The ING Aetna Financial Services (AFS) team was charged with raising the visibility and recognition of the Aetna Financial Services brand. Although it is one of the top five financial services companies in the country, many people still think of Aetna as an insurance company, even though it hasn’t been in that line of business for years. AFS was also experiencing an “overhang factor” as a result of negative coverage received by Aetna U.S. Healthcare. Even though AFS was far removed from the company’s health care business, it was often guilty by association in the minds of the public.


On January 1, 2001, Aetna Financial Services was officially acquired by the Netherlands-based ING, the seventh largest global financial services company in the world. As a result of this acquisition, we have many significant challenges ahead of us as the brand continues to evolve.




Weber Shandwick Worldwide’s overall objective for this program was to make ING AFS the king of the retirement services jungle. And it is truly a jungle out there, with so many financial services companies competing for the same customers and fighting to be heard in a crowded field. This objective is reflected in our program’s theme—“Capturing the Lion’s Share of the Retirement Market.” The ING logo is a lion, which made the objective unique and relevant—as well as simple and straightforward.




The strategy for the program is twofold—ING AFS wants to capture the lion’s share of attention from both plan sponsors and consumers. Plan sponsors were the first strategic priority because they are the decision makers when it comes to choosing a retirement plan for the organizations they serve. ING AFS is unique in that it specializes in writing plans for the health, education and government markets, in addition to its corporate 401(k) practice. Plan sponsors come from all walks of life, such as a non-profit hospital, a school board, a city council or the human resources office at a private company.


We embarked on a grassroots strategy to target these plan sponsors through trade media. For each area of ING AFS expertise, we identified an expert spokesperson from within the organization and placed bylined articles for them in key trades. Examples include: a three-part series on physicians and retirement in Physician’s Money Digest, an article on university professors and retirement strategies as they relate to life stages in the College University Professors Association-Human Resources Journal.


We positioned ING AFS as a thought leader in the government market as well by placing a byline in American City & County where an ING AFS executive described the unique process by which public entities choose retirement plans. In other words, ING AFS was positioned as a retirement expert in these niche publications at a grassroots level.


We had consistent success in reaching 401k/corporate plan sponsors as well. One of ING AFS’s great strengths is commitment to employee education. Many retirement service providers disappear after the sale. In order to illustrate this exceptional level of service, we worked with ING AFS to identify an appropriate case study.


We chose the Cedars-Sinai, the celebrity hospital in Los Angeles, because of its diverse employee population and ING AFS’s high touch approach to meeting each employee’s needs. Employees were diverse in terms of age (candystripers to octogenarians), culture (high percentage of Spanish-speaking), and income level (neurosurgeons to cafeteria workers). ING AFS tailored retirement education to all needs and even placed two plan administrators onsite permanently.


The Cedars article was accepted by Benefits & Compensation Solutions, a key plan sponsor publication. Many plan sponsors face similar challenges and will now connect ING AFS with finding a solution. We placed another case study, the Aladdin casino in Las Vegas, in order to illustrate how a 401k plan can be used to attract employees in a tight labor market.




The client was extremely pleased with the value delivered by this program. For example, the three-part series in Physician’s Money Digest cost ING AFS about $3,500 to research, write and place. Equivalent advertising dollars for that space would have been $10,500. In just the first three months, the total circulation reached in financial trade publications reached 323,677. The total number of impressions created reached 971,031 (circulation x 3).

The circulation for several publications and websites is unknown. Therefore, the total circulation may be even higher and the number of impressions may be well over one million.