It’s critical we find new ways of showing people how important it is to maintain and build on their pension savings. Otherwise, surely, it’s inevitable that our society will face a retirement funding crisis in the years to come?

We must enable our employees to retire with decent pension pots.

But how?

In my last blog post, I looked at the concept of emotional marketing. This is the idea that we, as human beings, are driven by emotional triggers such as happiness, anger, fear and greed, far more than rational factors like reason or logic.

That’s why you’ll often see that good marketing campaigns appeal, first and foremost, to people’s emotions. It’s why so much marketing is designed to make us laugh, shock us or make us feel good.

Of course, logic does have a role to play, but it’s widely thought that we often make an emotional decision first – then justify it with reason.

On the whole, in our experience, the world of pensions doesn’t use emotional marketing.

There are probably several reasons for this, including the jargon and the legal necessity to keep things straight.

But is our industry missing a trick?

Are there any emotions we can appeal to that will encourage more people to save for their retirement – and encourage those who are already doing so to save more?

Let’s explore how they could fit into our five-step Next Generation Savings model, which is designed to help employers guide their staff towards thinking about retirement – and making saving a priority.

Here are four examples of how we could use emotional messaging.



Ideally, people shouldn’t be scared into submission but made to feel positive about pension saving.

That said, some of the most effective public-information campaigns have highlighted miserable outcomes – take the drink-driving and Think Bike road-safety campaigns, for example.

So, one way to highlight the pitfalls of not saving is to include a range of forecasts in annual statements, alongside showing what current behaviour is likely to lead to. For example, a separate forecast could show what retirement income is likely to be if contributions are stopped or reduced. That might make people keep their existing contributions or even up them. Ideal.

Taking it a step further…

What if employers sent these statements to employees who are not participating in their pension schemes too?  The figures would show just what that they are facing in retirement. This  might shock people into taking action, and prompt some to move from the pre-contemplation stage to contemplation in our 5-step model.

Or what if we go even further….

A comms campaign could focus on the negative outcomes people can expect if they do not save. Spell out what kind of lifestyle someone with a minimal pension can expect, and the difference every few hundred pounds a month makes. Ask people to imagine their lives without a car, if they are unable to maintain their home and if basics became a luxury.

The more vivid you can make these scenarios, the more emotional the campaign will be.


The dry nature of the topic means that love is not something that usually springs to mind when we talk about pensions.

But building a pension is a means to an end. It's not something we do for its own sake but to enable us to enjoy life after we've finished work. A big part of our post-working life is spent with loved ones, so this is a key message for people who might need convincing that a pension is something worth bothering about.

Emphasise that people with good pensions will have more money to spoil their grandkids, to ensure their children’s financial stability and to be with their families and friends, instead of working.

Yes, it might be hard for people to get their head around something that might not pay out for another 40+ years. But it will ultimately mean they can enjoy their time with those they love without worrying about their finances – a great call to action.


The flip side of this is the guilt of someone who is not able to support his or her family in retirement – and in fact, becomes a drain on their resources.

How would they feel if they had nothing other than the state pension to rely on in later life?

Many people who don’t plan for their retirement find themselves living on the state pension, which can be a huge shock. Even if they can just about get by and pay for their heating and eating, it’s going to be a pretty frugal existence – so who’s going to take care of them?

In many cases, it will be the next generation. Nobody wants to be a financial burden on the children – yet that is what could happen for those who don’t make the right provision, and that can lead to guilt in old age.

This fate is easily avoided with the right planning, though, so tie in a solution with this message. Rather than simply highlighting how guilty people might feel, show them how they can avoid ending up in that position.


People like to be proved right. Receiving confirmation they've been doing the right thing makes them feel good.

There's the perfect opportunity to appeal to this emotion via people's annual pension statements. Showing them just how quickly their pension pots have grown can provide them with instant satisfaction, and a clear breakdown of where all the money has come from can add to that impact.

A chart highlighting employee contributions, employer contributions and the tax relief on contributions will highlight just how much additional money they have accumulated in return for a relatively small sacrifice from their own income. And once the growth of the pension pot is included, too, the result can be even more impressive.

Emphasising that someone who has paid in, say, £25,000, now has a pot worth perhaps £80,000 is a sure-fire way to trigger a positive emotion. This ties in with the maintenance stage of the five-step model.

People who save with a bank can also see that money grow each month. But nowadays, that growth is likely to be modest and the majority will come from people’s own contributions.

With a pension plan, the relatively huge impact of the employer and government’s contributions can look like a bargain.

Making that information big and bold on an annual statement can engender a very positive response. It is likely to cement people’s belief that they are acting smartly and reassure them they should maintain course – or possibly increase contributions.

Posted by Johanna Nelson

Topics: Employee Engagement

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