And soon to be world traveler.
Fidelity Investments recently unveiled a 30-second television commercial that presents the biography of a Boomer woman. In this frenetic, flowing montage, augmented by rapid cuts of iconographic images such as the "peace sign," Fidelity has effectively captured powerful elements of the Boomer zeitgeist.
Carol began adulthood as a "flower child," but, departing from the narcissistic stereotypes often permanently attached to Boomers by misguided advertisers, she evolved beyond her Dionysian beginnings. Her political philosophy morphed from liberal to conservative. She became engaged in her community as a parent, fundraiser and leader. She ascended the corporate ladder. Now, with retirement on the horizon, Carol is realizing her dream to become a world traveler.
Carol's life has followed the trajectory of many women who came of age during the sixties and seventies. Carol progressed from the counterculture era to becoming a responsible adult, running companies and assuming leadership roles in her community. She's changed political affiliations -- ostensibly from Democratic during the sixties to Republican during the Reagan era -- and she has faced and survived the personal crisis of cancer.
She's raised a family and taken care of people who needed her support. The impression viewers get is that she's independent, self-confident, and, like so many of her peers, fully liberated.
It is notable that the final montage image pauses on Carol in an airport lounge waiting for her plane -- by herself. No husband. No kids to wish her farewell. Just Carol and her dream being realized.
In the punchy list that makes up Carol's life, I claim about half of the highlights: preppie, yuppie, protester, Democrat, Republican, fundraiser, spokesperson, and caregiver. Undoubtedly, Carol's story reflects major chapters or themes in the lives of many Boomers.
Following the upbeat docudrama, Fidelity then brings it home by raising a critical question: Is your retirement on track? The question nudges viewers to stop a moment and think critically. Is my retirement on track? Then Fidelity authoritatively offers to help answer the question "in about thirty minutes." Just call 1-800-Fidelity.
I answered the question by calling and spending thirty minutes with an Income Planning Consultant. He walked me through questions concerning my assets and liabilities. About a week later, I received a perfect-bound, full-color, 38-page, personalized booklet entitled "Your Retirement Income Plan and Action Steps." Wow.
Fidelity is doing it right. The TV ad appeals to Boomers with a heroine who is quirky and unconventional, realistic and aspirational. Carol reflects the independent-minded attitude of most Boomers; she captures an inherent generational value of following the road less traveled. She's liberated and nurturing. (She's like many women I dated in college and much like the woman I married.)
Then the company unleashes the power of one-to-one marketing by compiling and sending prospects a personalized booklet filled with charts, graphs, and tables that fully illustrate individualized retirement scenarios.
This commercial could be improved if it would be expanded into a longer format. Many of Fidelity's competitors, such as Merrill Lynch, are running one-minute commercials targeting the same market. Carol's life story has been forced into about 20 seconds, and the fast cuts don't easily compute.
Boomers did not grow up in the MTV era, so we're not as accustomed to absorbing information in one-second bites. A longer format would allow biographical vignettes to be more coherent. The current commercial demands multiple viewings for all the vignettes to hit home.
It doesn't take genius to create effective Boomer marketing communications. But the challenge does require cohort sensitivity, perceptive insights, a sense of shared metaphor, and an attitude: Carol's attitude, for example. A company that can accomplish this deserves our trust as investors.