How Aviva Is Disrupting Through ‘Digital First’

Lindsay Forster, customer marketing director at the U.K.-based insurance firm, discusses the organization’s “Good Thinking” global brand strategy positioning with

How Aviva Is Disrupting Through ‘Digital First’

Aviva’s customer marketing director, Lindsay Forster, is leading the insurance company through its first global brand positioning strategy, as it moves to “digital first” and prepares to disrupt across its categories.

Formerly at Lloyds Banking Group and Towergate Insurance, Lindsay Forster joined Aviva as part of its Friends Life acquisition in April 2015. She was appointed customer marketing director for the insurance firm in August 2015 and is now leading the company’s first global brand positioning strategy, “Good Thinking”. Forster admits the strategy—driven by a “bigger social purpose”—is a brave one but insists that it is what you would expect from a brand that leads market share in every category in which it operates. I began by asking her how the new approach came about.

Forster: We have never had a global brand positioning before so this is a new development for Aviva. It is very much a creative partnership with our lead marketing agency, Adam & Eve, which we appointed as Aviva’s strategic agency last year. The brand strategy is developed to help us cement what Aviva stands for and it really comes from our core purpose, which is freeing people from the fear of uncertainty. We think it is refreshingly different and not something you would associate with financial services or, indeed, the insurance business. We have to disrupt the market and focus our innovation and investment around what is going to help our customers the most.

I see “Good Thinking” as a badge of honour and something that will inspire the organisation to think about its challenges differently. It has long-term ambitions. We have some great examples so far, such as the Aviva Drive app, which rewards drivers who drive safely by offering reduced premiums.

In other sectors we have got more work to do in bringing the strategy to life. We are looking at evidencing “Good Thinking” in the savings market, which will launch shortly, and doing work in the pensions market, which we will see later in the year. Was it a risk to take a slightly different approach to your brand positioning strategy?

Forster: There is definitely a risk. There is a whole narrative around “is good enough?” What is good in one person’s mind is different to what is good in somebody else’s mind. “Good Thinking” is a great place to start. There are so many opportunities across our various different markets—from health to investments, pensions to general insurance—to think about industry practices that have existed for hundreds of years and to do things differently.

This approach really sits well with our “digital first” approach—in other words, making digital fundamental to the way our global business operates. It is not something that other insurers are necessary looking at and investing in to the extent that we are. : How are you measuring the success of the “Good Thinking” strategy?

Forster: We are looking at how we measure customer outcomes and customer experience. We have a number of measures in the business, including Net Promoter Score. We will also reflect it in the questions we ask at the various customer transaction points, and we have included it in our brand tracking study—in understanding what our customers take out of the brand. We need to think about this as a longer-term strategy. What success have you seen so far?

Forster: We launched in the U.K. in mid-December, and the first campaign was centred around making Britain’s roads a safer place with our driving app. We saw 70% more Aviva Drive app downloads in four weeks than we achieved in two years before the launch of this campaign. In addition, quotes are up 16% vs plan, and sales are up 8% year on year. After six weeks, brand awareness and consideration are also strengthening considerably. We also had about two million genuine Facebook views for the motor campaign, and we created about 200,000 unique conversations through the key social channels.

There has been a significant uplift in customer engagement, and there have been double-digit improvements in spontaneous awareness of our brand. : You talk about becoming a “digital first” company. What exactly does this entail and how are you working towards this?

Forster: We are making a significant investment in the digital experience for customers. It is our mantra to make sure that we can service our customers when and where they need us, and it is very much about organising ourselves around them.

My Aviva, a hub for guests and customers, is central to our “digital first” strategy, enabling people to see all their products and services in one place. We are also looking at building capability such as being able to track pensions online. We have a very aggressive roll-out of new initiatives planned for our customers throughout the course of the year.

We are trying to embed “digital first” into the mindset of the organisation. This involves thinking about innovative products and designing them “digital first”. It is also about delivering exceptional customer service through our digital channels. We have made a number of digital appointments to really boost our capability and bring in skills from other sectors, where you could argue that the digital baseline and benchmark are much higher than in insurance. How will you continue to develop your use of social media going forward?

Forster: We are investing heavily in this area, particularly in social capability. We are currently recruiting a senior leader to join the team and head up digital marketing, explicitly social. We have also invested in a social listening team and a team that can talk to customers through social channels. We have set out to try and respond to every social conversation, as well as engaging in operational conversations via social platforms.

The dominant social channel for us to date has been Facebook, but we have aspirations to broaden our reach and start to develop more direct relationships with some of the other social channels. There is an opportunity for us to focus our attention on some of the younger segments via social, but we always have to be mindful that we have over 16 million customers and a huge cross section of demographics, so we need to cover all our bases and be where our customers are. How does the role of the social team help to inform your marketing?

Forster: They respond to every conversation on Facebook and Twitter, which is great, and ultimately, it is a great demonstration of the “Good Thinking” philosophy. We are tracking it as part of a new way of working—gauging social reach and social sentiment. Social sentiment has been much more positive than we thought, and people give us feedback on numerous unrelated topics such as insurance claims, for example, but all feedback is good feedback. As a brand, we should encourage as much feedback as possible because we can take those learnings and think about how we apply them to make things better for customers. How has your growing focus on digital impacted on the way that the marketing department is set up?

Forster: Digital is clearly of huge importance within our marketing function, but this is just one part of the picture. The whole business is now geared up to invest in digital, deliver innovation, and fully integrate across all channels and customer types, and this is how we have organised our marketers.

We have consolidated all one-to-one customer communications into one central function to deliver a consistent brand experience and ensure we carefully monitor how we organise our communications around the customer. We also plan and execute all campaigns across all categories in an integrated fashion to join things up for customers and maximise marketing effectiveness. We will continue to invest in digital capability, bring in new talent and, critically, invest in the development of our team. What are the key challenges and opportunities for Aviva moving forward?

Forster: One key challenge is to bring “Good Thinking” to life in a meaningful way for our customers. It isn’t about advertising the end product—it has to be something we can consistently demonstrate to customers, and I think that is a fantastic challenge for us going forward.

We are also keen to change the engagement model within the industry. Many of the products and services in the financial services industry—and particularly in insurance—mean we never have a conversation with the customer, or we have a conversation once a year. We are exploring how we can create a longer and more enduring relationship with customers, and deliver more value more frequently. That means us being innovative about the products and services we create, and shaping opportunities to have different conversations.

We have so much data, we believe we are in a great position to offer more value. We are really keen to change the way the industry builds customer relationships, finding new and different ways of supporting people through the inevitable ups and downs of life. And digital offers an unprecedented opportunity to build those relationships?

Forster: Yes. Moving to a “digital first” approach means we can serve more relevant and more recent data to customers more frequently, and we can help people to figure out some of the complexities around issues such as tax exposure or buying a second home, for example.

The customer demand for information is huge; people want more guidance and support around what is a hugely complex area. Adding digital into the mix opens up opportunities to not only deliver more value to customers, but to simplify some of our products and services. Digital presents us with opportunities that we have not had before.

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