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100: Colin McConnell of Prudential Financial believes financial services is more about solving than selling

Colin McConnell Chief Brand Officer at Prudential

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Milestones are a big deal — wedding anniversaries, graduations, retirements, promotions…and 100 podcast episodes. That’s right, this week marks a major milestone for “Marketing Today” — we’re hitting the century mark with our 100th episode. We appreciate all the support and interest we’ve received for “Marketing Today,” and we look forward to many more episodes to come.

This week on “Marketing Today,” Alan talked with Colin McConnell, senior vice president and chief brand officer for Prudential Financial. McConnell has enjoyed an extraordinary 27-year career there, rising from college recruiter to speech writer to being a member of the team that started the company’s in-house advertising agency, and then on to his present role leading that agency, which is one of the largest in the financial services category.

During the course of his conversation with Alan, McConnell touched on what he feels is a key focus for an effective in-house agency. “I don’t think that the best in-house advertising agency is really led by advertising strategy, it’s led by marketing strategy,” said McConnell. “And even though it’s still an in-house agency, and it has all those resources, it’s still a marketing department.”

And he talked further about how Prudential Financial positions itself in what is perceived as a low-engagement category: “Somehow, the category, when it comes to packaging products and services that do good for people, has tended to be sleepy,” said McConnell. “So we try to not do that. We try to take fresh angles on old ideas, we try to come up with fresh insights, and we always try to stretch creative into places that people haven’t seen before. And I think, so far, we’ve done a pretty good job.”

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today” podcast include:

  • McConnell describes the long and the short of his 27-year career at Prudential Financial. (1:57)
  • “It’s been harder going than most people realized” — McConnell discusses how marcom integration has worked for Prudential Financial. (5:03)
  • “Media is the new creative” — McConnell talks about the Prudential Financial in-house agency and how, from the beginning, they in-sourced media planning and procurement, which is a huge advantage for them. (8:05)
  • “Digital is the air we breathe” — McConnell offers advice on building an in-house agency. (10:36)
  • McConnell on the possible pitfalls of an in-house agency: “Insularity is an issue you have to guard against.” (12:58)
  • “Financial services companies cut to the core of life” — McConnell takes issue with the notion that financial services is a low-engagement category. (16:52)
  • McConnell discusses the origin, history, core purpose, and reputation of Prudential Financial. (21:12)
  • McConnell’s belief that we are underprepared for the implications of AI: “The transformational power of AI in marketing is something we all need to pay very, very close attention to.” (31:17)