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 Carol Orsborn, Ph.D. (not verified) on
Hi DIane, Thanks so much for writing the article in the first place and embracing a deeper dive into psycho-social implications. You underline the social justice issues, but there are practical implications for the marketing community, as well. Some marketers are succeeding now with messaging that has a limited shelf life. Why? The majority of Boomers are still in denial about aging. But we've seen historically that this generation can shift what motivates/appeals to them apparently on a dime. And when they turn, they turn with a vengeance. If you want signs that Boomers are waking up to embrace rather than defy being old, you need look no further than this comment stream. You have three of the top authors/Boomer marketing experts saying variations of the same thing. I'm referring to Brent Green, Matt Thornhill and me (I co-authored both the first book and most recent books on marketing to Boomer women) who have been tracking this generation for years. At my Facebook page and website, Fierce with Age, this point of view has attracted positive support from many more aging community as well as industry leaders such as Marti Barletta and others. If the Boomer marketing influencers are sensing a sea change, you can count on the fact that it's coming. Marketers of Boomer brands will want to be ready or they'll miss the wave. Plus, as you point out, it's the right thing to do!

Submitted by Valerie L. (not verified) on
I agree with Brent. Attention is great, but will consumers take this company seriously? Do the sales results reflect the attention? Show me the REAL beef!


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