Mind your Marketing

A customer-centric brand co-innovates with its customers

| Updated on January 16, 2020 Published on January 16, 2020

Sapna Desai, Head – Marketing and Communication at ManipalCigna Health Insurance, India

This week, we are in conversation with Sapna Desai, Head – Marketing and Communication at ManipalCigna Health Insurance, India. She is responsible for developing and implementing the overall marketing and brand strategy. Sapna brings to ManipalCigna experience across brand management, consumer insights, product development, advertising, integrated communications and managing marketing investments.

Have millennials and GenZ transformed the way businesses approach marketing?

Millennials have already had a momentous impact on culture, society, economics and ways of working. That said, millennials are an economic force. With more than $200 billion in annual buying power, this generation might surpass the baby boomers in spending by the year 2017, and smart marketers are turning to new directions to hook this generation. With the rapid adoption of digital services and with the ability to share their thoughts and actions through social media, millennials are placing more importance on experiences and status updates, thereby altering the entire paradigm of marketing. At ManipalCigna we are continually evolving to be able to cater to this generation. We are foraying and exploring the best possible options to be the top priority for millennials. Moreover, listening to our customers and providing products and services that meet their needs and expectations is a significant part of our strategy.

      For example, as people start living healthier lifestyles, get more conscious, health insurance companies will devise engaging propositions to help customers achieve their fitness targets. Fitness gadgets, wearable devices and apps have made their mark, and we see this trend moving to more sophisticated and scientific levels in the coming years. We have launched the ProActive Health App through which our customers can control their health information by using select wearable devices. The app is integrated with our Healthy Rewards Programme allowing customers to earn valuable incentives by tracking their activities. Additionally, they can directly enter non-trackable activities into the application. Healthy Reward points are collected based on the quantum of physical activity. These points can be translated into lower health insurance premiums or increased benefits up to 10% of the premium amount.

What are some of the best ways to connect with and sell to these generations?

Millennials are the most reactive to online shopping options, recommendations from friends and family, and are motivated by the ease of shopping. Millennials are redesigning the way that goods and services are being marketed by staying impassive to traditional marketing strategies. This generation decides where to eat based on Instagram pictures, and has their groceries delivered at their door. So, we believe selling to this generation should be simple, easy-to-access and right at their fingertips.

Over the last few years, insurers also have begun to feel the need to reexamine the way they can position themselves in front of the consumer in a fundamentally new manner. After realising the importance of digitalisation, health service providers and insurance companies are investing heavily in state-of-the-art technology solutions to prepare for the future. They are using digital technology to improve consumer experience by simplifying the buying process and making it easier for consumers to select the right product.

What are the specific technologies that have driven some of these changes?

More than any other generation, millennials rely on each other, sharing opinions with friends to make more educated decisions. They have technology at their fingertips and many platforms like Facebook and Instagram, through which they communicate.

Social media has altered how this generation shares its thoughts and broadens its influence over others. Likes and comments have given them the power to share their views and pass judgment on the things they agree and disagree with.

To say technology is a significant factor in how this generation communicates is an underestimation. Millennials see technology not just as a device or platform for communication, but as a way to make better choices, improve life, and contribute to society. The usage of ‘chatbots’ and ‘Artificial Intelligence’ will be more prevalent in the insurance industry when it comes to servicing or selling insurance products to customers.

Sapna says…

a) One strategic change we plan to execute by 2020

Over the past few years, digitalisation has revolutionised the health insurance sector, not only for billing and claims processing, but also through significant impact on product development, marketing, distribution as well as claims management. Digitisation in health insurance sector has empowered customers through easy access to product features and service proposition. Thus, product innovation, responsible sales and marketing, and improved distribution will continue to have a deeper focus for us to meet customer needs

b) My top three marketing mantras

Martech, XM/experiential marketing and big data

c) Three concepts I believe define a hot brand

Innovation, customer engagement & customer experience and scalability & disruption

d) A powerful ad campaign I liked

Awareness campaigns such as ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ and #KnowYourLemons. Dumb Ways to Die is an Australian public service announcement campaign made by Metro Trains in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia to promote railway safety. The campaign aimed at engaging the audience who do not want to hear any safety message. #KnowYourLemons campaign by Worldwide Breast Cancer, a non-profit organisation, was rolled out with a mission to change the picture of breast cancer radically.


What do you need to win in the marketplace – better technology or better idea?

Ongoing engagement is essential to keep millennials engrossed and feeling like the brand is adding value to their lives. A good idea embedded in better technology is what is required to cater to this generation. Continuous innovation and providing convenience to the customers is the key. For example, ManipalCigna’s mobile application for agents has a unique feature that enables them to capture and track lead, generate a quote and purchase policy for potential customers, at the click of a button. This technology empowers our channel partners and ultimately benefits our customers.

What makes customer experiences the differentiator of the future?

At ManipalCigna, we believe a company can distinguish itself in one or two key ways: by offering a better customer experience or by providing the lowest prices. For companies that choose the former, digital channels are, quickly, the most lucrative way of reaching out to clients. But digital customers can be erratic and hard to gratify.

     It is quite tricky to keep up with their fast-changing behaviours and expectations. New products and services are being launched in the market faster than ever, brand loyalty keeps declining, and the amplified competition continues to shift power from institutions to individuals.

     Consumers want a positive experience, not just a transactional relationship, with the brands and companies they connect with. Customer experience is evermore the critical factor for a business to stand out from its rivals.

     The rise of user experience as a significant competitive differentiator has led to the growing importance of methodologies like design thinking in the last few years.

How do you bridge the gap between expectation and experience?

Consumers have become quite demanding. It is not any more about what they want; instead, it is all about the experiences they demand. Everything from a customer’s interactions with a brand – from awareness to purchase to consumption – is now critical. So, at each touchpoint, customers feel exclusively understood and essential. To get this right, brands need a comprehensive understanding of their customers, so they can wow them at every single communication.

     For example, fitness gears or wearable gadgets are getting smarter by the day. Customers expect them to not only help keep track of their vitals but also suggest diet and exercise options as per their need. What can enhance the experience in this self-management are the chatbots, which are soon catching up.

What does it take for brands to stay competitive in today's dynamic economy and market?

Brands must react swiftly to competition and changes in the market. They must continuously target to achieve best practices and must outsource assertively to gain efficiencies. And last but not least, they must cultivate a few core competencies in the race to stay ahead of the competitors. For example, digitalisation presents a growing opportunity to improve market share and profitability for the insurers – the opportunity for cost reduction of anywhere between 15% and 20% of their apex base. Becoming a digital insurer can significantly improve finances by activating new value creation levers.

      You can increase sales revenue through two levers: generating e-sales and creating a new brand. Targeting new customers would enhance e-sales due to the new digital value proposition, by optimising online subscription funnel through analytics and by developing offers or additional services as described for the everyday insurer. And second, creating a new brand is another way to increase sales revenues. The insurer may choose to create a new brand or chose to define a new range for the existing brand.     

What are the three secrets to successful branding?

Thousands of brands across the globe are experimenting with persistently emerging new branding tactics and trends. Some of these tactics work well, or at least they do for a short amount of time. But, according to me, these three things always rule the roost.

The best branding is a distinctive blend of information and entertainment with sales-focused and exceptionally appealing content that makes one want to consume more of the ongoing story.

Provide a convenient place for customer interaction with your brand.

Share to catch your customers at the right moment.

Improving the health, well-being and peace of mind of those we serve is our mission and this is the fundamental philosophy of everything we do – right from the design of the products to the way we deliver them. When a consumer is planning to buy health insurance, there are many questions in their minds. Our brand strategy has been to partner with the consumer in illness and wellness.

Can a one-size-fits-all approach work in a differentiated market such as India?

In a world of globalisation, digitisation and fierce competition, customer-centricity is the hot topic for many organisations. The concept of “one-size-fits-all” is old and done. Nowadays, customers demand customised solutions. It is not an easy task and entails constant listening, adapting, and innovation. Innovation is the key to progress. But a customer-centric brand doesn’t innovate alone – it co-innovates with its customers.

Why and how should brands think local?

Brands must connect with consumers on their turf. And that means comprehending the customers’ language, culture, and traditions. Localisation has indeed gone beyond just having to translate national campaigns. It now connects with consumers at a personal level, builds a brand image in a way that is both accessible and exclusive. In short, localisation is about building trust. Localisation augments the consumer experience and expands the brand reach. It gives one’s business a break to target a new consumer group.

How does your brand approach the southern market when it comes to branding and consumer engagement?

In a country that is observing a rise in health consciousness, subscribing to health insurance should be an obvious idea, but it is not the case. More often than not, consumer discord and confusion arising from veiled clauses in the fine print, and ‘conditions apply’ keep consumers away from buying into the category. But at ManipalCigna, the guiding philosophy is built around finding favourable product and service solutions at all times for the consumers. The rapid rise of millennial purchasers has left brands relentlessly rethinking their marketing strategies. The consumer base has become far more varied and volatile. Thus, brands need to find a way to incorporate customer experience into every step of their practices, while taking the benefit of data-driven marketing, or risk not fulfilling customer needs. In South India, we are forging ahead with the same approach.

What is unique about the South Indian market? Do you see any difference in consumer behaviour from the North in your category?

There is hardly any difference in the consumer behaviour of a North Indian or a South Indian consumer. Indian consumers have become more value-sensitive rather than price-sensitive, as was the case earlier. If they feel that a product offers them more value and its price is high, even then they will buy the product.

This article is part of a brand initiative by The Hindu BusinessLine to profile marketing professionals from across India.

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Published on January 16, 2020
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