With ICICI Lombard already the largest private sector general insurance company in India, Shankar Nath, Head of Marketing and Direct function at ICICI Lombard GIC, now aims to associate the brand with a property or category that is linked to the brand promise to up consumer connect
ABOUT THE BRAND
ICICI Lombard GIC Ltd. is a 74:26 joint venture between ICICI Bank Limited, India’s second largest bank with consolidated total assets of over $ 91 billion as on March 31, 2011 and Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited, a Canada-based $ 30 billion diversified financial services company engaged in general insurance, reinsurance, insurance claims management and investment management. ICICI Lombard GIC Ltd. is the largest private sector general insurance company in India with a Gross Written Premium (GWP) of Rs 4,734.89 crore for the year ended March 31, 2011. The company issued over 56 lakh policies and settled over 81 lakh claims and has a claim disposal ratio of 99% (percentage of claims settled against claims reported) as on March 31, 2011.
Shankar Nath heads the Marketing and Direct function at ICICI Lombard GIC. An alumnus of St. Stephen’s College, Delhi and IIM, Ahmedabad, Shankar has over 15 years of experience across organizations such as Glaxo SmithKline, CitiFinancial and Aviva Life Insurance. Shankar also started an entrepreneurial venture called PolicyTiger which was in the online insurance aggregation space.
Q] What is your biggest challenge in connecting with the consumer today?
General Insurance is not the most high involvement category; it has been commoditized to an extent. Many times, people do not know their car-insurer. On the health insurance side, there is slightly more involvement, but there is lack of awareness, for eg., people would not do as much research on the insurance company for their car as they do while buying the car. No clear positioning in the general insurance space is one challenge, the other challenge is what do you focus on - the company’s brand or a particular feature, for us, both are very important but what does the customer want? We did a lot of research on this and what came back is that there is a need for General Insurance companies to establish the brand first and then move in to the product features at Stage 2. Where a communication challenge is concerned, we still need to build a degree of brand salience. There is also a challenge in striking a balance between the emotional and rational benefit of the product. The question we faced was: has the consumer reached a stage where he now wants to know about the rational benefits of the product? How much focus should there be on the sub-product and how much on the product, so we decided to focus on the health category and then ICICI Lombard standing as one of the important players. So we wanted to have a balance where there was an emotional connect as well as after viewing the advertisement, the consumer would know what the product was about.
Q] What were the key insights that prompted/resulted in this campaign?
The biggest insight was that we need to move from a feature-led functional campaign to an emotional campaign where we needed to establish the brand with the consumers. This came out after a lot of research, in terms of communication by others and us. So we needed to come up with a relevant emotional hook, this is Stage 1. We will continue this in the years to come, by way of different creative executions.
Q] What, according to you, is the approach of consumers to insurance in India? Has there been a change in the mindset in the recent years?
The approach has now changed in the health segment, earlier people thought ‘Diseases don’t happen to me, only affect other people’. Because of the external environment and the way health care costs have increased, a greater sense of urgency has emerged. On the motor insurance front, it is mandatory and will grow at the rate the motor insurance market sales is growing; the number of Indians travelling abroad is also growing, it is not only limited to the privileged set now. All these factors together have led to growth and change in consumers’ approach in a positive manner, there is also more awareness and research on the web. We are still not where we want to be, insurance is not the most important thing in a person’s basket of goods. In most cases, a consumer wakes up in the last quarter due to tax issues, but the number of people who look for information on insurance has more than doubled.
Q] How does the Aapka Plan B campaign position the brand?
It is the reassurance factor; to say that even if things go wrong, there is ICICI Lombard. I go back to that John Lennon song again and again: ‘Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans’. So ICICI Lombard is present in the background in case something goes wrong.
Q] Can you talk about the marketing mix for this campaign?
In this round, it would be 75% television, 15% radio and 10% digital. We will include outdoors in the next round.
Q] How important is the digital medium in your marketing mix?
Digital is very important for us - 6-7% of our sales happen through digital. There are two things the web gives – one is convenience, the second is price. For a pure risk product like a home or car insurance, the web is a fantastic way of fulfilment. There is a significant number of people who look online specifically for saving-oriented products in the life insurance space. For products like car, health, home insurance, end to end transactions can be done on the web and in this, we see a lot of movement. So we cannot afford to be absent on the web. In General Insurance, we are perhaps the largest player on the web. In terms of how much business we actually do and what our spends are, 7% of the business comes purely from the web, which is a reasonably big base. We think the digital space will explode, so all we are doing now is investing. Whoever is well-positioned has the right people, technology, etc., will do well in this general insurance space. Whenever we think of a general strategy, this is a space we cannot leave out. Earlier, whatever you did online, you did offline as well, and it would be 5% of the spends. But now, there are a lot of campaigns that have broken offline first and then online. When we are look at our media mix, online is a very important component.
Q] What are the other brand activities that ICICI Lombard is undertaking to strengthen its consumer connect?
We are looking on the social media side, and we will use YouTube aggressively, leveraging the Aapka Plan B concept. We have about 10,000 fans on Facebook. We have started pushing certain thoughts on Plan B, the level of activity will go up over the next few months. Just to find insurance, you or I will not be on Facebook; a brand has to associate itself with a property or category that is linked to the brand promise - so insurance promises some degree of certainty. We are attempting to clearly link the brand benefit or proposition on a platform, for eg., in a category like wellness. This will make consumers positively predisposed towards the brand.
Q] India is known to be under-insured due to lack of awareness. What are your plans to spread awareness among people?
I think the penetration of insurance in India is approximately 0.7% of the GDP, which is very low. There is significant potential for this market to grow. The health segment, specifically, is poised for huge leaps of growth, since there is growing awareness about the cost of health. Primary healthcare in one of the tertiary care hospitals can easily set you back by a lakh of rupees and serious hospitalization can burn a huge hole in your pocket. The market is playing out its part, the total health spends in this country is about Rs 3.50 lakh. Health insurance premiums, all put together, is only about Rs 11, 000 crore, so only 3% of the total health care spends in the country is financed through insurance. I see this market growing exponentially, and the General Insurance sector is in a very exciting phase right now. Within the private sector, we are the No. 1 player with around 10% –11% share. We are on a good trajectory, if we can create a more differentiated brand, it will help. In terms of expanding the category and spreading awareness, there is a lot of work happening at the regulator’s end. The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) has undertaken campaigns to raise consumer awareness about insurance. I would not be so ambitious in our task of expanding the market - it will follow in its own course. All the effort that the regulators are putting in will ensure that we as a player have 10- 12% market share. We we need to grow, marginally, in a market that is growing exponentially. My communication task is aligned to that, rather than a category that I need to expand on my own, because that expansion will happen. It is not a Coke or Pepsi where the market is saturated and we need to expand the category. I see our role more as differentiation and impact rather than expanding the category. We are under-penetrated right now, very far from saturation.
Q] What is the one attribute that differentiates ICICI Lombard from its rivals in this highly competitive market? What’s your USP?
ICICI Lombard is a trustworthy company that will not ditch you in times of trouble. It will pay your claims, it has high credibility and trust.