What do you see as the biggest challenge facing marketing?
New technology means our consumers have new ways to reach us and for us to reach consumers. Hand in hand with that is big data: We have all this information about consumer behavior.
I start with the premise that everything is knowable. This places a real premium—much more today than in the past—on asking the right question, so we don’t just get data back, but we get usable information.
What are some challenges specific to your industry?
Keeping up with technological advances is something that every industry faces, but it’s particularly important in financial services. You can’t compare yourself with other financial services firms, you have to compare yourself with the best-in-class web experiences. We need to make very smart choices and use technology in a way that gives us a distinct advantage.
We in financial services are an industry that’s built on trust, and yet we are coming out of this period where consumer trust in anything financial was shaken. As we rebrand, we have this great once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to start from the beginning of Voya’s inception, to build that consumer trust.
You’re referring to the rebranding of ING’s U.S. operations as Voya Financial, following its IPO spinoff. What is the thinking behind that branding?
That abstract word is coined from the word “voyage”—think of the voyage through retirement. We tested the word Voya with all kinds of stakeholders we deal with—from distributors to our end customers—and when they saw the word Voya, “voyage” was the word that up came over and over again.
But you’ve kept ING’s orange brand color.
It was a very conscious decision to keep the orange color, because orange is part of our DNA. We see orange as a differentiator, but also as a very optimistic color.
What we want people to do when they think about Voya and see this nice orange color is to be reminded that we’re the company that can help you get to and get through retirement and we want to do it in a positive way.
Much of the DNA you mentioned is digital. How does it affect your marketing?
It’s something that definitely informs everything that we are trying to do. New technology gives you the opportunity to be even more creative. Some of the things that we’re thinking about: Can you use gaming to teach consumers about finance? Can we create apps that make it really easy for consumers to find out how their retirement plans are progressing? Can we integrate social media even more into our marketing efforts?
How are you dealing with the pressure to show ROI?
We measure everything. This year we put a larger proportion of our advertising budget into the digital environment, not only because we’re finding it effective, but because we want to keep learning even more about what drives consumer behavior. We’re constantly on the hunt for how to get that optimal mix and interaction between digital, paid, search and television.
You can’t switch money into one area or the other. Since you have all these media right now, you have to figure out those right interaction points. Our understanding and being able to show that what you’re doing really delivers results is something that’s stamped on our foreheads.
What’s the next step in the rebranding?
We’re using the phrase “Becoming Voya Financial” throughout 2014. The reason that it takes so long, obviously, is we’re a regulated industry, so we have to keep everyone informed of our plans.
The next step isn’t one step. We’re very focused on developing this thoughtful program throughout next year that brings all of our different audiences along on that rebranding plan.
We have a proofpoint: our ticker symbol is VOYA and if you look at our last batch of analyst’s reports, it wasn’t about ING U.S.’s successful quarter, it was about Voya’s successful quarter. So all our analysts and the investor relations part of the world has already turned that corner, which is very cool.