One Voice, One Brand
By Robert Beuerlein
What does the actuary brand stand for? What characterizes actuaries as a profession? How do actuaries want to be perceived and what do we want our profession's "brand promise" to say to target audiences, especially employers, clients and prospective students?
Companies and organizations everywhere invest enormous resources in marketing their products and services. Mention branding and most people think of products such as Coca–Cola, Starbucks, McDonald's or Nike, but the same principles can be applied to branding a profession, like actuaries, where there is increasing competition from MBAs, CFAs and others. Mention actuaries and some believe the brand is strong, but carries negative perceptions. Others believe the brand is weak or even non–existent. None would disagree, however, that as a profession we need to do a much better job of articulating who we are and why we add value.
Branding is more than a logo or an advertising campaign; it's a promise to important audiences that the product or service is the best possible solution available and worthy of commitment to that choice. As such, it becomes the direction for actions as well as messages, the basis for decision–making and the context for what is said and the tone in which it is said. In short, branding is the impression that is etched on the minds of stakeholders. Much of the actuary brand lies below the surface and is not easily recognizable, but nevertheless drives our profession. These drivers have to do with the fundamental reason why actuaries exist, as well as the timeless, unchanging core values we believe in and the "big picture" aspirations for the future of our profession.
Why is branding the profession so important now? The changing business environment presents our profession with both risk and opportunity. We are at risk of being marginalized as narrow technicians capable of doing only a few things very well. But we also have the opportunity to leverage our comprehensive understanding of risk to break into the broader financial services market as well as reintroduce ourselves to traditional markets as creative problem solvers who see, as President–Elect Ed Robbins has noted, the "whole picture."
Emerging from member and employer research is a clear sense of direction about what our key audiences know and believe to be true about actuaries. This direction will help guide the Marketing and Market Development Plan, a profession–wide, multi–year branding initiative that will drive our grassroots, public relations, marketing and Internet efforts going forward. In fact, I invite you to turn to pages two and three for a "sneak preview" of one of many messages under development that has been infused with inspiration from employer and member research in addition to one–on–one interviews with a broad range of actuaries, employers, academics and recruiters.
I encourage you to "stay tuned" as we unveil a comprehensive brand strategy that begins to speak to our profession's vision, values, story and personality. I believe this strategy, with your thoughtful input, will inspire each of us to align our energies in a common direction. Individually, we will have the opportunity to become brand ambassadors. Organizationally, the SOA and other key North American actuarial organizations will have the opportunity to become brand stewards modeling a "one voice, one brand" approach.
Robert Beuerlein, FSA, MAAA, is president of the Society of Actuaries. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.