NAF’s reverse division looks to tell new product stories with ‘Old Wives’

nafoldwives

The reverse mortgage industry is no stranger to novel marketing campaigns, and it has often made use of celebrity spokespeople to drum up conversation about its products.

While consistency can count for a lot when it comes to marketing and messaging, novelty can also be a path toward greater engagement. New American Funding (NAF) is aiming to find a different path to communicate the potential benefits of a reverse mortgage.

Making use of emerging technologies including generative artificial intelligence (AI), NAF has launched a marketing campaign called “Old Wives” that seeks to show how potential borrowers could be empowered by making use of their own resources — namely their home’s equity — to forge a path in retirement.

To get a better idea of how and why the company has taken this approach, RMD sat down with Shannon Robinson, NAF’s vice president of reverse mortgage lending, and Kevin Thomson, the company’s vice president and executive creative director who designed the campaign.

‘Old Wives’: a new reverse mortgage story

When asked about their desire to find a new approach to reverse mortgage messaging, Robinson explained how the industry has always been appreciative of the efforts by companies like American Advisors Group (AAG) and others, which have made visible investments in advertising that the entire business has benefited from.

But there is also a time and a place for a “fresh” approach, she said. Part of that extends to the mind of Thomson, who himself is new to the reverse space, she explained.

Shannon Robinson, VP of reverse mortgage lending at New American Funding.
Shannon Robinson

“Kevin, being new to reverse, sat down with all of us and asked how we could build up the brand of the reverse team at NAF,” she said. “I explained how everybody has this standard of what our typical active adults are doing: riding bikes, having picnics, playing with their grandchildren.”

These are pleasant images of what retirement could be like, of course, but Thomson’s thought was to communicate something different.

“After speaking with the NAF reverse team and looking at the marketing landscape, it became clear we needed to shake things up,” Thomson told RMD. “We wanted to speak to this audience in a way that felt fresh and unique, but also echo their own point of view on aging. In the words of Dylan Thomas, this audience believes ‘old age should burn and rave’ and they will ‘not go gentle into that good night.’ These are smart, powerful, fierce individuals who just happen to be older.”

This is when the aim became one of “busting” certain myths about aging and retirement, including the idea that an older person needed to sell their home, Thomson explained.

“That’s just an old wives’ tale,” he said. “And who better to dispel that myth than the Old Wives themselves.”

It also adds a sense of fun and color to marketing reverse mortgages, Robinson added, while allowing the campaign to take a shot at recontextualizing certain ideas that are often repeated about the product category.

“Ideas like ‘the lender’s going to own the home,’ or ‘the lender takes the home from you,’ and ‘nothing’s left for your heirs,’” Robinson said of the often persistent ideas around the product. “So, we’re playing on those different myths and we’re saying, ‘Those are just old wives’ tales. Let me tell you about it.’”

Striking the right tone

When asked if the idea behind “Old Wives” was to target the cohort most likely to get a reverse mortgage (since single women make up a larger share of reverse borrowers than single men), Robinson said the focus was instead on reshaping the discussion around the persistently repeated ideas that industry professionals have long pushed back against.

“We have their statistics that show it is more single, widowed, maybe even housewives that get the reverse mortgage product, but it was really just a vision from Kevin,” she said. “It really [came from] his creative mind.”

Thomson was clear about his familiarity level with the product category prior to joining NAF’s marketing team.

“This was absolutely an educational experience for me,” he said. “Coming in, all I knew was what I had gleaned over the years watching daytime TV. I knew Tom Selleck and Henry Winkler were the main spokespeople, but that was about it. Luckily for me, the NAF reverse team is amazing and took the time to give me a crash course in everything reverse mortgage.”

Robinson added that Thomson brought up the popular sitcom “The Golden Girls” from the 1980s and ’90s as a prime inspiration for the overall tone — how to make the idea of retirement with your own resources fun and empowering. 

Tools and reception

The campaign is still in its early days, having gone live on a dedicated landing page at the beginning of this month. In addition to aiming to change certain conversations about the product category, Robinson said the campaign also presents a recruitment opportunity.

“A lot of people within our industry are aware we’re heavily recruiting right now at New American Funding — specifically the reverse team,” she said. “This was also an attraction to drive in recruiting opportunities, but also to engage our clientele, and we’re starting to see some traction. We’re getting responses, and I think it’s just because of the different, fresher look. People see these women and go, ‘Well, let me just click on that. Let me look at that.’”

On top of that, the women featured in the campaign are also entirely generated by artificial intelligence (AI), Robinson said. Later phases of the campaign will take on something of a testimonial format with real “old wives” who can talk more about their experiences with the product in retirement, but Robinson explained they wanted to roll out the concept as imagined by the creative team before that stage.

“This was the first campaign that we’ve ever done where it’s completely artificial intelligence,” Robinson said. “[The team] is going to bring them to life next in short videos that we’ve already tested, and that will be the next release in the summer. You’ll start to see these women talk through this and have some fun with the concepts.”

“Ultimately, our goal, depending on the response, will be to bring in the real-life women, the real old wives, that we can bring in and really put this live in the industry,” Robinson added.

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