Insurance brands tackle negative perceptions

Insurance brands are different but not better

Here’s a story that explains the problems of insurance brands.

It sounded like a simple process when the dentist said our oldest son had a tooth lodged in his head and a simple procedure would bring it down where it should be. You know, like in his mouth.

Insurance brandsBut the problem wasn’t with the procedure. The insurance company refused to pay for the procedure because the tooth wasn’t affecting his health – yet. If it was coming out of his cheek, well, that was another thing. Then they’d ante up.

Those kinds of stories have made most of us come to despise insurance brands. However, insurance companies – and other companies and industries with faulty reputations – can reverse that perception. They can even create preference when the negativity threatens to bring you down. You must find a way to reduce negative attributes.

The trick is not in public relations or even advertising. It’s not in telling customers how much they are going to save on a rate or that you’ll “get the protection you need.” It’s about being different and better. How those are defined is what separates those who emerge from a bad reputation and those who get swallowed by it.

Different and better insurance brands

All of us know the word different means what Webster’s says it is. “Dissimilar in form, quality, amount or nature.” But it’s astonishing how many insurance brands fail to meet that definition in comparison with their competitors. You see are a cornucopia of brands that are similar in message, tone and personality, not matter the industry. When that happens, consumers simply buy (or not) into the industry as a whole, based on that wide-reaching similarity in perception. In that case, they default to the market leader. (Read how to use your brand value to build preference here.)

insurance industry marketingAmong insurance brands, Geico, the nation’s third-leading auto insurer, is so often recalled because it is different in tone and attitude. (The other is the sheer amount of marketing dollars it spends, courtesy of owner Warren Buffett.)

Whether it’s the caveman, the gecko or the dollar eyes, Geico feels and looks unlike any other insurance company.

Geico forgot one thing.

However, it forgot the second part: Being better. Different is one thing. Better is another.

You could take an EXIT sign and turn it upside down, and it’d certainly be different. But it wouldn’t be better. Just because Geico is different doesn’t mean it’s creating preference either.

At its core, Geico is telling the same story as its competitors. (Read a market study on the insurance industry here.) The “dollar eyes” are about price. The cavemen are about easy of use. And the gecko, well, he’s all over the map. Even a recent spot featuring an actor playing a Geico executive with the gecko on in his desk is about all the things you hear insurance brands believe makes a difference to consumers: Longevity, value, etc. Blah, blah.

Therefore, because the message isn’t all that different and certainly isn’t better, consumers don’t believe Geico really is cheaper. It is lumped in with all the rest of the insurance companies we have grown to dislike. Insurance brands need to re-look into the science of insurance branding and understand that different can be better.

Reflecting back to the customer, not the industry

Having more understanding of your target audience means being better. As long as you go beyond the wants and desires of product and category benefits. Know what drives them as people, within context of your brand, by understanding what they believe about themselves and the world. And how that relates to self-identification.

Ultimately, we all buy ourselves. For example, consider laundry detergent. Many of us buy the same brand each time. Why is that? Have we have tested all the detergents in the market and determined which one is best? Of course not. We buy the things that say something about us and mark us as the brand. That’s how we choose a car, the clothes we wear and even the computers we buy.

Insurance brandsThe best brands – Apple, McDonalds, Harley-Davidson, Disney, etc. – say something about who we are when we use the brand to create preference. That approach also overcomes the negative perceptions associated with the category.

Insurance brands, adopt this approach.

Stealing Share recently conducted national research and found that 50.8% of all Americans say they don’t trust insurance companies. That join credit card companies, car dealers, tobacco, big oil, mainstream media and airlines as the most hated industries today.

It is astonishing how little those industries attempt to overcome the negative perceptions of their categories. They follow the leader, carrying continued unrest, little change in market share and preference left to the category benefits all the competitors have.

Maybe they should be hated.

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