Why Northwestern Mutual Is Reminding People To ‘Spend Life Living’

Northwestern Mutual’s new brand campaign taps into emotional storytelling to re-frame how people approach financial planning .

How do you feel when you think about planning your financial future? If it makes you anxious and emotional, you’re not alone. Many are stressed about saving for future retirement — making it challenging to make the most of life’s moments now, without feeling guilty.

Last year, we took a step back, looked at ourselves, and the entire financial planning category. While most financial planning companies are focused on retirement and saving for the future, we wanted to address how people are really feeling, and help people plan, and enjoy, life — not just retirement.

To do this, we launched our brand campaign, “Spend Your Life Living,” to encourage people to enjoy today. We’ve found creating a campaign that’s not only bold, but resonates with how people are feeling, is the best way to stand out from the pack.

Here’s how we did it:

Listen to what keeps people up at night

Before we brainstormed or discussed creative ideas, we talked to real people. We held focus groups to understand how people feel when they think about planning for the future.

Through extensive qualitative and quantitative research, we found the tension between living for now and saving for later was universal, regardless of demographics. What we kept hearing was that people don’t want to trade their plans for a tomorrow that feels abstract. They want to find a way to better balance what they’re doing today, while not losing sight of the future.

This same research concluded that people will seek (and act on) planning for the lifestyle they want to live, including vacations, career aspirations, and passions. People were most responsive when they felt empowered to make things happen now, and not miss out on moments with family, or experiences like travel. 

Armed with this insight, we wanted to create something that encouraged people to make the most of every single day. This also gave us a way to differentiate ourselves.

Lean into emotional storytelling

In the past, Northwestern Mutual campaigns have focused on how the actual financial planning process works. With “Spend Your Life Living,” we wanted each ad spot to reflect real people, with a fresh perspective on emotional storytelling.

We created four different TV spots for the campaign: “Backyard Bliss,” “This Call’s for You,” “Fish Out of Water” and “Ocean.” Each spot taps into each of the consumer insights we gleaned from our research, and touches on different life stages that people can relate to.

Go for the unexpected

Beyond TV spots, print, digital and social that launched just ahead of New Year’s Eve, we wanted to activate “Spend Your Life Living,” in real life.

A few days after the campaign launched, as a part of our presenting sponsorship of the Rose Bowl, we took over part of the tailgate outside of the Rose Bowl stadium for the College Championship playoff game on January 1. We recreated a massive end zone, encouraged fans to join and share their best touchdown dance and post about it using #SpendLifeLiving. We also created a “Rose Room,” with hundreds of flowers to encourage people to stop and smell the roses, and enjoy the day.   

These activations were created to make a special, shareable experience that participants would remember long after game day.


The “Spend Your Life Living” campaign launch drove an immediate positive impact across digital, including significant increases in branded search, lead generation, unique visits to NM.com, brand mentions, and more. Overall results were in the triple digits compared to the previous year. We’re now working on the next phase of the campaign to keep “Spend Your Life Living” fresh for the remainder of 2018.

We’ve learned that evolving our brand based on consumer insights, and thinking about new ways to connect on a deeper, more meaningful, level goes a long way.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale is executive officer and CMO of Northwestern Mutual, a leading financial services company. She leads an enterprise-wide comprehensive marketing strategy to strengthen the Northwestern Mutual brand, amplify its digital marketing, and expand the company’s engagement with clients and prospects. Gokhale joined the organization in 2016 as CMO of LearnVest, a Northwestern Mutual company. Throughout her career, she has been credited with building brands in today’s digital world for global companies such as Shutterstock, American Express, and Nutrisystem. She holds a Bachelor’s degree and M.B.A. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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