Tell Stories That Connect with Your Customers

Seth Godin says that if you put people first and build relationships with your customers, you will stay relevant.

He defines brand as “the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

It is true that the most successful brands tell powerful stories. But with insurance, those relationships are tangled up with complex issues of public distrust—increased litigation and liability issues post COVID-19 have caused considerable reputational damage to the industry. And I’m afraid that the tarnish is broad and wide, whether you are directly involved or not.

So, your brand matters now more than ever.

The question is, how can you create trust that your customers will connect to?

Tell your customers’ stories

To understand the difficulties of insurance marketing, we need to recognize that it is a topic that most people don’t want to discuss.  We buy insurance because we are afraid—not because we want it. It is about losing our loved ones, our homes, our livelihoods, the precious gifts that are more about memories than value.

The best insurance marketing speaks to these fears, providing understanding, care, reassurance and protection to the communities that might be affected.

To build this into a campaign takes tact, empathy and, above all, authenticity.

Let’s take a look at AIG Life UK’s campaign, This is for Them, that was nominated for The Drum Marketing Awards 2020. 

The visual above and the commercials immediately make it clear that the campaign rests on the themes of loyalty, legacy and protection: “This is about so much more than us.”

But why the All Blacks?

AIG has been the corporate sponsor of the All Blacks since 2012 and they came to realize that the values of the team perfectly illustrate the values of their life insurance.

Sue Helmont, Marketing Director at AIG Life, said: “The All Blacks live and breathe a philosophy of selflessness and responsibility” and that “the insurance that someone buys from AIG is about leaving a legacy to protect and look after others.”

That is why the campaign works so well. It takes a customer’s fundamental story—the need to protect their loved ones—and makes AIG insurance that protection.

It is self-evident that telling your customers’ stories creates brand empathy, but building trust and authenticity is essential to retaining it.

So how can you do this?

By representing the values that your customers defend.

Align to your customers’ values

The 5WPR 2020 Consumer Culture Report found that 83% of millennials, 73% of 35-55 year olds and 60% of people who are 55+ prefer buying from brands that align to their values.

Brand value is a “must have” for attracting and retaining customers.

So, it makes sense that NRMA Insurance got together with Storyation to create and run a campaign called “Stories of Help” that was designed to elevate their brand values above the noise of distrust and criticism that resulted from the Australian Royal Commission

“Stories of Help” moved the organization away from product level branding to championing local heroes. The stories were then posted on social media to create meaningful conversations within communities.

The tweets below shows why these real, everyday interactions quickly went viral.

The campaign was not about selling. It was about the remarkable kindness of communities and the value of ordinary connection.  The attention was on journalistic style story-telling that reinforced the brand slogan, “Help is Who We Are.”

The television ad of Mark Bresciano (an Australian footballer), tells how he tied the shoelace of a young mascot on crutches after the national anthem to do “what any other dad would do.”

@TysonTruths tweeted, “Wow, love this animation style and the story is heart-warming and simple. Inspiring in more ways than one”.

The results were impressive. NRMA gained 31.2% of social media engagement across all financial services brands and 75.74% of insurance engagement. The number of readers for the blog doubled in four months. It was Gold Winner for Best Content Marketing Program in Financial Services at the Content Marketing Awards 2019—and the awards just keep on coming.

But, what about the real test?

Well, NRMA was named one of Australia’s top 20 brands in 2019 by NewsCred, putting it alongside Mercedes Benz and Australia Post.

So, we know that we need to tell our customers’ stories, listen to their conversations and align to their values.  But none of this will mean anything if you don’t follow up with strong, positive actions.

Be insanely honest

Yes, you read it right.

In a world that is sometimes quite tricky, where the truth is hard to pin down, honesty is gold dust—and none of us would say no to a bit of that, would we?

Doug Kessler, advocates what he terms “Insane honesty in content marketing.” Or, “finding your weakest points and showcasing them for all to see.” His premise is that, if you make a mistake, or have a weakness, you need to own it.  And your customers agree—94% of consumers would be more loyal to brands that are honest and transparent. 

Esurance ran a campaign 2018 which celebrates transparency by showing the set behind the television ad and using powerful, unexpected language: “Now, you might not believe any of this since this is a television commercial, but that’s why they’re being so transparent.” 

In 2017, Liberty Mutual ran a television ad that had the slogan, “You only pay for what you need,” that implicitly sets the company against its less transparent counterparts.

These companies are trying to embed themselves into their communities to gain the natural traction that independent agencies already have. So, it makes sense for you to use “insane honesty” to set yourself apart from large insurance companies and take them on directly in terms of trust, transparency and reliability.

Why this matters

We need to remember that brand perception is owned by consumers. The best way to deliver brands that people relate to is to set your brand identity within the community and its values.

Campaigns like AIG’s and NRMA’s rest on a solid idea that is well executed and within the reach of smaller, independent insurance agencies that do not have mega budgets but have the advantage of being deeply rooted in local communities.

Dani Kimble, Chief Marketing Officer at O’Neill Insurance says, “I’ve found that unplanned, in-the-moment content gets the most engagement. For example, instead of scheduling a generic post for National Donut Day, I might film the O’Neill team walking to the local bakery for donuts. This approach is less efficient than scheduled posts, but it makes our agency more relatable to people in our community.”

So, it’s not a huge leap to go from a local business to being at the heart of the community and its values.

Are you ready to take up the challenge?

 

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