Insurance firms' advertisements fail to set out a clear choice for consumer

ICICI Prudential Life has a young couple talking about tax savings and better returns
‘You are the difference’ says Max Life Insurance in its latest campaign that focuses on a young protagonist who does not realise his true value as understood by the rest of his family. For ICICI Prudential Life, a young couple navigate the terms of their new relationship while elaborating the brand’s message about security and growth. A young man helms SBI Life’s ongoing campaign Main se hum that reinforces the need to start life, well protected. 

Across the ads, the narrative follows a familiar pattern and the actors wear similar expressions. The storylines are about positive reinforcement through familial relationships. There are 24 life insurance and 33 non-life insurance companies in the market today and such advertising is now a year-round feature, coupled with an aggressive digital engagement and marketing strategy; all necessary say brand experts and insurance providers to increase penetration. However, the heavy advertising notwithstanding, the ads mimic each other and do little to differentiate a brand in the cluttered heap of insurance providers say experts.

N Chandramouli, founder, Trust Research Advisory says, “While insurance brands try to differentiate, there is little or no differentiation in the consumers mind. Insurance is (still) bought in times of need.” 

To be fair, life insurance brands face a peculiar challenge. They need to build trust and faith that the product will live up to its service in the future, but without bringing up the negative connotations involved. Aalok Bhan, director and chief marketing officer, Max Life Insurance, says that life insurance as a category has evolved, from conversations around “fear factor of death” to “positive emotive life conversations”. 

“As a customer-obsessed life insurance company, we are constantly seeking avenues that allow us greater room to address the evolving needs of our customers,” he adds. The industry has seen a sharp increase in understanding and involvement of customers over the past few years, largely because of the sustained advertising and communication undertaken by private insurers.

Differentiation is a tough game. Sandeep Goyal, founder Mogae Media says there is not much that brands can do given the nature of the product but they can still do better in terms of the outreach and storyline. “The ideation lacks substance which is why the advertising is dull and listless, despite reasonably high spends,” he adds. 

The problem is that most insurance brands are afraid to move away from the pack, wary that they may cede ground to a competitor if they do something different. Chandramouli says the conundrum that insurance companies face is whether they should align with the industry to address the herd-consumer, or differentiate and risk losing out on the mass market.

There is a bigger challenge too says Harish Bijoor, founder, Bijoor Consults and that is building trust. It is a critical input in a purchase decision and most follow the recommendations from ‘family’ or ‘friends’. “The trust reposed by consumers on new (private) players is not as much as with the older Life Insurance Corporation,” he adds. Given this, the frequency of communication and the aggressive pitch is justified, but there is a need to break free from stereotypical storylines as is the case presently. 

Bijoor believes that there is a larger opportunity that brands can tap into. “Not all consumers have the ability to read between the lines,” and he says, brands could design a more effective engagement that eases the purchase process. Chandramouli agrees and says that those brands that enhance insurance literacy or offer substantially differentiated products will gain, but can they risk going against the tide?

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