News For All Of Us: The Principal Shares Gadget, Text Messaging Adoption Data

The Principal Financial Group distributed a press release this week that was good and then better, from our perspective.

Good that the company announced that it was now making certain retirement plan account information available via iGoogle gadgets and text messaging. Few companies herald enhancements to their communications capabilities. We see that when those new capabilities are being sunsetted for lack of adoption, and the marketers responsible for pulling the plug confess, “Of course, we never really marketed it….”

Even better was the usage data that The Principal included in its announcement. Rarely if ever do we see that. Thank you. Now digital groups of other investment companies have some numbers to refer to in their planning and benchmarking.

Jaime Naig, media relations, told us that the initiatives were planned for “frequent visitors,” defined as those who log into the participant Web site more than three times in 10 days from 8 a.m. to 4.

The iGoogle gadget enables participants to view key account information directly from iGoogle without accessing Here's a screenshot of a sample of the gadget as offered on Google; you'd have to be logged into an account to see an actual.

They’re syndicating content, baby! This is something that other industries do more comfortably and we highly recommend (see our earlier post Why Widgets Make Sense for Marketing Investment Products including comments about American Century’s iGoogle gadget.) The gadget uses the same encryption and security measures that are in place when logging in at To perform transactions users must go to the Web site.

The other offer enables participants to opt in to receive e-mail or text messages with retirement account information weekly on whichever day they choose. The messages include total account balance and personalized rate of return. The Principal provided this sample shot of the offer on the secure site.

Granted, it may have been easier for The Principal to share the data because they were pleased with the early results. Both the iGoogle gadget and text messaging offers have exceeded expectations. The first month goal for both gadget and email/text messaging was 400 users. Instead, 782 users added the gadget to their iGoogle home pages, and 1,470 signed up for either email or text. The first-year goal for both is 4,800 users or 24% of the customer segment.

The enhancements were launched in mid-May in what Naig described as a “soft rollout” in deference to call center concerns.

“The call center was afraid that they were going to be inundated but that turned out not to be true,” Naig said. “People who are interested in Google gadgets and text messaging pretty much get it. Both have a low degree of difficulty.”

The icing on the cake is Principal’s timing. As fate would have it, also this week Google introduced a series of social networking capabilities to turn the iGoogle start page into a more interactive, social experience. According to Techcrunch citing Comscore stats, iGoogle attracts 25 million monthly visitors, second only to Yahoo. The Principal’s gadget is one of 60,000, including no more than a few from financial services providers. But, search Google News for iGoogle gadgets and guess whose press release shows up high in the results?

We like this as an example of a limited hard-cost, staff-developed non-Web site-centric communication enhancement that proved itself at first and now is getting a boost from PR. At best, assuming they were uniques, about 2,200 retirement plan participants hopped on right away. The group might fill a small stadium. But the numbers, for the purposes of this post, matter less than the work and the corporate support it received.