It was a tough year for investments, but winners of Pensions & Investments' Defined Contribution Investment Education Awards nonetheless offered investment education that was personalized, effective and, even fun.
* Sunkist Growers, Sherman Oaks, Calif., kicked off its award-winning campaign with postcards that a couple appeared to have written to their son following their retirement from Sunkist. The postcards were sent to Sunkist's 1,000 employees; each pretended to be from a different vacation spot around the world and included 401(k) tips and reminders.
* Hollywood, Calif.-based EMI Recorded Music's entry aimed at employees "most likely to be saving for a couch, not retirement." The education materials featured pictures of an elderly woman with a guitar and a 20-something guy sporting hip sunglasses.
* Lennar Corp., Los Angeles, featured a number of entertaining freebies in its campaign, like a small gold egg pin in a plastic pouch with dry grass and gold-colored plastic eggs with chocolate inside.
While many of the winning submissions included fanciful elements, all of the entries were aimed at accomplishing serious goals, including encouraging better asset allocation, increasing deferral rates and raising plan participation.
For example, Sunkist raised participation rates by close to five percentage points. At EMI, 22% of new hires joined the plan. Of those, about two-thirds deferred between 1% and 5% of their salaries, and one-third deferred between 6% and 14%.
In the initial education print category, first-place winners were Sunkist; Sheet Metal Workers' International Association Local Union 137, Long Island City, N.Y.; and Lennar.
Southwire Co., Carrollton, Ga., won first place in the initial education video category.
CCL Industries Inc., Crown Cork & Seal Co. Inc., Frito-Lay Inc. and City of San Diego won first place in the special projects print category.
In videos, Saks Inc. and New York City Deferred Compensation Plan captured top honors in special projects.
BASF Corp. and State of California Savings Plus Program were awarded first place in the new media category.
In all, 21 plan sponsors received awards in 10 categories during P&I's Defined Contribution/ 401(k) Conference in Hollywood, Fla., last week.
Judges - most of them plan sponsors - also voted to give their own award to vendor INVESCO Retirement Inc., Atlanta, for work on a number of award-winning campaigns, which all included detailed fund expense information.
Winning entries in all categories were those that strongly identified with the plan sponsor, were creative, and clearly imparted investment information.
Sunkist takes first
First prize in the initial education in print category for plans with up to 5,000 employees went to Sunkist. This was the company's first experience with a highly customized communication plan, said Pat Culberhouse, benefit manager for the $12 million 401(k) plan.
To do this, Sunkist executives needed to get away from its usual orange motif.
"Before it had always been around Sunkist oranges, orange this and orange that. People were so tired of oranges," Ms. Culberhouse said. The new campaign, designed with the help of its trustee, Union Bank of California, and consultant Blue Conceptual Marketing, was different.
The postcard series was developed around the theme of "A Journey into Investing." One postcard first talked about the retired couple's trek to the top of Kleine Scheldegg, the highest point in Europe, and then read, "Don't forget to enroll in your 401(k). Mom wants to remind you to water her plants. - Dad" The postcards were sent every few weeks for a month and a half, ending with an employee meeting, Ms. Culberhouse explained. They also were tied to Sunkist with such statements as "The Juiciest Way to Save, Your Sunkist Match and Savings Plan" and featuring an orange as the rising sun in the horizon on one of the pictures.
Judges complimented Sunkist on creatively linking all of the information to its citrus-growing business. "Instead of using bullet points, they used little oranges. They spiced it up," one judge said.
EMI garnered second-place honors with a campaign that screams for attention with its vibrant colors, clever quips and humor for topics that are hard for people to grasp, the judges said. R.L. Polk & Co., Southfield, Mich., was third; its entry featured pictures of paddles and tree-lined rivers and themes like "Your Journey Towards Retirement."
Lennar won first place in the initial education-print category for companies with more than 5,000 employees. Its vendor is CIGNA Retirement & Investment Services.
The 401(k) is Lennar's only retirement vehicle, and company executives wanted to make it a more valuable company benefit, said Jeri Dixon, director of benefits and compensaton. Executives also had merged some plans together and wanted to present all employees with a more cohesive plan identity.
"We wanted to increase participation, increase awareness and communicate the moves to employees," Ms. Dixon said.
Judges liked the consistent use of a theme with pictures of eggs, nest egg and birdseed. An invitation to an employee meeting about the 401(k) was in a gold-colored plastic egg containing a tiny invitation and a piece of chocolate.
Nestle USA Inc., Solon, Ohio, won second place for initial education in companies with more than 5,000 employees. Judges appreciated the "graphically appealing" materials as well as comprehensive investment information that was easy to locate. AmSouth Bank, Birmingham, Ala., placed third for its communication campaign, "Real Gold or Fool's Gold, Planning for a Secure Retirement" that honed in on the bank's business.
Special print projects
CCL Industries Inc., Rosemont, Ill., took first-place honors for special print projects in plans with up to 5,000 employees. Its theme, "The CCL Retirement Survivor Beach Blast!" was patterned after the hit television series "Survivor" and was developed with Strong Retirement Plan Services.
Second-place winner in that category was The Clark Construction Group Inc., Bethesda, Md., with its extremely focused postcard campaign targeted to employees who had opted out of automatic enrollment, participants who had limited diversification and those who were not contributing enough. An example was a postcard that said "A little" on one side and "can mean a lot" on the other. Clark Construction managed to increase participation to 91.7% from 90%, boosted the average number of funds used to six from three, and increased the plan's average deferral to 6.8% from 3.4%. Putnam Investments assisted with the campaign.
Third place went to Carle Clinic Association, Urbana, Ill., for its 401(k) Day campaign that included T-shirts reading "I had a grand time at 401(k) Day," and 100 Grand candy bars. Eligible employees were encouraged to enroll in the plan, said Melody Henegar, benefits manager. The participation rate rose to 61% from 50%.
In special projects for plans with more than 5,000 employees, Crown Cork & Seal, Philadelphia, and Frito-Lay tied for first place. Judges liked Crown Cork & Seal's materials created with its vendor, The Vanguard Group. Judges said the materials were "eye-catching, bold and visually stunning." The message, aimed at discouraging participants from taking loans, was unmistakable.
Plano, Texas-based Frito-Lay's campaign included publications on various topics from "Why Stash Your Cash in the 401(k)" to "Be a Smart Investor." The material, developed with PartnerComm Inc., featured a cartoon character as well as photos of employees.
Tied for second place were Borders Group Inc., Ann Arbor, Mich. and Mars Inc., Mount Olive, N.J. Borders won for its mini-newspapers produced in-house featuring 401(k) word jumbles and other puzzles that were both entertaining and interactive, according to the judges.
Mars, with its service provider, The Vanguard Group, created a fairy tale about its 401(k) plan, featuring a romance of two M&M's titled "Once Upon a Plan."
Nordstrom Inc., Seattle, took third place for a campaign designed with provider Putnam Investments, that featured postcards and a bookmark tied to the clothing business. One postcard said, "Looking for something in green?" alongside an ad-style sketch of a dress, gloves and purse. Flip the card over, and it said "Just your shade." The whimsical campaign boosted participation to 60% from 54%.
First place for a special project by a public plan with more than 5,000 employees went to the City of San Diego. Working with service provider American Express Retirement Services, San Diego launched a campaign to introduce four investment options and to get participants in its 401(k) plan to diversifytheir assets.
The campaign consisted of colorful pamphlets and postcards with pictures featuring scenes familiar to residents of the seaside community.
BASF Corp., Mount Olive, N.J., won first place in new media for a corporate plan. BASF's website was graphically appealing and easy to navigate, the judges said. It also had a woman's voice that sounded extremely sophisticated guiding a web traveler through the site.
State of California Savings Plus Program, Sacramento, Calif., won first place for its Internet site designed with its semibundled service provider, Nationwide Retirement Solutions.
Saks, Birmingham, Ala., won first place for a video that introduced employees to a new record keeper, Wells Fargo, and an increased number of investment choices. The video also explained the quiet period and a new website. Judges found the video entertaining. It started with a 30-something man talking about retirement and then running because he'd missed his bus. PartnerComm assisted.
The New York City Deferred Compensation Plan won first place for a public fund video for its cartoon, "Living the Dream." featuring Sammy, the spokes-squirrel. The video also was placed in New York City with drawings of Grand Central Park.
A panel of 11 judges spent two days in Chicago evaluating the entries. Judging this year's awards were: Susan J. Mann, director of benefits and human resources information systems with Borders Group Inc.; Greg Landmark, assistant vice president of savings and retirement human resources with St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Co., St. Paul, Minn.; Patricia A. Riccio, benefits manager with Teepak LLC, Lisle, Ill.; Sharon J. Paulus, director of compensation and benefits with Deluxe Video Services Inc., Northbrook, Ill.; Variny Yim Paladino, senior associate with the American Savings Education Council, Washington; Edward H. Fenton Jr., manager of pensions finance with New Jersey Transit, Maplewood, N.J.; Ira Hoffman, operations manager, portfolio investments, The Dow Chemical Co., Midland, Mich.; Michael Clowes, editorial director for Pensions & Investments; Nancy Webman, editor of P&I; and Michelle DeMarco, promotions director, P&I.