Mike Wells – Driving an emotional connection with customers


Prudential’s Group Chief Executive Mike Wells highlights a viral marketing campaign from our Asian business that goes to the heart of our purpose and impact.

Can you simply look at someone you love for four minutes to improve your relationship? That was the simple challenge thrown down by Prudential’s teams in Singapore and Vietnam recently. They asked pairs of family members to take time out from their frantic, hyper-connected lives to look silently into each other’s eyes.

The videos of these touching encounters have become global hits on social media, with a total of more than 25 million views worldwide. (Indeed, I first heard about the campaign myself, when one of my own family members spotted it and shared it with me. If you’ve not seen it yet, you can find it on YouTube here.)

It was a neat piece of viral marketing based on sharp insights and great execution that cut through the online noise and genuinely touched the lives of our consumers. However, there are two other reasons for our success, both of which have important lessons for the way we do business.

First, I believe people would only have shared a Prudential video like this with their friends and family if they felt we were a business with a positive purpose. That is reassuring, but it is also a reminder that we should always aim to conduct our professional lives according to that purpose. And it is an important purpose: we exist to solve some of the biggest problems in the lives of families.

Second, it is a clear demonstration of how the better use of clear, everyday language can build an emotional connection with consumers.

The high-profile launch of Google’s new voice-controlled Assistant, joining Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, highlights the efforts being made to make robots sound more like real humans. So it is more important than ever that the way we as humans speak to customers and clients does not come across as robotic.

Unfortunately, in our sector there’s still too much technical jargon and unnecessarily complex communications. We should not forget that there are plenty of intelligent people who only know the word “annuity” because they once encountered it in the Community Chest pile on the Monopoly board.

That is why I am reassured to see that there is some hard work going on across the Group to sharpen the way we communicate with our customers. At a Board meeting in Lansing last month, we heard about the important work being done to simplify the way we describe variable annuities. These products are the only way Americans can acquire the positive features of a defined benefits pension scheme through the private sector. The vital role that these products can play in people’s lives needs to be better understood. I know that similar good work is taking place in our UK businesses and in Asia.

"Easy reading is damn hard writing," as Nathaniel Hawthorne, the American novelist, put it. In each of our markets we have great stories to tell.