Sun Life shows Quebecers a brighter life

The financial co goes high-tech, giving festival-goers an immersive experience using iPads and Oculus Rift.

Quebecers can get a hands-on, fully immersive look at what Sun Life Financial’s expertise can provide for them as part of the company’s restructured activation strategy at upcoming festivals.

The “Brighter Life Journey” equips families with an iPad as they enter a room decorated like a regular home. As they move through it, they can identify items that have a positive or negative financial impact on the home – like using energy-efficient appliances  – to accumulate points. They can then “spend” those points on an experience that they’d like to save up for, ranging from travel to owning their first car or home, experienced through an Oculus Rift headset.

Sun Life piloted the activation last year at four Quebec festivals, where it generated a 66% positive influence on purchase intent – compared to the 25 to 35% average influence previous activations were seeing – with other brand metrics like recognition, appreciation and positive impact all ranking above 97%.

Those results convinced Sun Life and agency partner Bleublancrouge to bring a slightly tweaked and improved Brighter Life Journey back to the Montreal en lumiere festival that is running now until March 1, Esplanade Financiere in the summer and a few others in the province that are currently being set up.

Diane Lafontaine, AVP of marketing and communications for Quebec at Sun Life Financial, says the Brighter Life Journey is focused more on Sun Life’s business expertise and capabilities than brand attributes, as previous activations were.

Lafontaine says in 2010, the executive team at Sun Life was looking for a way to tackle the problem of shrinking market share in Quebec, which the company was losing to new competitors in the province even as the brand thrived elsewhere in the country. In 2011, a Quebec-specific business plan and marketing team was established, and it was discovered that while awareness of Sun Life was high, familiarity was the real issue.

“They knew us, but not so much what we do,” Lafontaine says. “We wanted to work on that very quickly, for [consumers] to have a positive opinion of us but also understand what we could do for them in their day-to-day life. We focused almost all of our activities on that, but also ensuring that while we were doing that, we would impact purchase intent.”

That re-evaluation of the Quebec market led to Sun Life combining the teams that handle sponsorship and philanthropic initiatives. This means all of the company’s activations are now either focused on diabetes prevention or local culture – through festivals like Montreal en lumiere – with the added pillar of reflecting how Sun Life has an impact on household finances.

“The fact that we’ve unified the programs is just a way for us to ensure we have increased impact,” Lafontaine says. “We clarified their marketing purpose and what they were contributing to our business objectives. When we boil it down, it’s all basically about wanting to increase brand familiarity, so it impacted not only with how we were choosing our properties but how we were activating when we were there.”