Thursday, July 7, 2011

Exploiting Casey Anthony Again -- This Time in Your 401(k) Plan

This Casey Anthony trial allows you to see just how warped a brain can be -- my brain, that is. Two days in a row, I am bringing that trial into a benefits and compensation blog. Yesterday, I claimed that I wasn't nuts. Today, I reiterate, still, I am not nuts.

If you read yesterday's blog post (it's just one down in this blog or you can go here), you know that I talked about branding in, perhaps, the oddest way you have ever seen. If you didn't read it and you don't want to read it now, I talked about how the prosecution delivered a much more eloquent case, but the defense effectively branded their case. And, throughout the trial, the defense pounded on it -- virtually everything they did was reinforcement for their brand. They had a far lesser product and they won.

Oh, yeah, if you didn't follow the trial and you didn't read yesterday's post, the brand was "Follow the duct tape."

What on earth, you may wonder, does this have to do with my 401(k) plan?

Your participants have a limited amount of money that they earn every week/2 weeks/half month/month. They have a good bit of that money already allocated to things like mortgage or rent, food, car payments, insurance, clothing, and lots of other things.

It's those other things that we are concerned about. These are the discretionary items -- the ones that your participants spend money on because they want to, not because they have to. Your 401(k) plan competes with those other things for discretionary dollars. And, you know what, many of those other things have strong brands.

Think about some of the most popular places for people to spend discretionary dollars these days. Many have strong brands and these brands (wittingly for them, but unwittingly for participants) pull the participants' money to them and away from important places like your 401(k) plan. Here are some examples of strong brands that the 401(k) plan competes with:

  • Apple with its iPad, iPhone, iTouch, iTunes and other related products (note the branding)
  • Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony with their various interactive gaming consoles Wii, Xbox, and PlayStation
  • Victoria's Secret and other retailers and brands targeting women's discretionary dollars
  • NASCAR, and all of the brands that adorn the cars and uniforms of its drivers
Each of these brands are proverbially in the faces of your participants every day. If you want your participants to move more of their discretionary dollars to their 401(k) plan, then that plan needs a brand that is similarly in the faces of participants each and every day.

This post is not intended to tell you how to create that brand. It is, however, intended to tell you that if you expect your 401(k) plan to be as top of mind in terms of your participants' dollars as these other strong brands are, then it had better be at least as visible and have at least as strong a brand.

So, find ways to advertise your plan. Create a slogan or tagline that fits the corporate culture. Make it desirable and appealing. Make it fun. Yes, make it fun. 

Run contests. Let your employees help in creating the 401(k) plan brand. Give prizes. They don't have to be big ones. You will be amazed at the results. I almost promise you.

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