My movement would be about embracing the moment. So many families and individuals live with anxiety about the future. Especially with the current global turmoil in the markets, they are nervous about how they will provide financially for their families or achieve their goals. People have this belief that they need to deprive themselves in the present in order to be responsible. But this notion is false. Our research and experience has shown us that when Americans are deliberate about their priorities, they set themselves up for far more happiness. They give themselves permission to focus on being at the kids’ recital rather than stressing about college costs. They let themselves save for and then enjoy experiences such as a vacation with confidence that they will still be able to manage a car break down. Embracing the moments means living life to the fullest every day and celebrating the small things that really make us happy. Increasing studies of mindfulness and happiness demonstrate that this kind of focus on the present provides a sense of peace and true inner happiness. Delivering financial well- being to all Americans so every family can make the most of every day and say “yes” to what matter most to them. Living your life to the fullest each and every day leads to true inner happiness.
I had the pleasure to interview Aditi Javeri Gokhale. Aditi is an executive officer and CMO of Northwestern Mutual, a leading financial services company. She leads an enterprise-wide comprehensive marketing strategy to strengthen the Northwestern Mutual brand, amplify its digital marketing, and expand the company’s engagement with clients and prospects. Throughout her career, she has been credited with building brands in today’s digital world for global companies such as Shutterstock, American Express, and Nutrisystem. She holds a Bachelor’s degree and M.B.A. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Thank you so much for joining us Aditi. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have been very fortunate to have had such an incredible career thus far. When I look back on the journey that led me to Northwestern Mutual, one thing undoubtedly comes to mind: curiosity. As a child in India, I developed a distinct curiosity that led me to continuously seek out new adventures and challenges.
Early in my career, I was a management consultant and advised companies on complex business problems, helping bring an outside in perspective. In my role I had to get up to speed on the industry and challenges my clients faced in a very short timeframe while starting to analyze the situation immediately and offer relevant solutions. Learning the ability to analyze an industry and its business model and offer ideas early on in my career was a blessing. It’s something I’ve used in every role since then.
I’ve always sought roles that require a mix of creativity and analytics. Often that involves focusing on transformation and marketing often acts as the front-line of a bigger transformation. At Northwestern Mutual, I found a place where the mission is about increasing access to financial wellness and security. As a long-time customer, I knew that the company had a strong foundation and a meaningful set of products, but as CMO, I’ve gotten to help people across the country get over the barriers of anxiety that prevent them from building a more secure financial future.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
One thing that’s unique about Northwestern Mutual is how open the company is to change, especially for a company that is more than 160 years old. This starts at the top with our CEO, John Schlifske, who is dedicated to driving innovation at every level, and permeates throughout our organizational culture.
One story that comes to mind is in the early months of my role as the new CMO when we realized we wanted to infuse our approach to customer outreach with more emotion. We started with extensive qualitative and quantitative research before we even began to think about new campaign ideas to truly understand what’s most important to our customers.
Based on the insights, we recognized that that we needed to develop stronger connections with female consumers after we noticed how underserviced women are by financial service products across the industry. No other company was really speaking to women at the time, let alone considering their unique relationship with money. In our research, we found that men and women respond incredibly differently when it comes to ‘want vs. need’ tension in their daily lives. Women have an overt tension they are constantly aware of and stressed over, whereas men tend to avoid this tension entirely as a defense mechanism. While both sought financial freedom, the two demographics went about their means of achieving it differently.
As a result, our new campaign featured Northwestern Mutual’s first TV ad with a storyline focused solely on the female customer and her career. The whole approach represented a shift in thinking for Northwestern Mutual as we revamped our TV, digital and social strategyl to ensure female customers were represented throughout the full marketing funnel. This was thanks to the leadership and its openness to change and hunger for innovation.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
It’s certainly an exciting time to be a part of Northwestern Mutual, especially as the company’s first-ever CMO. We started with a brand refresh and I’m excited to see how our approach to consumer outreach can actually help people get over the challenges of starting a financial plan. We’ve already seen a huge increase in customers who are coming to us to develop their first sophisticated plan to protect their families and themselves financially. People are starting to see that smart planning does not necessarily mean deprivation. It’s about prioritizing what matters in life and building a plan.
We will continue to ramp up new offerings under the same campaign including creating new ad spots in the year ahead. We want to showcase more ways in which people can save for the future while fulfilling what’s most important to them today.
Our next frontier is to leverage technology that helps people connect with the right personal financial advisor. After much research and analysis, Northwestern Mutual noticed that pairing consumers with an advisor is very similar to match-making. In the same way that online dating has revolutionized how people meet, we sought to enhance the advisor pairing process by creating a predictive algorithm similar to what online dating services do that can match the consumer with the advisor for them. This new algorithm matches consumers with the best-fit advisor based off an online profile, ensuring the process is easy and enjoyable for all parties involved. Thus far, our data indicates that the match success rate of the algorithm exceeds 95 percent — and it continues to improve. Programs like this are designed with the user and customer in mind, in order to provide them a better financial planning experience.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lessons that others can learn from that?
My career “tipping point” came when I found myself in a role that I was truly passionate about while concurrently providing real challenges for me. When I joined Nutrisystem as the head of digital, the company was looking for a CEO so I didn’t know whether my crazy ideas would be appreciated. But this role changed my career. I helped create Nutrisystem’s first non-food end-to-end digital platform to lose weight and stay healthy: NuMi by Nutrisystem. Creating the app and the full program considering the emotional, physical and nutritional aspects of weight loss required me to help the company management understand a new — but adjacent — category. The job required me to hone skills in leading change, but I was passionate about the subject matter and the people I was working for and with. It made the work worth doing.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am a firm believer that our life experiences shape who we become, how we lead and how we perceive the world around us. I am no exception. More specifically, my family and especially my parents and my sister played pivotal roles in shaping who I am as a person. Tirelessly dedicated to the importance of education, my family instilled in me a devout love of learning and an insatiable curiosity that led me to pursue higher education and my career. Their unending support and reassurance still helps me rebound at the end of a tough day. I look to them and their example when I am considering a major career move. They encouraged my curiosity, leading me to investigate college in the U.S. instead of in my home country of India. At their encouragement, I accepted a scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and got on a plane alone at 17 to move halfway around the world. There were many times throughout my initial college experience that I was homesick, but if it weren’t for my family’s support, I would have never thrown myself head-first into the career I have. And for that, I am incredibly grateful.
What are your “5 Non-Intuitive Marketing Strategies For Small Businesses”?
1. Build emotional connections. As marketers, we aim to connect with our customers through storytelling, but it’s critical to go beyond the obvious and dig for an insight that reveals something that is core to human beings and that taps into human emotion. These insights are what set companies apart and create brand loyalty over time. Very often we want to talk about the product and its features and how great your company is. Most consumers want you to meet them where they are…so it’s important to recognize that.
2. Choose your moments. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Understand your core consumer deeply. We have more ways to reach people than ever which presents a tremendous opportunity but it’s also harder to break through and capture consumer attention. Two to three big moments matter more to consumers than a constant stream of less-focused activities and corporate jargon.
3. Become a resource. Your company can be the destination where people come to get useful information and resources. Think about how your customers might use your products or services and the information they might need to make decisions. This type of content helps your SEO, and it also helps you get more prospective buyers into your sales funnel.
4. Every interaction counts. With every story, every statement, every promotion, it needs to reflect something true about what your Brand, company and culture stands for. This is really important to remember in difficult moments when people are posting negative things about your products or interacting with customer service.
5. Embrace change. Know what you do well, but always stay open to change. The world is moving quickly and sometimes that means our marketing strategies need to move with it. This requires a mix of data and creativity that allows us to look at a situation in a new way and piece together a fresh perspective that truly resonates with customers. Constantly ask yourself, is this the best I can do for my customers?
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My movement would be about embracing the moment. So many families and individuals live with anxiety about the future. Especially with the current global turmoil in the markets, they are nervous about how they will provide financially for their families or achieve their goals. People have this belief that they need to deprive themselves in the present in order to be responsible.
But this notion is false. Our research and experience at Northwestern Mutual has shown us that when Americans are deliberate about their priorities, they set themselves up for far more happiness. They give themselves permission to focus on being at the kids’ recital rather than stressing about college costs. They let themselves save for and then enjoy experiences such as a vacation with confidence that they will still be able to manage a car break down.
Embracing the moments means living life to the fullest every day and celebrating the small things that really make us happy. Increasing studies of mindfulness and happiness demonstrate that this kind of focus on the present provides a sense of peace and true inner happiness.
Delivering financial well-being to all Americans so every family can make the most of every day and say “yes” to what matter most to them. Living your life to the fullest each and every day leads to true inner happiness.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Work harder and smarter than everyone else and build relationships across all levels.” This is my mantra today and how I lead. I learned from my parents the importance of hard work and my grandmother and mentors along the way emphasized how having good relationships in your life can make or break your professional career, but also such an important part of your personal life as well to get you through the good and bad times.
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