From pessimism to empowerment: Insurance majors on brand shift - Part 1

From virtually scaring people to buy an insurance policy by depicting negative scenarios to donning the role of ‘Sache Advisors’ and even grief counsellors – insurance companies have travelled a long way. From merely providing a financial cover for one’s family after one’s death to empowering the family to fulfil their dreams – the focus of communication has taken a positive turn. 

‘Jiyo Befikar’ has become the mantra, which is reflected in the campaign strategies of various insurance players. Be it HDFC Life’s campaign that tells the story of a young woman’s transformation from a protected daughter to an independent entrepreneur, thanks to the strength that her husband gave her. Or ICICI Prudential’s #IValueYou campaign, which portrayed real life relationships that showcased how much families valued the hard work that the head of the family did to ensure that they have a good life and are well provided for. Or the Max Life Insurance campaign, where the husband gives his very reluctant wife driving lessons in order to make her independent. 

Gone is the ‘hard sell’ stance, and instead there is more emphasis on relationships, empowerment, looking ahead at the future with hope. Adgully spoke to a cross section of insurance industry majors to have more insight on the shift in brand communication, the marketing strategies and the factors that have influenced this change. In Part 1 of this feature report, we focus on the communications aspect. 

Shift in brand communication & factors influencing this shift 

According to Manik Nangia, Director - Marketing and Chief Digital Officer, Max Life Insurance, “As Indians take bolder steps in their personal and professional lives, challenging norms, becoming more entrepreneurial and shattering societal stereotypes, brands are changing the way they communicate. They have to genuinely talk with customers, and not to customers. They’ve got to now walk the talk more than ever before. Brands are trying to include more culturally relevant codes instead of just sticking to the category codes when it comes to communication and advertising.” 

While stating that there is a definite shift in brand communication in the insurance sector, Sapna Desai, Head - Marketing, Cigna TTK Health Insurance, remarked, “In the changing market scenario, insurance companies realise the inherent value of brands and consider them as valuable assets. There is now a deeper focus on customer experience, enriching the customer journey, customisation of product and services to suit the diverse needs of customers. The shift has led to a deeper understanding of customer segments and this has helped not only reach a larger market but also connect more meaningfully with the customer.” 

Desai further listed a few factors that have influenced the shift: 

Digitisation: Proliferation of digital technology over the decade has been substantial and we are witnessing disruptive business models supported by digitisation. Cigna TTK is not agnostic to this trend and is taking all the necessary steps to emerge as a leading health and wellness organisation supported by a very strong digital foundation. 

Data Focus: Big data is indeed big and has a lot to offer. Big data and advanced analytics can be a game changer for health insurance. Enriching and deepening customer relationships is just one of many advantages that data analytics can offer. Data can help create products that go beyond peace of mind and protection but can bring in more value such as health and wellness offerings. 

The Evolving Integrated Health Ecosystem: Health insurance is gradually integrating with a larger ecosystem – healthcare. Health is today driven by different platforms such as apps and wearable devices. Cigna TTK’s recent study revealed that 73 per cent of respondents in India are familiar with fitness monitoring tools with 1 in 4 using such tools regularly. Given this insight, the company recently launched ‘Get ProActiv India’, where its customers can earn ‘Healthy Rewards’ by syncing activity logs with the ‘Get ProActiv’ Application or by syncing with a wearable device. 

“The life insurance category penetration is very low in India. The ecosystem that we operate in is dynamic. We hit upon the insight that people were not buying life insurance for life insurance’s sake,” commented Sanjay Tripathy, Senior Executive Vice President – Head – Marketing, Analytics, Digital & E-commerce, HDFC Life. He added, “With our new campaign, ‘Apno ko apne dum pe jeena sikhao’, HDFC Life made an earnest attempt to reinforce the very core benefit of life insurance – protection against life’s uncertainties, with the poignant story of a young woman who goes on to open her own café with the confidence instilled in her by her husband. Today’s customers want brands to give them honest propositions which add value to their lives. This shift in the consumer’s life has been influenced by a number of factors like evolving social roles, advent of the internet and opening up of the market place.” 

On a different note, Martijn de Jong, Chief Digital Officer, Aegon Life Insurance, feels that a clear change in messaging is required as the customer is expecting/ demanding that he/ she is much more in control and is able to make his/her own decisions for the financial protection benefits of her/his family. “One of the key reasons is the DIY generation that is used to inform itself and then make and execute their own decisions. However, we noticed that the rest of the industry is relatively slow in catching up with this trend. The industry is still very dependent on emotional messaging and we have not seen any change in the way insurance brands are communicating yet. While the communication has taken a leap in terms of design/ look, the fundamental approach still remains timeworn. Nevertheless, we are trying to set a clear space for ourselves as a new age insurance brand that demystifies and empowers the customer to make his/her own decisions.” 

Upendra Namburi, Chief Innovation and Marketing Officer, Bharti Axa General Insurance, added here that first there was a need to see how communication has evolved over the years. He added, “Communication has evolved from uni-directional to dialogues and now social conversations with groups. Clearly, the need of the hour and the constant opportunity lies in undertaking integrated communication with consumers, extending much beyond ‘traditional’ advertising and straddling all touch points. Hence, how a consumer is welcomed to the service and purchase experience needs to be closely synergised and in synch with the overall communication architecture.” 

He further pointed out that consumers are now extremely savvy and well informed. Their relationships with brands are not influenced solely by the advertising or the consumption of the service, but also by the overall experience delivered and their ability to engage in conversations with brands. This, in essence, has made it essential that all communication modes stimulate and encourage conversations and more importantly, allow consumers to experience the brand. 

“Communication now needs to clearly allow for enhancing the understanding and knowledge of consumers to allow them to make informed and balanced choices. Transparency and trust are no more nice things to be done, but in fact a must. Insurance caters to critical aspects of care and protection of a person’s life and hence, the need to build trust and offer transparent conversations at every interaction point in the customer journey is vital,” Namburi added. 

From depicting a negative scenario to empowering people and even offering grief counselling – how has this shift in insurance communication happened? 

To this Nangia replied, “From a predominantly pessimistic and conservative mindset in the past, the mood of the nation has become optimistic. Negative scenarios hence don't find the fitment in today's context. Consumers are not looking at insurance as a crutch; rather they want brands to be agents of empowerment, knowledge and fulfilment of their dreams.” 

Sharing Cigna TTK’s perspective, Desai noted that when the firm first came to India in 2014, it did not use negative communication or that of fear. Cigna TTK’s communication to their customers was on the lines of We partner our customers in illness and in wellness and, not just at the time of claims. And we believe in “Health Hai toh Life Hai”. It’s mission to improve the health, well-being and sense of security of the people we serve. 

In 2017, Cigna TTK once again launched yet another campaign called the # say ‘YES’ to health campaign. This health campaign is designed to infuse positivity and affirmation for the set of consumers who are aware of health insurance, and are considering buying but are unable to make the final decision. It is within this context that Cigna TTK has chosen to # say ‘YES’ to health - reassuring customers that at Cigna TTK their health and well-being will always come first. The campaign leverages the product and service truths to differentiate and provide exclusive value to our customers based on their diverse needs. In this campaign the brand partners the consumers in the decision making process and builds a relationship that drives brand preference. 

Desai said, “From our offerings perspective, too, while we do cover the risk of hospitalization and other medical issues, we are also into health and well-being offerings under ProActiv Living program. This is done through a set of specialized tools made just to cater to the customer’s health needs! ProActiv Living is a customized, global wellness platform that is apt for individuals, families as well as corporates.” 

Tripathy shared the fact that today brands have realized the need to humanize themselves and connect with the customer at an emotional level to create strong preference and drive consideration. With this new campaign, HDFC Life is celebrating today’s hard-to-replace individual, the chief wage earner, who goes beyond finances and instills a sense of emotional independence and confidence in his family. Combining this cultural insight with the real benefit of life insurance, HDFC Life gives people a compelling reason to consider life insurance i.e. protection against life’s uncertainties that no other financial product can provide. 

“Life Insurance companies are realizing more and more the positive contribution they can bring to consumers and society, this is not only related by providing financial protection to the ones closed to you but also extended to ensuring that your will is captured safely and grief counselling. In our view, that’s the reason of our existence and all our efforts are aimed at this. We learned from our end-to-end customer engagement, that he/ she also values brands who go beyond their normal call of duty. Keeping these dynamics in mind, we need to be a differentiated brand that stands out not only for communication but the way we engage with customer,” said Martijn de Jong. 

Throwing some light on the researches undertaken by Bharti Axa, Jitin Paul, Chief Marketing Officer, Bharti Axa Life Insurance commented, “Over the years we have done various researches to study the customer life cycle. In insurance while there are 3 main stages of the customer life-cycle, i.e. – onboarding, servicing and claims, customer expectations are most heightened during the claims phase. Claims is the key moment of truth for the category. It is the main reason behind investing in insurance. A person buys a life insurance policy to ensure that in his absence his family will be taken care of. During such times, while insurance covers the financial aspect of the distress, there is a huge loss that the family has to cope with. This is when the role of an insurer provider should be beyond just a payer of claims and with this in mind; we have launched the Grief Support Program. A program to support the family in times of loss and to empower them to overcome the distress associated with it.” 

The life insurance company, under the Grief Support Program, offers emotional counselling, financial advice and legal advice (second opinion on will) to the family of the deceased. The aim is to Go Beyond and transition the relationship from being just an insurance provider to a partner in times of need. The same intention and underlying theme to Go Beyond is reflected in the communication.


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