Manulife zeroes in on tiny moments

Under a new masterbrand approach, the financial company suggests financial success is a matter of starting small.


Many Canadians turn to the banks for guidance on navigating life’s biggest moments – from buying their first house to planning for retirement – but the key to financial success often lies in making the most of the moments in between. That’s according to Manulife’s latest advertising work, the first under its new masterbrand approach to the Canadian market.

The financial institution worked with creative agency The&Partnership on “A little can do a lot,” a campaign aimed at telling customers that being financially successful is a matter of starting small – sometimes, by listening to the tiny voice inside their heads.

“We realized that as we’re transforming [as an organization] our marketing had to transform as well,” says Stacey Grant-Thompson, who stepped in as CMO of Manulife’s Canadian operations around a year ago. The company’s new masterbrand approach “reflects that commitment to being much more customer-centric and really wanting to differentiate ourselves and establish ourselves in the marketplace.”

Creative is grounded in the idea that Canadians should listen to their “little voice” to help steer them towards better money and lifestyle choices. The launch spot features a man sitting on a park bench next to a miniature version of himself, with tiny Steve explaining that he helped big Steve learn to manage his finances through setting little goals, like talking to an expert and establishing a budget he could stick to.

The positioning came out of research showing that other financial institutions tend to focus most of their attention on life’s major moments, Grant-Thompson says. “We realized that the critical thing is starting to make little choices and actions and build better habits so that they can really add those things up to something big.”

“You wouldn’t jump off the couch and run a marathon the next day,” she says. “Financial fitness is kind of the same thing.”

While people rely on banks for their biggest financial decisions, a number of institutions have recently placed more emphasis on being approachable, offering expert advice consumers can turn to with confidence. At the same time, smaller fintech players like Koho and Wealthsimple have aimed to help customers more closely – and subconsciously – manage their money through automated investing and saving.

Manulife’s new approach is helping it establish consistency across all its business segments for the first time, according to Grant-Thompson. For example, a direct response TV spot called “Cover Me” applies the same creative concept to insurance coverage. Future work will focus on its benefits and retirement businesses, while supporting assets run across OOH, social and digital.

The campaign utilizes the look and feel of a global organizational rebrand unveiled last fall, but the execution itself is specific to Canada. With a new, simplified corporate logo and streamlined approach to its marketing, the rebrand focused on simplifying Manulife’s message at home and abroad.

Manulife-Stacey Grant-ThompsonGrant-Thompson says the campaign puts forward a new message for the brand, although recent Manulife campaigns have tapped a similar tone around helping customers overcome the stress of holiday shopping and the “burden” of purchasing insurance.

While The&Partnership led the work, Oliver, which Manulife named its internal agency partner in June 2017, worked on pieces of an internal campaign activation.

Employees were invited to take pictures of themselves that were then featured in creative emulating the ads (Grant-Thompson is in the ad pictured to the right). More than 1,000 employees took part in the initiative. Moreover, miniature dolls of Manulife execs were created to help further cultivate engagement internally.