life doesn't start at retirement," says Jay Russell, chief creative officer of GSD&M, which worked on the campaign. "The good stuff is happening right now."

The repositioning is a more lighthearted departure from Northwestern's 2015 campaign, which was focused on products and services the brand offers for the investment process. That branding, called "Live Life Differently," was also a creation of Austin, Texas-based GSD&M, which has worked with Northwestern since 2014. Spark Foundry handles media duties.

Northwestern will run social media and digital marketing in addition to the four TV spots. It will also host two consumer-focused activations during the Rose Bowl football game on Jan. 1, a game it has sponsored for four years. One event includes taking over a tailgate outside of the stadium; another is the creation of a Rose Room near the Rose parade where participants can take pictures to share on social media.

Gokhale declined to say how much the new campaign will cost. Last year, Northwestern spent $63.4 million on measured media in the U.S., according to Kantar Media.

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