This "Outside Consultant" column by David Alexander, associate professor of marketing at Opus College of Business, ran in the Star Tribune on Jan. 3, 2022.
People need insurance. It offers peace of mind when accidents happen or tragedy strikes. It’s there during the sad times, which makes it hard to think about during the good times. It’s a classic unsought product in that people don’t typically seek it out and generally aren’t interested in its attributes. All of this makes selling insurance a challenge.
Insurance companies use their brands to introduce themselves to customers and convey the company’s values and beliefs. A brand is built on the understanding that you can’t satisfy everyone and so you need to focus on a target market for whom you create a unique combination of product, price, communication and distribution. Branding actions work to create positive experiences and trust. The brand is the collection of memories the customer develops from their interactions with it. The more consistent those interactions, the stronger the brand becomes.
For those wanting to leverage an insurance company’s brand, staying consistent with the brand’s story and activities is the only way to unlock the value of that brand to advance your selling activities. For the agents of an insurance company, this means avoiding the allure of being your own person and creating your own personal brand. Customers come to an agent with expectations that have been created by their interactions with the insurance company’s branding actions. Any inconsistencies between the company’s branding and the agent’s behavior weaken the brand and make it less likely that the customer will transfer the brand’s attributes to the agent. A successful agent will know who the brand’s target market is and what the brand’s story is and use that in their prospecting and selling.
For insurance brokers wanting to leverage insurance companies’ branding activities in their efforts selling across brands, the key insight is that you must first create your own brand that conveys your values and positions you as an honest broker able to represent the customer’s best interests when looking across insurance companies. When comparing offerings between insurance companies, understand the different target markets the brands are designed for and base comparisons on differences in the brand stories rather than the attributes of their offerings. Finding the right fit between the customer and insurance company brand leverages the branding actions and simplifies the sale.
David Alexander is an associate professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.