New RMF TV Campaign Debunks Reverse Mortgage Myths

Bloomfield, N.J.-based lender Reverse Mortgage Funding, LLC (RMF) has introduced a new creative advertising campaign designed to feature testimonials from real customers espousing the benefits of their reverse mortgage loans.

The campaign, called “In Their Words,” aims to offer a frank and informed thoughts on reverse mortgage benefits from the perspectives of the borrowers themselves, while also challenging many of the persistent preconceived notions that people still have about the product category in spite of a concentrated effort by the industry to dispel common misconceptions.

Debunking common myths, sharing customer stories

It’s been about 18 months since the last time RMF devoted its resources to advertising on television, but now seemed to be the appropriate time to jump back in especially considering some of the more persistent product misconceptions according to Jean Noble, chief marketing officer at RMF.

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“Honestly, we thought that now was the time to get back out there with this type of messaging,” Noble tells RMD in an interview. “When we do our focus groups, we often hear the same story after all these years. [People still think a reverse mortgage is] the loan where the bank takes your house.”

It’s one thing to create an ad that runs counter to that idea, but it’s another to hear satisfied RMF customers explain the true nature of the product in their own words, Noble explains.

“In Their Words,” the new RMF ad campaign.

“We wanted to debunk that message using our actual customers, walking them through the stories about how they’re using reverse mortgage products,” she says. “If you look at the television commercial, you will see that these are highly educated individuals that were very thoughtful in how they were using the reverse mortgage proceeds.”

The efforts of reverse mortgage product educators across the entirety of the industry have been working against massive headwinds to correct perceptions about the product, which is why RMF thought that taking a different tact would be generally beneficial. This is according to David Peskin, president of RMF in an email to RMD.

“It’s hard to believe that reverse mortgages are not a mainstream solution,” Peskin says. “After 15 years of intense marketing and education, we have not been able to move the dial. Granted we’ve had some rather large obstacles to overcome but the truth is we need to really focus on growing the industry.”

The current economic situation across the country has also created a degree of urgency, Peskin explains, since there is both need on the parts of seniors for more financial options and opportunity for the industry to provide a service.

“Older Americans need this tool and we all need to break the barrier,” Peskin says. “The current pandemic has created some opportunity for the industry – established publications and influencers are declaring now is the time to ‘re-think’ reverse mortgages. While this is great, we still need to do more.”

Each of the presented testimonials in the commercial come from a different perspective, but there is commonality in the high level of education that each of the customers has. One customer is a retired business owner, another is a retired scientist, and a profiled couple are both former finance executives, Noble explains.

“[Each story shows] that they took a very thoughtful approach in how they were going to leverage home equity during retirement,” she says.

Reinforcing customer pride

When RMF approached each of these customers to tell their stories, there wasn’t any hesitation on their parts, Noble explains.

“After all these years, it’s sometimes very difficult to find somebody that will talk about reverse mortgages because some people still are a little embarrassed about it,” she says. “We found a group of customers in the Lincoln, Calif. area. These people got such a kick out of being on the TV commercial, they weren’t shy, they weren’t embarrassed. They were proud of their decisions.”

Changing perceptions about reverse mortgages by highlighting the perspectives of satisfied customers could be an important key in the larger goal to evolve perspectives about the product, since other potential customers hearing from people that either are or were in similar situations could be particularly compelling, Noble explains.

“It’s the ultimate credibility factor,” she says. “If someone Is enthusiastic about their decision and what they did, you can see it. It’s really important using testimonials. […] I’m hoping that a television commercial like this one will make people proud of their decision. This group went all in [for that reason].”

It’s exactly the credibility that comes with the informed perspectives of real customers that illustrated the need to find real people to tell their stories, Peskin says.

“One of the major culprits impacting our success is the misperceptions people have about the product. When we sat down to sketch out this campaign, we wanted real people, RMF customers, to provide education and dispel the myths,” Peskin explains. “‘In Their Words’ chronicles the story of three families that have used the reverse mortgage in different ways. As you can see from the video footage, they are passionate about the product and their decisions to move forward with the loan.”

It was also important to garner testimonials from people who came from different places before ultimately deciding this was a solution for them.

“The campaign highlights the uniqueness of our borrowers – from a retired scientist, female business owner and financial executives, these families are living a better life, a more peaceful life, a financially secure life because of the reverse mortgage,” Peskin says. “We hope that the campaign resonates well with older Americans and the financial professionals that advise them.”

Pandemic changes, incoming inquiries

Taking some of the new realities stemming from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic was an active process, since the marketing team was out in California gathering its footage just a couple of weeks before communities started handing down stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders.

“It was touch and go whether this was getting canceled or not,” Noble says. “But we got this done, and we had an original script in our mind. When we would sort through all the footage and build out our story, now, there are certain things we wanted to be more sensitive about.”

One element that became a part of the campaign after taking pandemic-related circumstances into account was the viability of a reverse mortgage as a vehicle to fund long-term care, she says.

“I think the original iteration of the commercial was a bit more upbeat, whereas this is a more subdued version, but I think it’s really effective,” she says. “We made sure to put some room in there about funding long-term care. […] I think many people are rethinking long-term care needs, so we made sure to work that into the creative.”

While still in the early days of the campaign’s activity, RMF has recorded a notable increase in incoming inquiries stemming from the play that the ad is receiving in specific territories, Noble says. The roll-out will continue in stages to different territories, and there is still more to come from these customers telling their stories.

“We have so much content, and so much more to share,” Noble explains.

Visit the campaign’s website.

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  • In the midst of the civil unrest in the country over the terrible death of George Floyd, why are there no apparent people of color shown in the ad? Surely there are more than a few people of color who are reverse mortgage borrowers, aren’t there?

    Does the commercial debunk the myth that the bank takes your home? Doubtful since none of the interviewees were introduced as former reverse mortgage borrowers. What the commercial shows is that these ongoing borrowers are true believers and have paid attention to what they have been told during the reverse mortgage origination process (or perhaps had a “reverse mortgage educational refresher” shortly before doing the commercial).

    This kind of testimonials has limited value. Who of the following four do you think has more perceived credibility about the benefits of military training helping vets transition back into the working world: 1) recent recruits, 2) personnel who are currently serving in the military and have more than one year but less than 2 years of military service, 3) currently serving “lifers,” or 4) vets who have been honorably discharged for about 5 years?

    The folks who participated in the commercial seemed like they have neither tried to sell their home nor gone through the termination process. They are speaking like people who have been taught something but lack the experience to validate what they speak.

    If my former neighbor, a retired RN, were alive and in her right mind, she might ask that if the contents of the ad were true, why is it that so few borrowers or heirs end up owning the property after the loan ends? Owning the home as described in the ad did not seem to help most of the reverse mortgage borrowers, whose loans have ended, keep their homes. Most of her friends had a mortgage burning party just before retirement and, mistaken or not, want to pass the home to their heirs as free of debt as possible. Perhaps not addressing issues like this are what is, in part, keeping the myth alive and well?

  • I applaud RMF for using real people and real testimonials. From my admittedly very limited perspective, I feel that real people and real testimonials resonate with consumers more than celebrity endorsements.

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