The New Face Of Advisory

Prudential Financial Has Revitalized a Legacy Brand

…Now What?

by Richard Parkinson

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles focusing on how some of our major investment & insurance manufacturers are rebranding, to clarify their messaging to consumers in an effort to align products and marketing with the rapidly changing demographics of today’s marketplace.

Let’s be honest, financial planning isn’t fun for most of our customers. They report feeling intimidated by the process, or scared of what they’d have to sacrifice now for an undetermined future. Yet ‘lack of planning’ is ranked by those same consumers as one of the top five barriers to achieving financial security.

Many companies lean into fear and negativity when it comes to advertising around money and finances, but we saw a desire for joy and optimism, which is the feeling I think many of us would like to leave our clients with at the end of the day. Our goal is to inspire multiple generations across demographics to think differently about Prudential and financial planning, and to inspire them to invest in their financial future at all stages of life. But the question remained, could we use optimism and positivity to drive action?

The go-to strategy of instilling fear into the minds of consumers to force them to take action was very successful for decades – “scare tactics” in advertising date back to the 1930s. But a study published in the early 2000s showed that fear-based advertising wasn’t as successful as previously believed. Researchers found that a person’s responses to a fear message do not stay static. In other words, it is human nature to form an attitude or opinion toward a subject, re-evaluate it, and then form a new belief as new information becomes available. Fear ads or shock messages are undoubtedly effective at gaining immediate attention, but after many views, they stop working because new attitudes and ideas have been formed. Additionally, Pew Center research from 2020 showed that Generation Z, in particular, is far less responsive to fear-based advertising than their parents and grandparents were. Gen Zers are more likely to be enrolled in college and to have college-educated parents. They are more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations, and they are uniquely attuned to the importance of financial planning.

What we saw was an opportunity to buck traditional industry trends. Through research we conducted, we learned that not only were consumers ready for positive messaging in financial services advertising; they were hungry for it. We found we could apply behavioral science principles to our work and not only grab the attention of our customers, but also get them to take action and talk to an advisor.

We also learned that by tapping into highly visible cultural moments (i.e. Men’s World Cup, The Rose Bowl), we’d be able to further amplify the reach, relevancy and breakthrough of positivity advertising across audiences. We developed soccer-specific and Spanish Language versions of our ads that took advantage of the 2022 World Cup as a media-moment.

And with that, our “Now What?” campaign was born.

The Year of Positivity (and New Generational Wealth)

Our world is experiencing drastic and rapid change driven by innovations in technology, demographic shifts, and market volatility. These changes are everywhere – including in the financial services industry – which is why we embarked on this journey to reimagine our brand positioning and create distinction in the category.

We started in 2021 with the launch of the Who’s Your Rock? brand platform, which features the iconic Prudential rock as a symbol of immovable strength and resilience, and a dynamic force that shatters insecurity, breaks down barriers and opens new doors. Now What? – which launched late last year — is the second chapter in the evolution of Who’s Your Rock?

Now What? encourages customers to use uplifting life moments as motivation to take action and secure their financial future. It is guided by behavioral science research that indicates hope is a particularly powerful emotion that can help consumers convert positive moments into action. And it came at the perfect time. Wunderman Thompson Intelligence coined 2023 as the “Joyconomy” – a time when consumers have shifted to a need for uplift and play.

The go-to strategy of instilling fear into the minds of consumers to force them to take action was very successful for decades – “scare tactics” in advertising date back to the 1930s...

With the new campaign, we expanded our core consumer audience to include younger, more diverse demographics. This wider audience is not only aligned with Prudential’s vision to be a global leader in expanding access to investing, insurance and retirement security but also makes sense from a brand growth perspective. Recent research shows Millennials and Gen Xers are more focused than ever on achieving financial wellness before something bad happens and a whopping 89% of Gen Zers say planning for their financial future makes them feel empowered.

These generations are also more digitally driven than any generation before them. Gen Xers were the first to have personal computers in schools. The birth of the Internet and the tech boom happened when they were in college and entering the workforce. They, along with Millinials, were the first to use smartphones. And speaking of Millinials, they were the first generation to grow up with social media. Gen Zers have never known an existence without smartphones or social media.

We know that most Americans (particularly those under the age of 55) want to research their options on their own — usually online — before connecting with an advisor. And many of them like to have an idea of where they may be lacking before they meet with a professional. Therefore, it was important for us to make Now What? a digital-focused campaign that drives consumers to resources available at

Now What? Here’s What!

With the campaign in market for more than six months, we have seen positive early signs of effectiveness on our core consumer target as well as the broader 25+ audience. More consumers (4-6%) are viewing Prudential’s brand as purposeful, inclusive, tech-forward and modern, and more of them (6%) view Prudential as having knowledgeable advisors who provide expert financial and investment advice as compared to the same timeframe last year.

Our approach for the rest of this year is to continue to invest in our brand as we know that investment will play a significant role in driving growth and consideration among all audiences. We also know that the end consumers’ perception of our brand always matters – and when they recognize and have trust in our brand, it drives positive outcomes for advisors and employers offering our products as well.

This spring, we launched the newest iterations of “Now What?” with more direct ties to how consumers can tap into Prudential’s insurance, investment and retirement expertise to thrive financially. With this new suite of ads, we are prioritizing performance media channels like programmatic, social and search for our B2B targeted efforts, which allow us to deliver these niche audiences with precision and efficiently. And by leveraging data driven tactics, we can reach them where they are engaging content both professionally and personally with relevant messaging that builds consideration of our brand and capabilities.

Our approach is to continue to invest in our brand because we know it plays a significant role in driving growth and consideration among consumers and to drive them to take action with the help of a financial planner. Ultimately, this will allow us to help Prudential achieve its business goals while also achieving our company’s purpose make lives better by solving the financial challenges of our changing world.




Mr. Parkinson serves as chief brand officer for Prudential Financial. He is responsible for the design and performance of Prudential’s brand strategy, driving growth for its global businesses, and bringing the company’s purpose to life. Richard and his team also manage the advertising organization including Prudential’s industry-leading in-house creative agency; television, print, radio, OOH, direct mail, and online advertising; social media; content marketing and production.
Before joining Prudential, he served as global creative director for the worldwide marketing agency Archetype. During his time there, he led brand position and purpose work for clients such as Aveva, SunTrust/Truist, SoftBank, Vodafone, IBM, Precisely and other high-growth tech and software companies. Richard also has a track record of entrepreneurial success, having run his own brand business—IncrediBull—which he sold in 2015. His client portfolio included Nokia, Skype, NCR, HP, Royal London, RSA and BT.
Richard earned a B.A. in business from Anglia Ruskin University where he graduated with honors.