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Thursday, June 06, 2013

More insights into why MetLife pulled the plug on MMI

At the end of May I wrote that MetLife had pulled the plug on its Mature Marketing Institute.

Laurie Orlov has made this the topic for her latest posting on Aging in Place Technology blog.

Let me add a few more of my own insights into MetLife's decision. Let's start by asking the question - what is in it for MetLife - why spend the money funding MMI? It is easy to say that the cost of MMI to the company is at 'noise level' so why stop - just let it to continue operating.

The accountant's view would be that there must be something in it for the company to continue researching and publishing reports. What might be the upside for the company?

1. The company must (you would think and hope) be continuing to try and understand the financial and behavioural dynamics of older Americans. If it has the research then it might as well release a version of it to generate PR.

2. MetLife's marketers might have thought that being a thought leader in the issues facing older Americans it could leverage the reputation directly to generate more business.

3. The same argument applies to gaining mind-space with financial sales intermediaries.

4. Having established its knowledge base and reputation then the company becomes a natural first point of call when changes in legislation relating to older people are being considered.

I suspect that the driver for investing in MMI was Point 2  - to generate more business directly from consumers and it was perceived that this had failed - hence they closed the Institue.

Two other financial services companies that spent a lot of money doing something similar to MetLife were HSBC and Axa. The feedback that I heard was that the tactical marketers failed to use this thought leadership research in their campaigns to generate new/increased business.

So the argument then becomes. Is thought leadership and being seen as a good corporate citizen not something that results in a change to the bottom line - or are companies not very good in making it happen.

I am sure that the latter is true - I think the jury is still out on the first reason.

As an industry watcher I am sad to see such a good source of information, about an under-research subject, fade away. No doubt the real reasons for MetLife's decision will emerge over time. Dick Stroud

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