How can insurance maintain a strong brand image in a pandemic?

"We have an incredible reach and opportunity as insurers in New Zealand"

How can insurance maintain a strong brand image in a pandemic?

Insurance News

By Ksenia Stepanova

In the grip of a global pandemic, positioning your company as a strong, supportive and empathetic entity has never been more important – and, according to leaders, the insurance sector in New Zealand needs to be doing exactly that.

ICNZ’s third Speaker Series session explored ways of connecting with consumers through messaging and brand image, where the voice of consumers can be a company’s “best friend, or most vocal critic.” According to Claire Sutton, executive manager, customer insights and culture at Suncorp New Zealand, insurance has been contributing “hugely” to community resilience throughout the pandemic, and is in a unique position to connect with its customers on an emotional level.

“We’ve heard a lot about the ‘team of five million’ over the past few weeks and months, and we have an incredible reach and opportunity as insurers in the New Zealand environment,” Sutton commented.

“We are a huge employer of people, and we contribute to a huge range of charitable and community initiatives. Our reach is incredibly broad, and there’s a huge opportunity for us to think about the responsibility that we have in terms of creating empowered consumers.”

“What we’ve seen throughout COVID is that real sense of ‘buy local, support local’, along with the rise of social purpose,” Sutton explained.

“We’ve seen some interesting information through the COVID tracking that we’ve been doing at Suncorp. Consumers have really changed their overall habits, whether that’s a conscious choice for financial reasons, or because they want to live a more sustainable life - but there’s a really strong sense of consumers wanting to work with brands who have meaning.”

Sutton says that when it comes to communication, customers clearly value the swift immediacy of digital channels - however, she says a surprising amount of Suncorp customers also sought more personalised help through the phone, and having that option available resonated on a different and deeper level.

“Consumers want to interact digitally and directly, and they expect that absolutely seamless experience, and we’ve definitely seen that through the insurance sector,” Sutton said.

“Customers are expressing a preference for purchasing online, but we also saw through COVID tracking that they actually really cherished the fact that we were available on the phone.

“There are also some interactions where relationships are key, and the power of that personal connection is something we really need to grapple with in our bid to embrace digital.”

When it comes to advertising to a mass audience, the tone and content of marketing material has also been hugely shaped by COVID-19.

When thinking about advertising and promoting a ‘brand image,’ Xero creative director Pete Montgomery says that companies have a huge range of tools at their fingertips, even in a remote working environment. He says it’s important to maintain a unified ‘tone of voice’ across all channels, which can be easily lost in one-to-one conversations.

“For companies, there’s a huge potential in how to work with advertising channels to engage and magnify your message to the consumer,” Montgomery explained.

“The environment is ever-changing and complex, but the voice of the customer can be your best friend or your most vocal critic.”

“Think about the channels available - now, with a good microphone and some lights, you can run a TV show from your living room,” he continued.

“Be open to conversations, be ready to answer tough questions - and what is your tone of voice through social, and via your contact centres? It’s too easy to forget your brand and tone of voice and become utilitarian when you’re trying to solve a problem, but people do want human contact and they want to be heard. They want to feel part of a tribe, or a group of like-minded individuals.”

Montgomery says it’s also important to be smart with how you use your data, and not to deploy its insights in a way that makes customers uncomfortable.

“Target in America analysed the shopping habits of a young teenage girl, and started sending maternity coupons to her home address, which freaked out her father,” he explained. “This was obviously a bad use of the data they’d collected.

“Finally, have everyone in your company on the same page. Make sure your sales, customer service and other customer-facing teams are talking about and believing in the same things.”

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