You would think that a 137-year legacy of successfully protecting and helping their customers prosper would put a company in a purely enviable position. But for Principal, the global, Iowa-based financial services company, the power of their well-earned legacy was pressing against some challenging factors. They had to contend with low public trust of corporations, particularly financial companies, plus they were feeling the drag and image burden of a 30-year-old logo and identity.
While the company enjoyed high marks from both existing customers and employees, prospective new customers needed help to see Principal as an exception to public opinions about financial institutions and to see it as an expanded global business with a powerful direction.
At the core of strategy: a human insight
Principal’s choice of Lippincott as a partner in solving the dilemma was an ideal match. Lippincott’s extensive Human Era study not only provided an optimal lens for identifying the right strategic space for exploration, it meshed with a number of uncredited Human Era practices that Principal was already following. In particular, the core recognition that people today want to do business with people, not with cold, faceless organizations. This focus on human service, language and sensibilities would figure prominently in consumer-facing aspects of the final work.
Also key was how the work would reflect the expansion and diversification of Principal from a narrowly focused U.S. life insurance company to a broad financial services leader also offering retirement and asset management products and services to individuals, businesses and institutional clients around the world.
Through leadership workshops we gained clarity on the vision and business objectives. We then conducted a global study of 1,200 employees to mine for perceived strengths and desired shifts in the brand evolution. Whether by geography, business unit or tenure, employees were calling for a strong signal and recognition of the company’s next era — one that was already global, bolder, more collaborative and more humanly and intellectually inclusive than ever before.
At the heart of creative: a human gesture
From the outset, the objective of the new Principal logo was to express what the company has always stood for: helping people make financial progress so they can live their best lives. In a radical departure from the sharp geometry of the company’s long-standing blue wedge, the new logo’s form is rounded, taking its inspiration from the most iconic of interactive human gestures: an embrace.
The embrace perfectly symbolizes the always-kept promise of security that Principal delivers to its customers.
An embrace is the gesture we all feel at birth and it’s at the heart of caring for the entire span of our lives. The symbol’s movement evokes a clear path towards progress and the simpler, softer human forms also tell the customer that working with Principal is a simple, uncomplicated experience.
Together, the logo’s vibrant blue, the new typography and accompanying color palette form a look that is more accessible, confident and bold. Also updated is photography with dynamic cropping for a sense of movement that inspires action. Custom illustrations are also used to simplify messages and purposeful graphics, charts and color provide audiences with quick and helpful takeaways. Of particular importance is a new brand voice that includes benefit-driven language, clear calls to action and a tonality that flexes for the customer situation and need.
Lippincott helped us understand what branding is really about. Not just a logo or visual system but defining who you are as a company and amplifying the strongest elements of your culture with discipline and consistency.
— Beth Brady, CMO, Principal
The new look, voice and identity were unveiled to employees, with celebrations starting in Sydney, Australia, and continuing west around the globe. More than 15,000 employees took part in the launch day celebrations. It marked the start of a larger transformation for the company. From the clarity of their communications to the renewed focus on the customer, Principal is poised to expand on their 137-year legacy as a financial services leader and a Human Era exemplar.