Friday, December 16

Insurance: The Marketing Parade

Today I'm doing another post as part of #blogapalooza.  Those students at the University of Kansas sure are prolific!

I like this one in particular because it observes one of my favorite categories in consumer marketing:  insurance.  The insurance wars are almost as good as the cola wars, truly.  The subtle positionings, the emotional benefits, the creative executions ... makes for great marketing.  All in a category that is almost impossible to differentiate among the competitors.  Or at least that's what this student is taking a look at.

Ashley, what's your experience?  Jim.

As someone who works in the insurance industry, I am very sensitive to the marketing messages that the major carriers put out there. The insurance industry is one of the most competitive markets out there, and lately it seems that insurance is the most vigorously advertised product out there. Perhaps because insurance applies to everyone, insurance companies including Geico, Farmers, Travelers, Progressive, AllState, and State Farm attempt to reach the broadest audience possible via humor and emotional appeal. But is it really working? Which one of these giants is actually doing it right?

The primary goal is to get you to switch. Visit a local agent or go online and get a quote. If it's cheaper, the vast majority will typically switch. Unfortunately, this is the primary goal. That is one of the biggest mistakes that carriers like Progressive have made: being cheaper than the other guy is not really a valid value proposition. What are you really paying for? You are paying for claims service that you may or may not ever use. That is the underlying value proposition offered by insurance companies: in return for paying a premium, you will be covered in the event of a loss (granted that you have appropriate coverage on your policy). It seems that a lot of people tend to forget this, because since insurance is legally required for most of the property they own, and if it is never used, they find it wasteful.

But when an unfortunate event does happen, it really is the most comforting thing to know that the resource is available to fix your wrecked car, a flooded basement, a burnt-down house. "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there." "You're in good hands." These types of messages truly communicate a sense of comfort and support that are relevant to the services insurance provides. The Travelers commercial showing a dog feeling safe that his bone is protected by the Travelers umbrella appeals to emotion and sends the appropriate message. State Farm advertises that its agents will be at your side in the snap of a finger.

On the other hand, there are now such a wide variety of gimmicks it's gotten out of hand. I know nothing about Progressive's claims services, all I know is that you can get it online and they compare prices between top companies. I do not really see any value being offered by Progressive, though it is one of the top carriers around (because as I said earlier, most customers are obsessed with the premium prices above all). 

Geico has gone ad-crazy in the past few years: what is the purpose of having multiple campaigns with several different mascots running at the same time? I am still waiting for someone to explain that to me. There's a gecko, a caveman, a stack of dollar bills with eyeballs, and the list goes on forever. It's confusing, and the fact that these advertisements are ongoing at the same time, it's almost as if Geico wants to compete with Geico. Geico is probably the farthest off from sending out relevant messages to its target audience, but it works because for some reason, people buy into the humor.

If insurance shoppers truly understood the product better, there wouldn't be as much of a dog-and-pony show going on among these corporations. I think humor is a great way to appeal to a wide audience, but it seems that in a lot of these campaigns the real purpose is lost. Perhaps the problem is that insurance marketers know the audience TOO well: after interviewing focus groups or surveying customers, it's possible that the truth came out that the only thing insurance customers seek is the lowest premium. So I could be completely off base, as maybe companies like Progressive and Geico are actually doing it right because they know the ultimate goal of the customer. 

As an industry professional and a customer, I just feel that the companies doing it right truly market what they are offering besides 15% off: don't customers need to know what they are paying for?

- Ashley Schulte, student at the University of Kansas

1 comment:

  1. I think your online service is really favorable for the local and global Viewers. any ways! i really like the way you expressed your thoughts!

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