Employers Seek To Revitalize Identity Through Branding

By Pamela Babcock Mar 3, 2008
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NEW Y​​ORK--Creating a new corporate brand can bring opportunities and challenges, regardless of organization size. Experts say subtle strategic shifts can make a big difference.

Delta Air Lines is mid-flight through a re-branding campaign after emerging from bankruptcy. Their campaign includes new logos on aircraft with the slogan "Welcome change. Welcome to the new Delta."

"This isn't just about a graphic, but a whole sensory experience," said Connie Birdsall, creative director of Lippincott, a global brand management firm, at a Feb. 1 corporate identity conference here. "It's about design, and changing perceptions to something current."

Lippincott is one of many players working on the re-branding of Delta. But for employee benefits provider Unum, which has only a fraction of the marketing budget of insurance giants like Aflac or Geico, revitalizing a corporate identity means finding creative ways to get the word out, particularly with limited advertising dollars.

"Begin with a clear strategy and never waiver from that strategy in execution," said Peter S. Neiman, vice president of corporate brand and advertising for Unum, during the event.

Driving the Message Home

In 1990, Portland, Maine-based Unum and Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Provident merged to become UnumProvident. But the following years were anything but smooth sailing.

In 2007, following years of restructuring and legal issues, Unum shortened its name and launched a process to move Unum from being perceived as an insurance company to being seen as an employee benefits partner.

"Insurance is something that's sold," Neiman explained. "Benefits are something people want."

To help make Unum more approachable, the company scrapped its patriotic flag-like logo and unveiled a contemporary logo with the tagline, "Better benefits at work." The new logo was selected from a mind-numbing field of hundreds. The dots above the name represent people -- "the people who work at Unum as well as the people we help," Neiman explained.

But to be successful, any branding campaign needs to go beyond the logo. That means continually "harping" on the points you want to make, Neiman said.

Unum created a calendar of events so that there is constant "news" about the Unum brand. Neiman said it's also critical to use creative concepts "so that "my management can 'see' the power of an idea."

Linking Creative to Sports

Unum's aggressive marketing blitz includes print and broadcast advertisements in local and national media.

Since Unum's benefit plans protect individuals and their livelihoods and help organizations attract and retain quality employees and reduce the cost of absenteeism, Neiman thought one way to convey that message was through sports. After all, entire cities can mourn if a key player is injured and a team can't make it to the playoffs, he said.

A 30-minute advertising spot during the Super Bowl costs an estimated $2.7 million. That's why Neiman decided to run his ad only in Portland. The price? Around $10,000, but "you're still perceived as a Super Bowl advertiser," he said.

In addition, Unum has a multi-million-dollar campaign with ESPN. In September 2007, it signed on as the sole sponsor for its "Injury Report," a summary of which players are hurt, the nature of their injuries, and their expected return dates, during "College Football Live." Unum began its partnership with ESPN in April 2007 as sponsor for the original Injury Report for "Baseball Tonight" during the regular Major League Baseball season.

Unum says the branding efforts through ESPN are resonating with target audiences and reinforce Unum's philosophy that, when disability strikes, helping the individual and the organization get back on their feet are equally important.

"Our work has been very well received by our sales force and our brokers and has helped solidify Unum as an important player in the benefits industry," Neiman said after the conference.

But Neiman said Unum isn't finished.

"This is just a beginning. We have plans to improve our website, our presentations, our brochures and materials, and even how our offices look."

Pamela Babcock is a freelance writer based in the New York City area.

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