LOS ANGELES, November 16, 2022 — While there is no one way to effectively speak to the broad American population about retirement, the language used in retirement communications is important – and is often a more dependable way to communicate than imagery – according to new research by Capital Group, home of American Funds, and one of the world’s leading investment management firms.
“This research makes clear that both the language and imagery we use in retirement communications do matter in making an impact on people and inspiring them to take action,” said Toni Brown, head of Retirement Strategy at Capital Group. “As an industry, we need to understand how both are working together, and connecting emotionally across audiences, so that we can better educate, guide and support Americans on their journey to retirement.”
The study of 2,451 American adults included an audit of 590 images and 691 written messages from 33 companies across multiple platforms, including financial firms’ websites, social media, blogs, and marketing content. The findings underscore that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to retirement communications. People carry a strong sense of individuality and are attracted to messaging that recognizes and addresses their specific needs. The audience’s age, for example, strongly influences preferences for both written messages and imagery:
- Smarter/better messages, for example phrases like “saving smarter for retirement,” appeal most to Gen X investors who want to know their money is working for them to the greatest extent possible, while Boomers can find such language to be patronizing or condescending.
- Planning imagery, and language such as “plan the retirement you deserve,” appeal more to Millennials who are just getting started saving and have plenty of time to prepare for retirement.
- Imagery portraying enjoyment and transition rate higher with Boomers than their younger counterparts as retirement may be closer at hand and less speculation for them.
“The research revealed that people can have messy, mixed and deeply personal emotions about retirement,” said Brown. “At the same time, investors seem to want to know the pathway to retirement is doable, worth it, and in their control. When it comes to language, straight-forward, factual statements about successful outcomes resonate most.”
- Outcome-oriented messages such as “knowing that it’s possible to live the life I want in retirement,” are more effective than messages about getting started and learning. Respondents also preferred factual statements over product-related ones.
- Planning statements that position the individual at the center of the discussion around retirement, and enjoyment messages, are more appealing and likely to encourage action than negative language such as warnings of potential mistakes, or prevention messages.
- “One of the most common mistakes” was the least preferred message, with 58% of respondents reporting they did not associate it with feeling more confident and 55% saying they did not associate it with wanting to save more.