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Offering value in a commodified insurance marketing world

How can insurance convey its message when all audiences seem to care about is cost?

Your insurance policy could be the best one out there to get a family through the worst period of their lives. How can insurance marketing get this across when all audiences seem to care about is cost?

Not all insurance policies are created equal. And certainly no policy is the same.

Yet this remains the prevailing assumption within the domestic insurance market. With new aggregate and comparison sites like Finder and Compare the Market dominating search engine results pages, customers are increasingly seeing price as king when it comes to their decision-making. They can’t be bothered reading the 50-page product disclosure statement telling them exactly how their $5000 painting of a dog playing poker will be repaid in case of water damage, or give time out of their day to deciphering the legalese around sub-limits. Who can blame them – it’s torturous. It’s much easier to simply go online, plug in a postcode and a few other details, and go for the cheapest option spat out.

Commodification happens. And as a result, the rules are set to reward companies racing down to the bottom. Somewhat ironically, this very industry behaviour puts individuals and families at risk.

Let’s go back to that $5000 piece of art. With insurance policy A, a customer might be able to claim back the whole sum as part of a general claim. But in insurance policy B, there might be a sub-limit on fine art for $2500 – so that’s all they get back. Even if they never really liked that painting anyway and are secretly relieved those malamutes will never appear above another mantelpiece again, they’re still losing out on a painful sum.

This is a soft example in the vast, disaster-strewn landscape of insured life. The stakes can get far higher. Let’s say a customer is put in a situation where their home is destroyed after a catastrophic regional bushfire – a tragedy many Australian families are already familiar with. The particular contract terms of an insurance cover they bought at a low cost five months prior could mean that rebuilding their home goes from being a straightforward procedure, to a nightmare within a nightmare.

In essence, insurance policies that are comparable on price are often separated by a huge gulf when it comes to use and purpose. Yet the nature of insurance means that the tremendous real-life significance of minute differentials only becomes apparent to the unlucky ones: those who must use the product they signed up for. (Insurance is funny like that: it’s one of the few products people buy hoping to never have to use.

The challenge for domestic insurance companies, then, is to earn loyalty from increasingly fickle, price-fixated customers in an ever more crowded space. By starting conversations and building relationships – making customers feel you’ll be there for them if and when the worst should happen – content marketing answers that challenge.

A good bad example

What kind of content though? Here’s a good ‘bad example’. Currently, I’m signed up to a policy with a certain insurance company (that shall here go unnamed), which sends out a regular e-newsletter. I couldn’t tell you how often, because I unsubscribed. For this article however, I took it upon myself to look back over some of the content being delivered to my inbox.

One ‘hero piece’ was about the tremendous work the company was doing. Good for them, that’s great. But do I care? I do not. Another story was about how to stormproof my home. Not bad, except I live in an apartment. And while the only wheeled vehicle I own is a bike, they send me out two stories on cars.

None of these stories are relevant to me. As a customer, I am predisposed to click away unimpressed, feeling that this insurance company – that I am pouring significant, non-returning sums into, while potentially putting my life in its hands – doesn’t even know me. What makes this is even more vexing is that at least one part of the business does know me – after all, I gave them all the particulars about where I live and the fact I don’t have a car when I signed up.

Doing domestic insurance content marketing right

As the above example makes clear, content should always be tailored to an audience’s needs. If you’re an insurance company, you have all the insights you need from existing members. There’s really no excuse not to use them.

On your website, although explainers and how-tos aren’t always the most exciting kind of content, make sure to set aside a page. If your competition has them and you don’t, you’re setting yourself on the back foot. Alongside this, develop a targeted, documented strategy to supply customers with useful, relevant stories on whatever areas your company intersects. Last but not least: carve out your own distinctive content strategy.

AmFam’s ‘Dream Fearlessly’

The American insurance landscape is even more crowded than the Australian one. For AmFam, a successful content marketing strategy was going to take a little more ideation than putting out articles on faucet repair or the equivalent of ‘How to be a Better Yogi for a Limber Winter Bod’. In lieu of this, they launched the ‘Dream Fearlessly’ content hub. Here, sensible finance management is given a very American makeover, reimagined as the means by which individuals can power their life goals – both the humble and the grand.

Yes, the site title is a little depressing in its heady idealism, given the turbid state of US politics at the time of writing. You’re given to wonder whether citizens are writing things like “access to affordable healthcare” or “investing more in renewable energy” in the site’s interactive Dream Workbook. The site nonetheless executes its purpose well – offering compelling CTAs, star-studded motivational features (watch: Jennifer Hudson surprise-harmonising a busker) and a segmented articles page populated with stories which, if they fall shy of original, are well-written and interview-based.

A new site feature worthy of mentioning is the ‘Business Accelerator’ – an online toolbox for small business owners and entrepreneurs, offering articles, webinars and otherwise useful resources. Catered specifically to self-starters and self-motivators, it’s a good example of a brand defining and nurturing their core audience with relevant, consistent and beautifully-presented content.

RAC’s Guide for Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse

Okay so we’ve kind of moved on from the zombie apocalypse zeitgeist (never mind that TV’s The Walking Dead insists on shambling on). Yet while it’d never get out of the ideas room now, the UK RAC’s ‘Best Cars for Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse’ was a stellar culture-jacking of its time.

Designed by the motoring insurance company’s content hub editor Paul Wilkinson, the guide can be found within the ‘Driving Advice’ section of the website. Through an interactive series of questions, users are able to determine which car would most suit their personality type (a Lamborghini for the zombie-slayer? A Volvo for the helper?), while also helping them avoid situations which hypothetically end in them wearing their own entrails as a scarf. “The RAC covers all aspects of advice relevant to motorists,” the page explains with tongue-in-cheek rationale.

Roadside insurance marketing would have a hard job of gamifying itself Gran Turismo or Burnout Paradise style. By jumping in on the cultural obsession of the moment, RAC managed to avoid brand self-wreckage and still keep it cool.

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Pharmaceutical Society of Australia