Insurance is one of the most difficult industry to create brands for because they have a limited range of ways they can differentiate themselves. They make brands about whatever differentiation they can.
One insurance company writes on its web page:
“Around here, we do things a little differently from other insurance companies….Being different is in our DNA. It was when we were founded…And it is today.”
So, here is what one insurance company’s brand looks like:
- This company is not publically traded, so it claims to be centered around customer service instead of stockholders.
- They limit the kinds of insurance they offer, so they say they don’t try to be all things to all people.
- They say they customize policies so you get a customized solution.
- They are not too big, but they have plenty of “financial strength” and have the resources to provide exceptional protection.
- They don’t especially court “the rich,” and give everyone the same level of service.
- They say they take customer feedback especially seriously.
A fair number of insurance companies can make similar claims or make the opposite statements and make a relative virtue out of that. To most customers, the insurance industry is crowded and confusing. There are many options in the insurance market place, but customers don’t know how to objectively evaluate them and many options will make little real difference to them.
Making a brand requires that management has a clear understanding of what your company really is, what your real mission is, and to whom, exactly you want to appeal. A brand is precisely not a cartoon that attracts attention without a real connection to the company behind it. It can’t be grabbed from a catalog.
- Before formulating a brand, management must come to an understanding of company structure and identity.
Branding is often part of a company amalgamation, business re-organization, acquisition, or some legal process that requires managers to think about what the structure of the company really looks like. One company, American General, now widely advertised as AIG, had done so much acquisition and expansion that the company’s branding structure could not keep pace. The names of company elements became dis-unified. The naming policies got confusing. Acquired brands were not fully integrated and mixed branding elements diluted the company’s unified identity. The company took the problem seriously and instituted a complete brand overhaul. The new branding demonstrates an inclusive image and identity that covers all the branding elements within the big, diverse organization.
Insurance companies often have many branches and divisions, that do not maintain a unified image or mission statement that people can understand. Their company brands are fragmented so departments may actually compete against each other.
- Multi-branched companies should maintain a unified brand image so they are recognized as a unit.
Establishing a brand means formulating a brand essence. The brand essence is a simple statement of what sets the company as a whole apart. Creating a brand essence is creating a public myth about the company, based on a core of facts. The brand essence is what you want people to think about your company. The brand essence is a big circle. Inside of the circle are the core identity elements, all the branding that has been developed around all your company branches and subsidiary parts. Each core elements has to have communication elements which consists of the public presentations about each core element: advertising, letterhead logo, printed materials, signage, web content, even uniforms and vehicle graphics.
- The statements at all levels of your company’s total brand must have some grounding in truth.
If customers and journalists find unacceptable flaws in your statements, it can be difficult to set straight. If your contact with actual customers is not in sync with your brand image at all levels, the brand will lose its appeal fast, no matter what your claims.