Freedom 55: Canada’s Most Memorable Marketing Campaign?

Jeff Swystun
3 min readAug 27, 2018

It is hard to believe that it has been over 30 years. In 1984, London Life Insurance Company hit on an insight through consumer research that would become part of Canadiana. Arugably, it is the country’s Just Do It or Got Milk?. London Life established the idea of Freedom 55. It resonated and led to ubiquitous marketing campaigns and TV ads that ran continuously for 25 years.

Freedom 55 is more than a slogan or ad because it was never intended to be. It was the insurer’s attempt to alert Canadians to what it took to retire. And to retire well at a relatively young age. For the vast majority though, we now know that packing in the career at 55 is a healthy fiction. For many, 65 is a stretch.

Yet, for 25 years London Life dined out on Freedom 55 as a brand position and marketing differentiator. Then in 2012, they shifted gears and recognized both life’s and the global economy’s uncertain variables. “It has to be rooted in reality, otherwise people will disengage, and get distracted by the grandness of it all,” said Alf Goodall, SVP, Marketing at London Life at that time.

There was, and still is, tons of goodwill in the notion of Freedom 55. No one put the blame on London Life for a rapidly unattainable goal. As Alf Goodall pointed out in 2012, “People are very willing to broaden their perception of Freedom 55. We were the ones who were trapped a little bit in its literal imagery.” This is one of those rare cases where the populace was educated and sharp enough to separate concept from hyperbole. As early as 2010, only 28% of Canadians expected to attain financial “freedom” at 66, according to Ipsos Reid.

From a marketing point-of-view, Freedom 55 is a homerun. It is part of colloquial Canadian lexicon, London Life rebranded its financial security planning arm as Freedom 55 Financial (another rarity where a marketing line becomes operationalized) and has become a self-deprecating punchline for Canadians who live by self-deprecation (just listen to us talk about weather and hockey).

The idea of Freedom 55 has been rocked not only by financial insecurity but by two other facts. We now live longer. And anecdotally and statistically, those who do head to the golf course or beach after an early or fortuitous retirement soon find themselves incredibly bored. So, the longer we live, the longer we will end up working and searching out fulfilment.

That is the new insight that Freedom 55 Financial is harvesting in its current marketing. It is not prescriptive in what makes up “freedom”. Freedom may give you enough financial secucurity to open a yoga studio, write a bestseller, or enter an Ironman. Freedom is yours to define. This is a smart evolution. It still alerts Canadians to what they need to get by and even thrive, but it puts it in personal terms.

It does something the first insight and 25 years of Freedom 55 marketing did not do. It adds emotion to the equation. And nothing connects a brand and people more effectively than emotion.



Jeff Swystun

Business, Brand & Writing Strategies. Former CMO at Interbrand, Chief Communications Officer at DDB Worldwide, Principal Consultant at Price Waterhouse.