Design Thinking Case Study: MassMutual & Society of Grownups

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Design thinking meets the financial planning industry in this case study on MassMutual's Society of Grownups. In this lesson, you'll learn more about the design thinking process behind this initiative.

Young People and Money

Despite its importance, the concept of financial planning feels like an overwhelming and decidedly un-fun thing to do. A very grown-up thing to do, which might be where Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company got its inspiration for a new venture it named the ''Society of Grownups.''

In conjunction with consulting firm IDEO, MassMutual wanted to create a more modern and less intimidating answer to financial planning for millennials. The insurance company's vision was to make it simpler to help consumers figure out college savings plans for future children, how to budget for groceries, and ways to pay off debt.

From idea to fruition, however, were some important steps of design thinking, a human-based approach to solving consumers' problems. That's where MassMutual and IDEO teamed up to do research and create the Society of Grownups over a two-year span.

MassMutual's Design Thinking

MassMutual already had the idea of making financial planning more attractive to a younger audience. What they didn't have were consumers' pain points and a plan for exactly how to construct its idea.


MassMutual worked with IDEO to research consumers' thoughts toward money. The goal was to empathize with users and figure out what their values and financial goals were. MassMutual initially had the goal of trying to sell life insurance and other financial products to a younger audience. They asked questions to determine where their consumers' life goals, such as paying off students loans or having children, fell on the timeline of their lives.


What the research team discovered was that people either had a good understanding of financial matters or they didn't. There didn't seem to be any middle ground. So, that millennial audience they thought they were targeting wasn't really even out there. They discovered that people needed to be taught how to get re-engaged in their own financial futures, and then they developed tools to help them. Most of their audience was still trying to figure out how to pay off debts and had little to no understanding of basic financial planning concepts.


Once MassMutual knew more about its audience and defined its problem, it was time to brainstorm ideas for reaching them. The target audience needed not just a single resource or tool, but a host of them covering many different areas of millennials' financial future. They settled on the concept of a brick-and-mortar store as well as a comprehensive assortment of online tools. Designers suggested that digital tools might be more useful for a young audience accustomed to texting and using apps and suggested those as options for implementation.

Prototype and Test

IDEO and MassMutual built six full-scale prototypes of the retail atmosphere they were considering, and tested more than 700 name options in order to settle on the ''Society Of Grownups.'' The team prototyped and tested everything from the pencils in the retail location to how to advertise the concept to the website they would launch.

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