Like many companies in the financial services industry, ReliaStar Financial Corp., the nation's 8th largest financial services company, struggled to find a unique way to harness the Internet in order to reach new customers and continue to enhance the company's reputation.
But with more than 13,000 Web sites offering varying degrees of personal finance information and advice, including its own corporate Web site,, ReliaStar wondered how it could possibly differentiate itself in such a crowded market.
Based on observational, in-the-field research, which was later followed up by formal research, ReliaStar found that an overwhelming number of Americans hate financial planning.
In late 1999, ReliaStar received approval from its board to develop a new, irreverent Web site called (IHFP) for the financially disenfranchised.  In early 2000, the company teamed up with public relations firm Carmichael Lynch Spong to launch the Web site when it went live on Income Tax Day, April 15, 2000.
As part of market research to determine the viability of the Web site, ReliaStar conducted a nationwide, Internet-based survey.  The survey revealed that more than 75% of Americans hate financial planning and 72% don't have a financial plan.
A half dozen focus groups were conducted by ReliaStar to test the IHFP name and Web site concept.  Participants overwhelmingly resonated with the new Web site and offered numerous suggestions to make it more useful and friendly.
As part of the new Web site’s media relations, CLS and NFO Research conducted another nationwide mail survey that focused on Americans' attitudes toward personal finances, money and financial planning.  The survey results correlated with previous research findings -- more than 80% of Americans hate financial planning or do it purely out of necessity.
A Nexis search for previously published news articles, and a review of the most popular personal finance Web sites (from among the more than 13,000), revealed that while there are a number of Web sites that provide personal finance information in a useful and friendly manner, for the most part, IHFP was in a space of its own.
Generate awareness and familiarity with the new Web site among Americans who hate financial planning and personal finances.
Attract at least 500 visitors a day to the IHFP Web site.
Build a credible reputation for the Web site through third-party endorsements from personal finance and Internet editors and reporters, while enhancing the site's brand as fun, irreverent and straightforward.
Target Audience
Primarily men and women, between 30 - 54 years old, with HHI between $35K - $100K, with kids and Internet access at home or work, who don't have a financial plan or use the services of a financial planner.
Target Media
Personal finance and Internet  reporters and editors representing daily newspaper, lifestyle magazines, national/local radio/TV personal finance programs, and online Web sites.  Also targeted media that reach specific audiences, including women/moms, men/dads, GLBT, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Asian- Americans.
Develop a news/feature program that offers the news media thoughtful, well-written and informational editorial.
Leverage the Web through viral marketing, affinity partners and online advertising to pull customers to IHFP.
Conduct a cable TV-online advertising program to build awareness of the Web site.
Utilize community events to introduce selected audiences to the Web site.
Developed a unique press kit, embedded with a microchip that “screamed” when it was opened, to capture the attention of personal finance reporters.
Drafted more than a dozen educational, tips-based articles about personal finance and financial planning topics, including financial tips for women, financial tips for college grads, financial tips for gay/lesbian couples, etc.
Leveraged national survey of Americans’ attitudes toward personal finance into news features.
Conducted two-day radio and TV satellite media tour in New York City with financial professional/ advisor, Jan Holman.
Developed and circulated an online viral marketing cartoon featuring the IHFP brand icon “Screaming Guy”, which was designed to lead consumers to the Web site through a separate link at
Distributed news feature stories online via Article Resource Association (ARA).  More than a dozen well-written, educational articles were placed on ARA's Web site.  Articles were republished by more than 50 online media Web sites, and traditional print publications.
Sought affinity partnerships with other like-minded Web sites to share content and direct links.
Ran a flight cable TV commercial campaign.  Aired two 30-second commercials on CNN, USA, Lifetime and the Weather Channel. 
Conducted an online banner advertising program with All
Sponsored the Seattle-to-Portland Bike 2000 Race.  Reached more than 417,000 people through program advertising, promotional items and the event itself.
Reached out to the gay-lesbian market by sponsoring the Twin Cities Gay Pride Event.  Reached about 10,000 people with an informational booth.
Introduced 54 million Americans to IHFP by sponsoring the PBS-syndicated personal finance program, “Right on the Money”.
Reached 813,000 Twin Cities residents by sponsoring the Twin Cities Marathon.
Objective 1: Increase awareness and familiarity with the Web site
Reached more than 145 million Americans through more than 1,000+ print, TV, radio and online editorial placements alone, generating an advertising equivalency of  $400,000.
Generated more than 3,000 known Web site visitors through viral marketing and other Web-related PR tactics.
Reached more than 55 million Americans through community-based PR tactics.
Reached more than 225 million Americans through a four-week run of 30-second TV commercials placed on leading cable TV channels, banner ads on All, and a print ad in USA Weekend.
Objective 2: Increase Web site traffic
Exceeded original projections of monthly and annual Web site  user sessions by 10-to-1.  As of January 30, nine months since the launch of IHFP, 750,000 people have visited the Web site, and an average of 30% are repeat visitors.  Visitors spent an average of about 14 minutes on the Web site.
Objective 3: Build credible brand reputation for the Web site as a safe resort for people who hate financial planning
Listed in recent Associated Press and Industry Standard articles as a leading Web site for personal financial planning advice.  Included in the same company as American Express's Web site, as well as Financial, and
Named “Web Site of the Week” by the NBC's Early Today Show, and PAX-TV's “MoneyWatchTV” program. Also named a pick of the week in USA Today's weekly Web site reviews.  Named web site of the week by the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Chicago Tribune.
Listed as a recommended Web site by a wide range of organizations, from the West Lake Library, West Lake, Ohio, to PriceWaterhouse Cooper's recommended tax Web sites.
Generated more than 785 questions from Web site visitors, which were personally answered by IHFP financial professionals.