Brand builders: four insurance marketing leaders tell their tales of success.
Hartford's Ann Glover, St. Paul Travelers' Shane Boyd, MetLife's Ric Ritter and Hartford Steam Boiler's Denis O'Shea revealed part of their marketing playbooks at the 2006 Insurance Marketing and Advertising Summit, sponsored by A.M. Best Co. and the Insurance Media Association in New York in November. Here's a look at how these experts meet the challenges of insurance marketing.
St. Paul Travelers
With the largest U.S. property/casualty writers spending up to a half billion dollars on advertising, St. Paul Travelers believed it was time to become more aggressive. "There was a real need to bring clarity to what it means to be Travelers," said Shane Boyd, the company's vice president of corporate communications. The "Insurance InSynch" campaign is the fourth-largest P/C writer's first advertising effort since St. Paul and Travelers merged in 2004. It's also the company's largest--costing between $50 million and $100 million.
In 2005, property/casualty insurers' advertising spending grew 20%, making it the fastest growing of any industry. Boyd sees the advertising spending game being divided into three tiers: those that spend $250 million to $500 million--State Farm, Allstate, Geico and Progressive; the $50 million to $100 million spenders, and those spending $50 million and less. St. Paul Travelers was in the last group. "It was imperative to get out of tier three and into tier two," Boyd said.
The search for the ad message began within the company, focusing on research and dialogue. "We weren't trying to redefine the company. We were looking for the common denominator--something that works across two dozen business lines," Boyd said. The insurer's other task was to design the advertising campaign around Travelers, which represents the commercial and personal lines part of the company. Months of work revealed the company's new message: Life and business are dynamic, and people need an insurer that makes sure their risks are in synch. To relay the message, Travelers worked with ad agency Fallon and developed a campaign that didn't focus on products or services, but rather was a parable about being aware of--and prepared for--the changing risks in life and business.
Currently Travelers is showing four commercials--"Boxer," "Bridge," "Snowball" and "Sharks." "Boxer" was the first and debuted last summer. The commercial tells the story of a boxer training for the big fight, only to be knocked out by the ring's microphone. The commercials show up during popular live sporting events as well as during prime-time network, cable and news shows. The "Insurance In Synch" campaign also has a print component, with 17 different ads appearing in a range of publications from Oprah to Popular Science.
Boyd sees insurers developing more online advertising campaigns in 2007. "That said, I would not be surprised if the greatest percentage of ad spending within our industry remains focused on television for quite some time," he said.
Hartford Financial Services Group
For a brand that has a 90% recognition rate, what's the problem? Hartford Financial Services Group Chief Marketing Officer Ann Glover said while most baby boomers recognize the company's iconic stag, many don't know what the insurer sells. "Not many know we sell mutual funds."
In addition, the insurer wanted to change consumers' perceptions of Hartford being a property/casualty company. "You want to make sure the image of our brand isn't perceived as stodgy," Glover said. So Hartford decided to plant its flag firmly in the financial services world.
Because research revealed that most consumers understand how mutual funds work, the company decided to target the advertising around that product. "What we wanted to do is evolve the image of our brand from insurance to financial services." Glover said.
Step one was to focus the advertising budget. "We want to make every dollar work for us." Hartford decided to send out a steady, weekly message branding the United States' fourth-largest life/health and 10th-largest property/casualty insurer via ads in the Wall Street Journal. The ads, which run every Wednesday, appear on page D2 in the "Personal Journal" section. They include a "Buck Trends" fact of the month that gives independent agents something new to talk to their clients about. "By focusing advertising on investments, we discovered agents said this ad campaign makes Hartford be perceived as a company that has big ideas, a company that's thinking ahead," Glover said.
Hartford's affiliation with the NCAA has been successful since its inception in 2004. While extending the brand, however, insurers should be careful to convey their message clearly and "choose partners that share your values."
Glover joined Hartford in 2000, after 13 years in Pepsi's marketing division.
For 2007, Glover believes television advertising spending likely will increase for auto and homeowners insurance because television still attracts the broadest audience. "We may see more online spending in insurance advertising as marketers and consumers become more comfortable with how to use it. The online medium offers insurers an unparalleled ability both to target various user groups and to track results. Most magazines and many television shows also have companion Web sites. We might expect to see smart advertisers look for ways to tap into these integrated media franchises," she said.
Ric Ritter's job is to maintain MetLife's position as an employee benefits leader. Already MetLife is a big player in institutional sales--"88 of the Fortune 100 companies are MetLife clients," Ritter said.
No stranger to spreading a message, Ritter has 18 years' experience in the insurance and financial services industry. During his six years with MetLife, Ritter oversaw the company's first open-enrollment awareness campaign and managed the launch of its dental marketing program.
As vice president of Institutional Marketing, Ritter faces a challenge of getting intermediaries to recognize MetLife's group life, disability, auto and. homeowners products as employee benefits options. "The majority of benefits managers' time is spent on medical, so how do you get your message across in the small amount of time they devote to other benefits?" he said.
One way MetLife is getting the attention of brokers and benefits managers is to provide tools that make brokers and benefits managers look smarter, while helping them to grow business. The largest U.S. life insurer uses advertising to drive intermediaries to its Whymetlife.com site. Brokers can search the site for information such as the prevalence of employee-assistance-programs products based on size, industry or region. The site also is populated with PowerPoint presentations branded with the MetLife logo that intermediaries can use on business calls. "It shows the brokers we're there with them," Ritter said.
Ritter also uses MetLife's "if" corporate campaign to communicate the benefits of nonmedical health benefits. During last fall's open-enrollment season, MetLife's marketing group targeted three cities with existing institutional clients, using the corporate "if" campaign. "It's the first campaign I've been involved in that lends itself so well to the institutional side of the business," Ritter said. MetLife blitzed the cities with billboard and kiosk advertising and handed out free coffee mugs bearing the "if" campaign's logo.
Ritter sees advertising playing an increasingly important role in 2007 because individuals need more information about retirement savings and benefits than ever before. One critical communications channel is Internet communications, which deliver low-cost impressions and highly targeted messages, he said. "Over the next year, we expect to see continued refinements and growth in Web-based marketing."
Hartford Steam Boiler
Hartford Steam Boiler had 40% of the market in the boiler and machinery insurance business, yet only 5% to 6% penetration. "We knew we had to change something," said Denis O'Shea, vice president of communications.
Even though Hartford Steam Boiler offers a wide product selection, including identity theft, data compromise and medical equipment insurance, it was branded a boiler machinery insurance company. "How boring is that," O'Shea said.
In analyzing the problem, O'Shea discovered what he calls a simple solution. The company changed the name of its product to equipment breakdown. "This single subtle shift in product messaging had a dramatic effect, making people understand the applicability of the product to their customers' needs." The insurer also reorganized the company around the needs of other insurers and self-insured pools. Hartford Steam Boiler's commercial customer group is made up of small, medium-size and large accounts, marketed through more than 11,000 independent agents and brokers and through reinsurance agreements with approximately 200 commercial insurers, according to A. M. Best's Company Reports.
Armed with a revamped product line and a targeted audience, O'Shea had one more challenge--how to reach the commercial sector without an advertising budget. His strategy was a success. Despite using virtually no advertising, Hartford Steam Boiler has averaged 10% growth in the past few years.
The first step was to find out the characteristics of commercial buyers and where they get information. O'Shea used market research and surveyed commercial insurance buyers, agents, brokers and consultants. He discovered they are interested in insurers' reputations for delivering results and are most influenced by vehicles that directly address their issues.
O'Shea uses a variety of strategies to reach his markets and views the trade press as his advertising campaign. "We're pursuing a higher visibility on risks and trends in the trade press. We don't sell products, we sell problems and give editors insight into trends that are relevant to readers."
O'Shea is currently testing the waters of e-marketing. Hartford Steam Boiler sends monthly text-based messages, enhanced with graphics and Web links to a targeted audience of clients who recognize the company's name and will open the e-mail. O'Shea also recommends attending industry conferences. "Be a player, not a spectator," he said.
Property/casualty insurers, at least those in the agency distribution category, are unlikely to increase ad spending in 2007, O'Shea said. In a softening market, the pressure will increase to contain expenses and not erode earnings. "There's been a big shift to online that will continue. And new media like online interactive give companies a way to build relationships with buyers rather then just shout and sing at them."
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|Date:||Jan 1, 2007|
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