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TIAA embraces 'radical simplicity'

News, 15 November 2016
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ORLANDO, FL: TIAA, the financial services group, is seeking to embrace "radical simplicity" in order to engage consumers in new ways

Connie Weaver, TIAA's EVP/Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, discussed the company's recent rebranding effort during the Association of National Advertisers' (ANA) 2016 Masters of Marketing Conference.

As part of this process – which saw the firm change its name back from TIAA-CREF to the more straightforward TIAA – came an agenda to introduce greater clarity into its output.

"Be radically simple. That's easy to say. But doing it: that means speaking visually; that means using words that people understand; that means a level of engagement that leads with purpose; and that means having a voice that's unexpected," she said. (For more, read Warc's exclusive report: How TIAA rebranded with a purpose.)

The redesign of TIAA's website embodied this principle. "We went from being radically complex to a whole new experience on the web that was completely mobile-engaged, that was made of small units of interaction," said Weaver.

"There were more graphics, in many cases, than words. And it enabled people to come in an unintimidated way."

Achieving this goal, in turn, required "burning to the ground" some 2,500 pages of content, and distilling its various offerings down to their core components.

"You tune it from 37 paragraphs describing the benefits of an annuity, and you take that down to a couple of simple interactive screens where people can actually engage and explore: that's a radical change," Weaver said.

Such a process demanded that TIAA's marketers work closely with its legal and compliance teams to ensure the revised communications still met the many stipulations placed on the industry.

"Being simple is the hardest thing we had to do, particularly in an industry where you've got more regulation that you can imagine," Weaver said.

Alongside receiving sign off from the legal gatekeepers, TIAA had to ascertain whether its revised output made the right impression on consumers.

"Testing every word with customers before it goes live – that's the foundation of the campaign," said Weaver. "Everything we put out into the market, we put in front of customers first. And even the small things matter."

A similar ethos extends through to developing its product portfolio, too. "That's how we have to think about the products that we create," said Weaver.

"And we should take a lesson from some of the fintech startups, and what they're doing to engage a [new] generation."

Data sourced from Warc

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