Although the auto insurance industry traditionally has considered pricing to be the primary competitive differentiator, one U.K. carrier has broken from that tradition, choosing instead to focus its latest marketing campaign on promoting the convenience offered by the online distribution channel. If the early returns are any indication, the choice was a smart one.
In January London-based Swiftcover (US$213.6 million in 2008 written premiums), an online-only insurer, launched a US$35.4 million advertising campaign featuring rock icon Iggy Pop. Known as the "Get a Life" campaign, the advertisements underline the convenience of purchasing and managing auto insurance policies online.
"In the U.K. market, people tend to be very much focused on price when it comes to car insurance. It's become very much a 'hygiene factor' over here so, in many respects, seeing a price message is expected," explains Swiftcover marketing director Tina Shortle. "We wanted something that would stand out from the market."
In less than three weeks after the campaign's launch, Shortle reports, the carrier realized a 25 percent increase in sales compared to last year, without any reductions in price. The company, which has a 2.5 percent share of the U.K. auto insurance market, also has seen an increase in the number of online searches for its Web site, swiftcover.com, she adds.
In each of the new ads, created by London-based advertising agency Mortimer Whitaker O'Sullivan (MWO), Iggy Pop highlights the differentiating factors of various parts of Swiftcover's online environment. "Our online lives can give us the ability to run our lives better and more efficiently," said MWO managing director Tim Mortimer in a press release announcing the campaign. "I don't think anybody has explained this properly through a big advertising strategy -- until now."
Among the differentiating factors around which Swiftcover, a wholly owned subsidiary of AXA UK, has built the advertising campaign are a 60-second quoting process that the insurer claims is less time-consuming than its competitors' processes; and a password-protected policy management and online document storage area, known as My Swift Space, that allows customers to access company communications, forms and claims information. Shortle notes that to meet consumers' expectations, messaging around price is still a part of the campaign.
"We have the ability to give advice and chat while online, without having to pick up the phone. We also have a comprehensive FAQ system, which isn't necessarily the case with a lot of competitors," Shortle says of other online differentiators. "We're always pushing the customer to think about continuing the process of their insurance [purchase] online."
Hitting the Target
According to Shortle, the carrier is targeting the 25-to-45-year-old demographic with its Get a Life campaign. "Basically, it's the profile that is common for confident Internet buyers: those people who are quite happy to spend ... online without necessarily picking up a phone and speaking to a human being," she explains. "They're typically 25 to 45 years old and relatively affluent as well."
But while members of the 25-to-45-year-old demographic may share an affinity for the online channel, many of their other interests can vary greatly. Shortle suggests that is one reason why Iggy Pop was selected as the pitchman for the campaign. "Iggy is relatively well-known in the U.K., and he does have quite a big following," she says. "It's a following that is quite broad in terms of age group, which fits nicely with our targeted audience."
Shortle adds that Pop's rebellious public image made him a good fit for Swiftcover, which has tried to position itself as a different kind of insurance company. Shortly after its 2005 creation, for instance, the insurer launched a marketing campaign that promoted the fact that it did not have a call center. "We used as our image chickens with headsets," Shortle recalls. "We were trying to get across the fact that there's a lot of clucking, a lot of talking going on, when you phone for insurance."
The Get a Life campaign, planned by Spark Media (Brighton, England) and Steak Media (London), is a multichannel effort, with spots on television, radio and in the digital realm. Roughly one-third of the campaign is dedicated to online advertising, according to Shortle. "The online [component] encompasses both search and various display and sponsorship deals. ... We are looking to reintroduce something we trialed at the beginning of last year, which is allowing people to get a quote within the banner itself rather than coming to our site," she adds, noting that the in-banner quoting feature was built in-house using XML and Flash technology.
In addition, an outdoor campaign will target business professionals. "It's transport-focused outdoor advertising mainly focused around trains and train stations, with a bit of roadside activity, to catch the consumer on their way to work or their way back from work," Shortle details.
As a relatively young company with an ambitious growth strategy, Swiftcover has identified both increased brand awareness and increased sales as significant business drivers behind the Get a Life campaign. "It's a twofold attack," Shortle says.