Max Life Insurance offers comprehensive life insurance and retirement solutions to over 30 lakh customers. In the past five years, it has established itself as a name to reckon with in a highly-crowded industry.
A lot of the credit for that goes to Anisha Motwani, director and chief marketing Officer, Max Life Insurance. A versatile business leader with a career spanning over 23 years, Motwani has helped Max Life Insurance be heard by spearheading a fresh wave of marketing and advertising campaigns across print, digital and electronic media. Prior to joining Max Life Insurance in 2007, she worked as director marketing with General Motors India. She also spent 15 years in the advertising industry.
In this interview, she shares her views on how changes in technology are affecting marketing and how IT can help an insurer like Max Life Insurance stand out in a crowd.
CIO: Much of your career has been spent working for FMCGs, and telecom, durables, and car companies. Was the move to insurance a challenge?
Anisha Motwani: Hailing from an advertising agency background, I wasn’t clued into the insurance industry and its consumers, nor had I ever worked in financial services or the insurance market. In addition, there is no product, per se, nothing tangible and physical. The fact that this category touches human lives so much was something I hadn’t anticipated—and to be honest I was a bit sceptical about how to market it.
I quickly realized that from a marketing perspective, it’s actually a beautiful category because it is connected to every single important part of a person’s life, including someone’s first job, the education for their children, and annuity services for retirement. It’s a very rich and highly-emotional segment.
How do you think technology is changing marketing?
There has always been a debate about what comes first: The message or the medium. Conventionally, we argued in favor of the message being first. Now that’s inversed and technology actually erased this debate. Today, the medium and the message have to be thought of in conjunction.
If I have to do a mobile campaign I will have to think about both the message and medium hand-in-hand. That’s one big change in marketing. Earlier there was a disproportionate skew towards getting the message right first, but now there is equal amount of focus on the medium as well.
Have social and mobile redirected marketing budgets away from traditional media?
I still believe that some traditional media (television) is here to stay as it continues to be a critical and important medium—especially for widespread and mainstream audience targeting. For our wide range of products and categories, television campaigns prove to be the most cost-effective. That said, with limited budgets and business under margin pressures, I do trade-off radio and print in favor of digital. TV and digital will be the main flavors for us in terms of marketing and advertising spends.
Can you share examples of marketing initiatives that made Max Life Insurance stand out in a crowded market?
The proposition of ‘karo jyaada ka iraada’ —the protection campaign around death—just took the category by storm. None of our competitors had actually alluded to death this closely and it created salience and the need for an insurance cover. We received a letter from the wives of army jawans who got very nervous whenever they saw this advertisement as their husbands were stationed at the border.
Then there’s the pension campaign which was built on the insight of projecting retirement as something to be aspired for, something to be desired. Another example, is when the industry suffered from the perception of mis-selling. We took a thought leader’s stance with the aapke sachche advisor campaign which addressed a serious industry issue of mis-selling in an interesting manner.
Isn’t price a decisive factor in your marketing initiatives?
Not in insurance sector. Here, people buy advice. Ask any customer whether he or she understands charges or why premiums cost what they do. Customers are more concerned with the savings amount when enrolling with these services. To draw a parallel, it’s not the cost of medicine that’s important but the consultancy given by a doctor. That’s the true value in our segment, too. Pricing does not play a role in insurance, it is more about the customer experience.
Being customer-centric is today’s mantra. How has technology helped you do that?
The IT department is certainly an enabler for us. For the digital piece, we do many interventions for the ‘end-to-end consumer journey’, from the time we acquire a customer to the time we settle a claim.
Then we have online communities. We realized that the single largest category buying insurance were people who were investing in insurance for their children. To leverage this core segment of parents (with children under 12-years-old), we created a microsite called iGenius four years ago. Our engagement with the parenting community has nothing to do with selling insurance. It is about creating a dialogue platform around the potent subject of parenting. Some of the subjects discussed on the platform include discipline, health, and nurturing talent in children. Today, the size of that community is over 1 million.
The best use of digital is when offline and online integrate to create great customer experience. For example, we created a talent scholarship program using a three-level online test. We then conducted video conferences with children across the country who were short-listed. We also ran a ‘junior authors hunt’ for children. The idea was to get them to submit stories and help them avoid watching TV. We received over 5,000 entries. We also have integrated our social stream which has been growing in numbers and engagement initiatives.
How much do you use technology platforms like social media and mobility?
On the social media front, we have done a lot including managing two communities: A parenting community called iGenius and the ‘khushiyon ki planning’ community. Since our product is for long-term planning, the latter community is about conversation and engagement which is about planning good milestones including marriage and retired life. People can also dialogue with financial experts on this social medium.
For the junior authors hunt initiative, we received entries which were 800 words long through the online channel. Children also wrote nano stories (140 characters) on Twitte r. We received more than 2,000 entries that ran as a separate handle on Twitter. For the aapke sachche advisor campaign we created a separate YouTube channel.
We also effectively use financial planning tools. We created a mobile calculator for our agents and sales managers so that they can instantly offer a relevant insurance plan with just basic details including income, age, etcetera. Mobile calculators and website calculators are useful and we leverage them to stay close and relevant to customers.
What about the danger that social media makes you vulnerable to negative posts?
Social is a very big balancing act. You have to be prepared to take complaints or grievances in your stride and acknowledge them rather than becoming overly defensive.
For the ‘khushiyon ki planning’ community, for example, we received a couple of not-so-good comments or complaints. We were happy that people were reaching out to us through this medium. We are one of the first ones to start an online reputation management system. Today, we closely track 27 to 29 such websites including our own community. Any grievance or negative comment that anybody has written anywhere on these sites (traceable ones); we spot and acknowledge within 24 hours. We have full backend for this tracking and response process.
How closely do the marketing and IT departments work?
If we do not integrate with IT then we could encounter all sorts of challenges. Once, for example, our system crashed when many students logged in for an online test. Marketing cannot go without involving IT as we have to project and predict the load on
IT and marketing (the digital team) are two parallel tracks that work together day in and day out. If our team wants to put certain images and videos on the e-commerce platform then IT would probably say that this would increase a consumer’s journey by a few minutes and would ask whether we were willing to live with that delay. We know the consumer, and IT brings immense value in terms of technical depth and being caution check. For example, IT guides us in not making the website or a mobile application so aesthetic that it compromises customer experience.
If we want to start social CRM on Facebook I need to coordinate with IT right from the inception and planning stage. We have an upfront dialogue to make sure we have server space, bandwidth and that other related-IT infrastructure is available. IT has a marketing spoc and we have a digital team and everything needs to work in sync.