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Innovation: Insurance Is No Laughing Matter

Is it me or has every big insurance company decided that the way to get new customers is to act like they can make a joke, or take one? I mean, how does a wacky insurance lady, green lizard, or a magically appearing “hot” agent sell an insurance product? Granted, many of these companies are appealing to price as the major differentiator among providers; and sure, they are trying to make their advertising (and themselves) memorable. But really, is that going to get me to reach out and pick up the phone?

Is it me or has every big insurance company decided that the way to get new customers is to act like they can make a joke, or take one?

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I mean, how does a wacky insurance lady, green lizard, or a magically appearing “hot” agent sell an insurance product? Granted, many of these companies are appealing to price as the major differentiator among providers; and sure, they are trying to make their advertising (and themselves) memorable. But really, is that going to get me to reach out and pick up the phone?

The question any action-biased marketer would ask is: Where is the compelling call to action? How are these ads converting recall into sales? And where do the “hot” agents come in? As to the latter, what I liked about the “hot” agent spot was that it ran during the “American Idol” finale and was pretty well targeted to a young female consumer who is likely to be watching that show. But perhaps it is time for these insurance companies to give consumers a clearer reason to care about whom they do business with?

This is insurance, after all. It’s the prototypical ‘grudge purchase.’ It’s a product you pay for hoping you will never need it. Yes, accidents are still worse than having to buy the insurance, even when the insurer comes through with the check, although I sometimes wonder. But nearly as bad as having an accident is the prospect of having to change providers. The reality is that most people simply pay their premiums month after month, year after year, without ever considering switching. What makes people consider switching is some kind of bad experience–like not getting a check. Still, the more policies you have with the same insurer, the less likely you would be to switch. It’s just human nature.

So what is selling insurance these days? Price is still a key factor. After all, everybody is trying to save where they can. But that begs the question: Has this become a commodity category? Are brands less important now because you and I realize that every insurance company has the same basic offering? If you pay your premiums and have a problem, will they write me a check? It seems like the biggest risk consumers are running with insurance is whether their insurer is good for the money. I presume with all the financial fallout of late this is perhaps not an unrealistic fear.

So how do you decide?

Was there ever a more perfect opportunity for one company to stand out from the crowd and take a real position that could give consumers a reason to notice. Innovation in the huge insurance marketplace, and more importantly, by your insurance company, could well be something you’d want to talk about and share with others who are dissatisfied with their insurers. For example, what about a badge that says “I make smart choices, I am protected, my family is protected, I care about that”? Yeah, I know the talking lizard thing is cute; and maybe I’m not the only one who trusts almost anyone with an accent. But with every insurance company selling their own joke, you have to ask yourself, in the immortal words of Clara Peller, Where’s the beef?

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The Game Changer • Los Angeles • www.catapultmarketing.com

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