Manulife marketing goes global, but aims to keep it simple

Global CMO Gretchen Garrigues says the new branding is just the tip of the iceberg for the now customer-centric company.


Manulife produced a short video showing the evolution of its corporate logo as part of its November rebranding. Over the course of its 130 years, the logo has moved from the beautiful hand-drawn nineteen century illustrations of the Manufacturers Life Insurance Co. through the blockier designs of the 1960s and 1970s to the simplified green box of recent years.

Its latest iteration is yet another exercise in streamlining: three green bars beside the word Manulife, which is written in plain, sans-serif black lettering. It’s a step towards being more modern and relevant – a change that is also going on behind-the-scenes.

Gretchen_CMOGlobal CMO and EVP Gretchen Garrigues (right) tells strategy that the rebranding is part of a worldwide effort to present the company as a customer-centric one. In a global financial market full of complex products, Manulife has made simplicity the guiding principle in how it addresses potential clients. It’s using its entire global marketing team to accomplish that.

When she joined Manulife in 2016, one of the first things Garrigues did was ask to see how the company has been presented visually in major markets of Canada, the U.S. and Asia. “The result is still sitting in my office: it’s three big boards and, I swear, it feels like we had 1,500 logos,” she says.

The internally led rebranding was a collaboration among the senior-most marketers in each of those regions. That included Stacey Grant-Thompson (who became CMO for Manulife’s Canadian operations in April following Glenn Hollis’s departure) and Francesco Lagutaine, chief marketing and experience design officer for the Asia segment.

“Part of the work we did was to find the thread that binds us,” Garrigues says. “This was about making us look and feel more consistent globally.”

Garrigues wanted the rebranding to simultaneously present a simplified, approachable face to the world, but also leverage the brand’s century-old equity.

“Manulife’s market research shows people primarily choose financial providers based on a sense of trust. “You can’t buy trust,” she says “It’s something you earn over time. Over 130 years, Manulife earned ours. We needed to leverage that to build the future.”

But, as any marketer overseeing a financial brand knows, equity often comes loaded with baggage – adjectives such as staid, monolithic, or complex come to mind.

Manulife’s CEO Roy Gori has bid his company to position itself as a customer-first organization, making it a priority to “realign” around its customers and “improve [our] net promoter score by 30 points by 2022,” according to the strategic priorities he outlined during an investors’ day in June.

Garrigues sees this as marching orders for her global market team. “We want to meet our customers where they are, focus on what’s important to them,” she says. “We needed to make our brand simpler and use language that everyone can understand in order to show that.”

Garrigues says the senior marketing leaders have collaborated effectively during her time as global CMO, but the company wants to have open communication between offices in order to leverage expertise across borders. Processes such as journey mapping are being done across markets to “take a more holistic view of marketing,” Garrigues says.

“In the past, marketing at Manulife has been very focused on communication and sales support. We want to maintain that expertise, but we want to evolve to where marketing is a stronger growth partner and revenue lever.”