The Responsible Way to Improve Your Marketing


What’s a small player to do when facing behemoths in a heavily marketed category ? How do you stake out a credible position when the category benefit is already “owned” by the big guys ? One approach is to discover and exploit a unique and compelling consumer insight.

Insurance is a dull category that yearns for creative Marketing–hence the Cavemen, Ducks, Lizards, NBA stars, etc. Everyone knows the category benefit (security) and each firm has a different way of expressing it. There’s Allstate’s advertising “You’re in good hands with Allstate;”  and of course, State Farm is still mining their decades old advertising slogan “Like a good neighbour, State Farm is there;”   etc.  And, of course, there’s AFLAC and GEICO. In the land of insurance behemoths, what’s a small player to do ?

Liberty Mutual Print Advertising -- Using A Great Insight

Liberty Mutual Print Advertising -- Using A Great Insight

How about discover and exploit a compelling consumer insight ? That’s exactly what Liberty Mutual has done with the “responsibility” insight. Like most great insights, it’s so simple that when you hear it, you think: “I knew that.” In fact, as Jack Trout points out in his book “In Search of the Obvious,” good ideas are simple, understandable, easy to explain, and intuitive. The insight:  most consumers think insurance companies frequently don’t do the right thing. Everyone has either a firsthand experience or a story from a friend or family member of an insurance company doing the wrong thing.

In my case, it was 1976 and I was driving my parents Volkswagen way too fast when the road changed from pavement to gravel. I fearlessly tried to negotiate a sharp turn at 60 mph., but the car skidded sideways and rolled over multiple times onto a public golf course.  Some golfers on the 9th hole rescued me from the car, where I was hanging upside down  in the shoulder harness — unhurt.  In this case,  State Farm did the wrong thing by cancelling my parents insurance — after 20+ years of family accident free driving !

Liberty Mutual stakes out the bold claim that it’s the insurance company that does the responsible thing — and by inference, that others may be less so.  My favorite Liberty Mutual ad  focuses on a parent doing the right thing after school with the kids.

And not only have they used this insight in their ads, they’ve now exploited it as THE marketing idea with the “Responsibility Project.”  Liberty Mutual has extended beyond ads into social media, as their web site invites consumers to share their stories of people doing the right thing and behaving in a responsible way–a great way to engage consumers and reinforce their brand benefit in the process.

Paul Alexander, head of marketing for Liberty Mutual, says: 

In a category where you find geckos, cavemen, hot dogs without a bun, and Flo taking you down the “Dave” isle, we believe there is room for a brand to have a serious conversation about responsibility with it’s consumers and customers.  More importantly, we do not want to come across as preachy or finger-wagging.  Rather, we want to encourage a conversation, especially around issues where there is more than one right answer.

So what’s the lesson here ? When you can’t easily differentiate based on your benefit, consider the possibility of identifying and leveraging a unique consumer insight. Developing great consumer insights is hard work. There are  several excellent books on the topic, including “Hitting the Sweet Spot: How Consumer Insights Can Inspire Better Marketing and Advertising.”

The most important learning here is to relentlessly focus on understanding your consumer and developing great insights. It’s the responsible thing to do, and in the best cases, yields better marketing plans and even better business results.

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One Response to The Responsible Way to Improve Your Marketing

  1. Jason says:

    Good questions, and good suggestions. I saw a commercial for Nationwide Insurance the other day. The hook? A new iPhone app that fills in the insurance form right on the spot with your location, photos that you take (I assume you’re not incapacitated by the wreck for this to work), and some other cool-looking features.

    I’m not a Nationwide customer, and probably wouldn’t have named them in the top 10. I don’t have an iPhone. I don’t plan on getting into any accidents…

    Yet they now stand out to me as a company that has their act together. If last week I had to pick a company that seemed most in tune with younger drivers, I probably would’ve said Progressive or Esurance (no, not because of their anime spokespeople). While I won’t switch my insurance because of it, they definitely went top-of-mind in an instant.

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