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Nationwide Launches "Have The Talk" Viral Marketing Campaign

Nationwide seeks to engage Web users and provide value-added services with social media and Web 2.0 campaign.

Joining a small but growing list of insurance companies seeking to connect with customers through Web 2.0 technologies, Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide ($160 billion in assets) recently launched the "Have The Talk" campaign, a viral marketing effort centered on the difficult conversations friends and family must have regarding personal finances and insurance issues. The campaign's centerpiece is, a Web site hosted and maintained by the carrier that offers advice and educational opportunities for consumers looking to discuss serious issues with their loved ones, such as teen driving safety and life insurance options.

The site features humorous video shorts starring comedian and impersonator Frank Caliendo, as well as content -- such as an online quiz -- developed by Harvard communications expert Sheila Heen. Nationwide partnered with Wunderman, a New York City-based agency, to create the site, though many of the design elements were created in-house, according to Joe Case, public relations officer at Nationwide and a leader on the Have The Talk campaign.

"I think we're seeing a shift from a transaction-based economy to a dialogue-based economy," says Case, who contends that competitive advantage in the financial services industry will go to companies that engage in a dialogue with customers. "If you ignore the opportunities that social media and Web 2.0 offer, you ignore an opportunity for real dialogue with the customer base."

Case explains that Nationwide is reaching out to bloggers and promoting relevant discussions on, a social networking and media Web site, in an effort to drive traffic back to In addition, the Caliendo videos have been made available on YouTube.

"We're just trying to hit it virally from different angles, to get different groups of people engaged in the need to have a discussion they need to have," Case says. "If we can help them get the conversation going in a creative way and let them know that we are serious about being a value partner with them, then hopefully they will take the next step with us."

Customer Relationships 2.0

Many financial services companies try to educate consumers on important life subjects, Case acknowledges. But few are using Web 2.0 concepts such as viral marketing, he asserts. "The industry is really good about going to the customer and talking about what it wants to sell to them, but what we're trying to do with this is really meet customers in the middle of their life," Case says. "I don't see a lot of our competitors playing in that space."

In some instances, traditional organizations' attempts to reach Web-savvy potential customers have backfired, particularly when those attempts appear ingenuine or contrived, Case adds. Nationwide, however, has avoided that fate by focusing on transparency and advocacy, he suggests. For example, from the Have The Talk Web site, visitors are provided links to information about Nationwide but also can access information from outside the company.

"Every foray into this world right now, from a public relations standpoint, is an experiment, and I think transparency is a huge issue that needs to be addressed," says Case. "If you're not being transparent, that's when [your company could] get punished."

When handled properly, Case continues, there is big potential in the Web 2.0 space. He points specifically to the growing numbers of bloggers and social networking users. "It's just a matter of finding the right influencers in that viral community and getting the information to them and then letting [the information] sell itself," Case comments. "Good information is going to live and the bad information is not going to survive."

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