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1 Million Plus Baby Boomers Show The Power Of Viral Video

Diane Dolinsky-Pickar's picture

The story of a viral video that was viewed by 1.3 million people, all of whom saw a rollicking good time as Betty White and Luciana, a British rapper, offered up a humorous spoof of how baby boomers are "still hot".

There’s been lots of press covering how large financial institutions use social media to engage their audience, but the ways smaller financial firms are educating baby boomers and socializing with them online is even more fascinating, since it is less known.

In case readers think that only American Express can debut a product with the buzz and bling that turns people’s heads, we highlight the path of The Lifeline Program, which built an uber-successful social media campaign on a modest budget, a carefully chosen celebrity spokeswoman, and a kickoff that was a lot less in-your-face than the bigger guns at SXSW.

This is the story of a social media campaign that became a huge hit with its audience, people over the age of 64, both retired and those not retired. As a success story, it illustrates that video which is engaging and creative can not only serve the purpose of entertaining its viewers, but can also build trust for the brand, boost the number of folks that digitally connect to its message, and create an educated audience for marketing in the future.

The centerpiece of the Lifeline Program’s campaign is a video featuring Betty White rapping with Luciana, a British singer, that offers a hip and snarky take on the theme that seniors are “still hot.” The video garnered more than 1.3 million views on YouTube, and has served as an anchor to build buzz for Lifeline’s service.

Educating The Audience On Options For Life Insurance That Is Unneeded Or Unaffordable

While life insurance is sold to meet a variety of objectives, with the passage of time, policies that were purchased when a person first planned for their retirement may no longer be needed or may no longer be affordable to that person. For example, other income streams may better suit a mature adult’s present circumstances. Or, they may no longer wish to leave large sums of money to their survivors. There are many reasons that an older person may desire to cash in their life insurance or convert it to a lump sum payment, by selling it to The Lifeline Program.

But this is a fairly unknown use, so The Lifeline Program needed to spread the word that a new financial planning option was available to baby boomers and retirees.

They chose to do so in a very hip and trendy way.

The company has been introducing the brand via a social media campaign on YouTube that their mature audience – and younger folks as well – seem to hardily enjoy: a hefty dose of beefcake and humor, along with celebrity performances of someone they know and love, Betty White.

“This music video is powerful and entertaining with American treasure Betty White, who raps about keeping retirement hot by selling a life insurance policy in your golden years,” said Stephen Terrell, senior vice president of market development and branding for The Lifeline Program. He added, “We are trying to help seniors become more active on the Internet, and show them we are a trustable source” for information and stories of interest to later age baby boomers and retirees.

The huge fan base who watched this video and shared among their tribe has carried over to strengthen the traffic on The Lifeline’s website and other social media platforms, including their Twitter feed and Facebook page. Since last year, their Facebook page rocketed from 3,000 to 44,000 fans.

To augment the message that they are a trustworthy brand, the company also publishes pointers and content that would be useful and relevant to their target audience, such as ways to save money, the best places to retire, and things that they may remember as kids (including where to listen to oldies music on the internet). The message that is coming through demonstrates that seniors increasingly trust the internet to find relevant information on topics that matter to them.

They Win Two Different Awards As Recognition For Their Outstanding Work

The 33rd Annual Telly Awards honored The Lifeline Program with a 2012 Silver Telly Award, the highest Telly accolade, for its viral video. And just recently, the Lifeline Program added a Communicator Award to their roster of accolades.

4 Lessons From The Success of The Lifeline’s Viral Video

There are several lessons that every marketer can take to heart, and in particular, folks in highly regulated industries such as financial services and insurance to reach a mature audience.

1. Associate your brand with a celebrity whom folks trust. In this case, Betty White was among America’s most trusted personalities, which can only help to encourage a mature audience to associate with the brand that she presents.
2. Give it time. The video was released on October 18, 2011, so it has taken several months to build up awareness and spread to a larger audience.
3. Develop a reasonable budget that covers both the creation of content, and promotion of it in various channels.

From the beginning, the creative team worked through several ideas with Betty and her people, all of which would serve the aim of entertaining and educating the audience. Setting out the budget involved allocating $200,000-$400,000 for the creation of the video itself (including attorney fees, purchase of musical rights, and so forth), plus another $5-$10,000 a month in promotion.

The promotion budget was used to buy ads on Facebook and YouTube.

4. Keep your eye on the goal of branding what your company is.

That is, they aimed to brand their logo and the look and feel of the company, and not necessarily to market aggressively (or even passively) to everyone who watched the video. As Stephen Terrell explained, “I don’t feel social media is a good place to look for direct business. We are educating our market of today and preparing our market of tomorrow. [Our service] requires educating a fairly unknown concept to people.”

Conservative Messaging In Social Media Campaigns Of Financial Services Firms

"As financial services firms increasingly focus on social media to spread awareness and educate their audience, this particular campaign stands in stark contrast to what most players do. The vast majority of firms in the investment and banking community take a conservative approach to messaging on social media,says Joanna Belbey, the Social Media and Complicance Specialist at Actiance.

According to Belbey, while most of her clients use the Actiance platform to enable their financial advisers to draw upon a shared library of content, a library that is pre-approved and fully compliant with regulations, it's not too spicy or “out there.” The usual topics for videos in such a library include how to file a claim after hurricane, or how to wrap your pipes so they don’t burst, or better ways to approach saving for retirement and 401k plans.

Another popular type of content highlights charitable causes that reflect the ethics and morals of the institution.

This more buttoned-up messaging can also succeed beautifully to raise brand awareness. Ms. Belbey cited the example of a particular woman who worked at the mid-sized, Midwestern broker-dealer R.W. Baird. When the firm gave its financial advisers access to the social media kingdom, Mary Strickland generated a prospect with a million dollars in assets after tweeting a mere 93 times. Other illustrations of the business use of Twitter, Facebook, blogging and video will be shared by industry experts at an upcoming conference on Social and Mobile Case Studies in the Financial Industry, organized by The Business Development Institute and taking place this coming Thursday, May 17, 2012.

Image provided by The Lifeline Program and used with their permission.


Submitted by Sharon O'Day (not verified) on
The lessons here aren't just for "smaller financial firms" with smaller budgets (compared to AmEx). Regardless of size of endeavor, this success is a reminder that anyone expecting social media to be effective (and cost effective) needs to get back to basics: (1) know what you expect your campaign to achieve and don't muddy the lines of those expectations over time; (2) pony up the resources to do it right; and (3) give the campaign time to do its thing. Oh, yeah, a little beefcake never hurts. ;-)

Sharon, that is so true, I could not have said it better myself! Whenever folks talk about building a community via social media, using any combination of video or photos or text, that will just lasso folks "in" without investment or promotion, without clarity of goal and objectives, and without the benefit of continuous attention and effort, I just roll my eyes.

Submitted by Sara D. (not verified) on
If I received a message with this content from a financial institution, it sure would capture my attention. The standard content in print or online has never peaked my interest. Amazing how it successfully reached the 65+ viewers. Thanks for discussing creative methods of social outreach.

Sara, your perspective is right in line with what the market is conveying. People don't want dull, or at least we can say <em>there are times</em> that people don't want dull, they want to be entertained. Which is why folks pass certain links and content, and not others.

Submitted by Brent (not verified) on
I'd like to see evidence that the million + viewers were Baby Boomers. Betty White is not a Boomer, and neither are the dancers and body builders. Further, I'd also like to see research demonstrating that this viral video increased predisposition to buy, positive brand associations, heightened brand affinity, and actually bumped sales in a meaningful way. Rap music is cloying to most Boomers, who reached adulthood listening to folk and classic rock -- songs with real lyrics and social/political messages of import. "I'm Still Hot" is moronic, redundant, non-musical and non-lyrical.

Submitted by Stephen Terrell (not verified) on
First, I have to point out, especially on the internet, there is a huge problem with anonymous (not verified) responses. It sounds like you just have a negative nature about yourself as expressed in your response with, "I'm Still Hot" is moronic, redundant, non-musical and non-lyrical." Redundant is great when you are creating a musical "Ear Worm" and everyone in advertising and marketing know how important that is. This video was a social outreach. Social media is the next frontier for branding and marketing. If you haven't jumped on the train, you could get left at the station. 1921, The Longevity Project is a study to track the lives of 1,500 people to determine why some people live healthy lives into old age, and others don’t. Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin. Friedman is a research psychologist at UC Riverside and professor of psychology at La Sierra University who eventually took over the research. “The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study” (Hudson Street Press, 2011) The Longevity Project, which started about the year Betty White was born, discovered that those who persisted We found that good social relations are a core component of staying healthy as we get older. In addition to keeping you involved and focused, good friends help solve the myriad challenges of daily life, keeping you on the right, healthy path. A funny observation is that some of the participants who are still alive (and are more than 90 years old) are on Facebook. The song itself has been heard in gyms, clubs and on radio stations. We currently "guess-timate" the total views to be more then double that of YouTube when you take into account all of the various sites that are storing it for viewers. It is also in clubs and bars around the country for younger baby boomers. Baby boomer are people that are just hitting 50 all the way to 70. We are branding and not selling a product. We are hoping to help create a buzz and a curiosity factor that evolves around our company and our concept. We are very happy with the results and the investment made. Are actual viewers are between the ages of 21 to 84. Our primary hits fall between age 54 and 68. Our demographics are 98% US citizens and our break is 52% female and 48% male. Our phones are ringing and we continue to receive opportunities to speak to the media educating them on the changes in social media and our services. We are very happy. Visit our YouTube for interviews.

Submitted by Matt Thornhill (not verified) on
Stephen: First, I agree with Brent. Your use of Betty White has nothing to do with Boomers. Second, this isn't an anonymous post. My credentials are at boomerproject dot com. I know of what I speak. Here's why your effort is wrong for Boomers. I'll start with the positives: exposure is exposure. Yes, you have gotten a ton of hits. Betty White with beefcake is funny. And now people see the name Lifeline. You deserve major kudos for that. I had no idea you existed. But I've also zero desire to find out more as a result of the YouTube video. Cat videos also get millions of hits. I still don't own a cat. The negatives: not all exposure is good exposure. It's campy without being cool. I've zero idea what the actual message is other than that Betty White thinks of herself as "hot" - which she can anyway given her "Hot in Cleveland" sitcom. The real question is ROI among the target segment -- Boomers (or so you say). That's key - Betty White could push baby food, too, and get a lot of hits if Lady Gaga was all in with her. Most Boomers like Betty White, but they don't resonate with her. Susan Sarandon? Yes. Betty White? No. She is a wonderful example for Silent Generation vitality. But whatever. Pat yourself on your back for getting attention. That's the first rule of marketing, for sure. And winning awards for getting attention. And probably getting some sales boost because you got attention. But the second rule of marketing is to communicate something. I have no idea what you are communicating here. The last rule is to be persuasive. You have persuaded me and probably millions of Boomers never to do business with Lifeline. Oops.

Submitted by Stephen Terrell (not verified) on
I truly hope I have not offended, or persuaded, millions of Boomers to never do business with Lifeline. I am a boomer myself and that would truly be horrible. Our services are mentioned and our contact information is shared. Again, it was not an advertisement. It was branding and I think you will remember our logo if you see it now. I was asked to do this interview to give my experience and I feel strongly that the reporter wanted to help people when I agreed to do it. When it comes to social media, we are all still learning how to make the best of it. I value your opinion and truly hope I have not offended you or the Baby Boomer community market.

Submitted by Carol Orsborn, Ph.D. (not verified) on
Brent Green and Matt Thornhill are truly onto something, and even brand marketers who are doing well with commercials like the "Still Hot" Betty White approach should pay attention. There is a growing cadre of Boomers who are increasingly turned off by youth-centric pitches that imply “old is bad, young is good, ” whether aspirational or humorous, well-intentioned or not. I can understand why this is confusing for marketers, since the Betty White ad appears to have hit the target with a segment of the Boomer marketplace. However, the truth is that this is merely reflective of the fact that both marketers and individuals in the demographic have internalized the stereotypes of aging. But beware, there is a grassroots consciousness-raising movement taking root, and forward-thinking marketers will want to be ready. Following are Five Boomer Messaging Stoppers to Flag from my website Fierce with Age: 1. Any comments, satire or jokes, including asides, that categorically revile, infantilize or marginalize aging or old people. 2. Using youth-centric language, as in “young at heart”, “youthful”. Replace it with age-neutral words such as “vital”, “passionate.” 3. Separating one out from peers, as in: “Can you believe she’s sixty years old?” or “She looks great for her age.” Think about it. These are only true if you are comparing your target to stereotyped and fear-driven images of everybody his/her age. 4. Definitions of successful aging that are based solely or primarily on attributes normally associated with individuals younger than the age you are targeting. For example, climbing mountains is not the only way to prove that someone is having a worthwhile life. 5. Romanticizing or sanitizing images of aging on one extreme, reviling or making broad-stroke assumptions about negative aspects on the other. Before we can laugh together, both marketers and we Boomers need to know who we are at our age (worthy of respect and embracing our genuine experiences and life stage) can be portrayed both authentically and positively. And note to all: these are not mutually exclusive.

Carol, I heartily commend you for the thoughtfulness of your comment, as indeed, we as a society are often guilty of speaking with a distorted perspective when referring to older, senior people. The solution: Each one taking the time to intentionally monitor what they say and how they say it, and shed the light on stereotypes that unfairly paint a broad brush of negativity. Thank you for raising the level of discussion to one of respect and positive vibes for all.


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