In 2011, California’s ScholarShare 529 College Savings Plan had almost 282,000 accounts and $4.1 billion in assets, but was still in dire need of one thing: a brand.

Coming on as the creative messaging consultant in January of 2012, I had the opportunity to work alongside Andrea Diaz-Vaughan in developing a completely fresh campaign to take TIAA-CREF’s new plan management of ScholarShare to the next level; we conceived a brand identity and ad campaign that would emotionally resonate with the target – parents of young children – and would move them to take action and open a college savings account. Our goal was for ScholarShare to create a relationship with consumers as a brand in its own right.

After an extensive shoot with noted photographer, Margaret Lampert, a new campaign we named the SHARE campaign – consisting of online, radio and print – was rolled out in August of 2012. We are continually developing layers of this campaign to support a brand platform for ScholarShare as an advocate and support for parents and their dreams for their children.

By April of 2013, 234,000 new accounts had been opened and the fund had reached $5 billion in assets, proving that creative that resonates with consumers’ hearts can also effectively move their wallets. As of January 2014, gross contributions were up 12%. In June of 2014, we will roll out an evolution of the SHARE campaign and add a powerful promotional component to support our account holders even further.

January 2016 UPDATE: ScholarShare has rolled out it’s new campaign , START SMALL. ScholarShare 529 College Savings Plan is at $7 billion and growing. Yearly contributions for 2015 went up 4.3% and account openings went up 3.7%, an upswing that has continued since 2012. 

The new Start Small campaign has launched in a big way: website traffic is up 411% and click through rates are up 133% year over year.


Here’s a glimpse of the original SHARE campaign: