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Insurance has always represented a challenge to the advertising industry. It’s not sexy, there is no tangible product to see, it’s not a pleasurable purchase to consumers and historically insurers have always been greeted with scepticism. What has changed in recent years is the way insurance has been sold. Going back to the sixties and seventies, Yellow Pages and Thomson Local was the place people looked – full stop – as the phenomenon that is the Internet was not even a concept. Insurers and brokers ploughed their budgets into these directories and even utilised alphabetically relative names to get to the front of each heading such as a.aaardvark and a multitude of dots after their name. This is not dissimilar to modern techniques used for SEO work to gain position on natural rankings in search engines. In fact at its peak, these directories dedicated even a coloured edge specifically for their insurance sections, it was that lucrative.
Marketing for name recognition is no different now as it was thirty years ago. Amongst the most memorable was the campaign in the early eighties for Commercial Union where their tag line was “we won’t make a drama out of a crisis”. Bizarrely, after years of huge investment and branding, following the purchase of Commercial Union by Norwich Union (now Aviva) they dropped the name completely. Other household names who also also invested heavily in their name also saw this disappear when purchased or merged. Notable casualties include Guardian Royal Exchange ‘GRE’, Eagle Star (now owned by Zurich – though they have retained the name for direct business) and General Accident.
The Direct Line group revolutionised advertising and shook up the industry when they vowed to champion the consumer and offer their products direct to consumers and have maintained this stance to this day as they also refuse to subscribe to comparison sites. The challenge they have currently is to advertise this fact continually in the face of overpowering campaigns and, it must be said, ease of use when the time comes for a customer to purchase a policy. These comparison sites have now saturated television screens to such an extent that it is not uncommon for insurance adverts to appear one after another. Will these campaigns be remembered in history? We have meerkats, rotund opera singers, singing girls and cartoons, all of which are insurance irrelevant. It obviously works as the author remembers them! Or is it just relentless brainwashing? So where next for marketing strategies for these players? It will be interesting to see how insurance is portrayed over the next ten years. will insurance companies rather than aggregators advertising particular markets such as empty property insurance, short term car insurance or cheap tradesman liability insurance with a view to attracting them online?