Finance of America Reverse (FAR) has unveiled a comprehensive new approach to marketing its reverse mortgage product offerings including Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs), proprietary HomeSafe loans and its hybrid EquityAvail product with a new primary company website, and the employment of an original spokesman character played by a professional actor. These approaches are being made to appeal to new segments of potential reverse mortgage clients.
The new website, FAR.com, aims to appeal to a multigenerational pool of borrowers in light of new product availability options like EquityAvail and the availability of proprietary HomeSafe reverse mortgage loans to customers as young as 55 in certain states. The addition of the spokesman character, named “Gary,” will aim to distill accessible information about the company’s products in an approachable, plain-spoken way according to company representatives.
Multigenerational focus, emphasis on youthfulness
With initial work on what would become the new advertising efforts beginning as early as 2018, FAR aims to broaden the appeal of its reverse mortgage products by emphasizing that retirement and what FAR calls “pretirement” – a period of planning that precedes the actual cessation of work – is beginning at earlier stages of potential customers’ lives.
“Today’s brand refresh is the culmination of a multi-year effort to transform our marketing and reach new audiences,” said Ashley Honore Smith, SVP of brand marketing and strategic communications at FAR. “We made initial creative shifts in 2018. Even then, at that early time, we were thinking through different ways to engage with customers, whether by highlighting their own stories to inspire others or bringing our brand to life in the form of an advisor who can speak directly to our customers and their needs.”
The cultural component is key to communicating with potential borrowers, and this new effort represents how FAR will aim to have a customer-centric focus according to Kristen Sieffert, president of FAR. However, looking beyond the bounds of previous industry practice was essential to standing out as well, she said.
“It is very clear that FAR is continuing to chart our own true path forward and this refresh embodies the energy of our vision of helping more people enjoy a thriving retirement while also amplifying the deep personal connection we have with our customers,” said Sieffert in the announcement of these new initiatives.
The new strategy’s final form, including the aesthetic choices and focus on a spokesman character, began in earnest earlier this year, Smith explained, which is an approach informed by long periods of intelligence gathering on the marketing side.
“Over the years, we invested in research and fine-tuned our approach to ensure we were well-positioned when we went to market with new products, and much of the thinking behind FAR’s brand comes from HomeSafe and EquityAvail consumer insights,” Smith said.
Unlike other approaches taken at several other reverse mortgage competitors over the years, FAR decided to fashion a spokesman character played by an actor instead of other personality-driven marketing campaigns the industry has seen in the past. Part of the motivation for creating the spokesman character Gary rests in a desire for FAR to tailor the messaging – and the messenger – to the needs of the product and the attributes of the company, Smith said.
“We recognized that past strategies won’t work for tomorrow’s customers and audiences have high standards for trust,” she said. “We feel that Gary embodies all of our best attributes and our customer-centric approach. He can help raise awareness of our solutions and build relationships between potential customers and our brand, and he does so by fostering a warm connection and explaining our products in a simple, plainspoken way.”
There is additional value in having Gary serve as the face of the new marketing material in simple differentiation from other competitors in the space, she added. This is true both in the creation and presentation of the character itself and in the stylistic composition of the new materials featuring Gary.
“The result of this effort is a visual and verbal brand refresh headlined by Gary that creates a uniquely different identity designed to stand out from our peers,” Smith said. “FAR accomplishes this by utilizing contrasting color palettes and a vibrant, stylized mise-en-scène that evoke a modern aesthetic; first-person, art-directed camera shots that break from the industry norm; and an uplifting, optimistic tone that is empowering and encourages people to take action to prepare for their retirement.”
Multimedia strategy, impact on FAR’s business partners
Social media will be a critical component to the disbursement of the company’s new marketing materials. Gary will appear alongside a cast of archetypes drawn from the most common kinds of FAR customers, Smith said. This is in addition to more conventional forms of media, including television advertising.
“As with our past campaigns, we’re being very strategic in our rollout and are looking to optimize our efforts as we expand them in the new year,” she said. “To start, our commercials will air in a few select test markets in California, before rolling out to other markets in the following months. Gary is someone who is modern and contemporary; therefore, people will be able to get to know him through a variety of modern platforms.”
FAR’s business partners will also take advantage of new materials being created featuring Gary and the refreshed design. The company believes that FAR’s partners will benefit from the company’s efforts to reach new kinds of potential borrowers, Smith said.
“Our partners will benefit from FAR making inroads with new audiences,” Smith explained. “Our overarching goal is to educate potential customers about our different solutions, change category perceptions, and reach people who the industry isn’t currently reaching in a compelling way. New materials reflecting the breakthrough aesthetic will be made available to partners over the coming months.”
Like other industry participants, FAR remains aware of certain hurdles represented by educational roadblocks and past reputational issues that the reverse mortgage industry has consistently contended with for many years, Smith explained. These efforts from FAR represent the company’s approach to counteracting those issues, she said.
“It is time to change the narrative about the reverse industry,” Smith said. “Millions of Americans could benefit from the flexibility and security a reverse mortgage affords, but they are dissuaded by ingrained negative perceptions. Our industry must demonstrate that the interest of the borrower is paramount. FAR is leading the effort for both imperatives.”
Citing the company’s Borrower Engagement Division and other partnerships including one with the Stanford Center on Longevity, FAR is hopeful that this new approach to advertising and borrower education is a path beyond prior industry pitfalls, Smith said.
“Taking a new vision of the reverse customer and their relationship with FAR and pairing that with customer experience excellence is the path to transformation,” she said. “With the help of Gary, we are continuing to drive that change.”