More intimate approach can build life-long bond

Valeria Chiappini
Associate Director
Brand Strategies & Guidance
Kantar TNS

Insurers need to change the conversation to survive disruption

Insurance is dead.
Long live insurance!

That’s how we might summarize the fallout from the gloomy debates that have inflamed the industry in recent years.

Faced with the less-than-promising incomes of Millennials, in addition to the rise of “insurtech”, selfdriving cars and DNA-based medicine, the insurance sector has in many ways never seemed so close to Doomsday.

Yet we who work with the industry every day, listening to customers’ needs, fears and wishes, are confident that insurance has a long, bright future ahead. That’s on the condition that insurers are willing to radically change the way they see themselves and their mission.

It’s said that the words we possess deeply frame and influence the way we think. The time has come for insurance brands to dramatically refresh the words they use to talk to customers. Even more importantly, they must rethink the words they use to describe – to the world and to their own staff – the role they can play in our lives.

We urge our insurance clients to find new words; new words that reflect what makes people tick. If they are to manage disruption, they must generate cognitive dissonance in customers, using dramatically different words from those used in the past. And then they must live up to the new concepts they introduce.

Don’t talk about the future, talk about the present. We live in the age of immediacy, people want everything now. In this respect, the insurance industry belongs to the 20th century; customers of the 21st century want to see the benefits of the brands in their lives today and every day. Our research shows that the relevance of service-based insurance solutions has soared in recent years, and the rise of IoT (the Internet of Things) can finally turn customers’ expectations into reality.

It’s not about money, it’s about time. They say time cannot be bought, but are we sure? New apps crop up every day that offer to do chores on our behalf, so we can spend our time doing other things. Indeed, when people face unexpected events – the kind covered by insurance– they complain about the loss of time they face more than anything else (from filling in paperwork to buying replacement goods). Thanks to insurance products focused more on prevention than on repaying damages, time can be bought after all. And that really is priceless.

Don’t judge me, coach me. As in the famous Andy Warhol prophecy, we do live under the impression (illusion?) of being a little bit more powerful, because the internet means we can publicly have our say whenever we want. A look at voter comments and behavior shows  there is a prevailing anti-institution sentiment across many markets. We cannot underestimate the consequences of the narcissistic character of today’s consumers for an industry such as insurance, which is seen as among the most distant and judgmental sectors. Customers connect with brands they feel show them respect, which treat them like peers, and which help them become the best version of themselves, but in an non-judgmental way. To thrive, insurance cannot continue to be seen as the distant censor that – reluctantly – patches up our mistakes or misfortunes. Rather, it must be an ally, a “coach” that enables me to live my life to its full potential. Once again, technology can be a game changer for the best: from wearable devices to driving apps, there is more than saving money (by avoiding accidents) at stake for customers. Feeling empowered and rewarded is what it’s all about, and this means moving the relationship with insurance to the next level.

Ultimately, these new words we suggest the insurance industry adopts all link to one crucial concept: intimacy. Let’s just put our mind to the number of meaningful potential touchpoints a newly conceived insurance service could have with its customers over a lifetime, compared to the scattered, mostly negative ones (only accidents, payments, possible complaints and controversies) of most traditional insurers. The difference is striking both in quantity and in quality of opportunity.

We can imagine a completely new way of doing (or rather being) insurance: always in my pocket, always present and vigilant in my life as an ally, ready to act on my behalf when I cannot be there for my loved ones, capable of making a difference to my life in the here and now.

If the industry succeeds in achieving this kind of transformation, there really will be disruption. But for the best.