This week we are in conversation with Anika Agarwal, Director and Head – Marketing, Digital and Direct Sales, Max Bupa Health Insurance. She is responsible for the overall Brand Strategy and Marketing Communications for the brand. With over 13 years of experience, Anika has been instrumental in positioning Max Bupa as a preferred family health insurer one of the most talked about brands in the segment. Sheconceptualised Max Bupa Walk for Health, the brand’s most ambitious campaign and one of the most successful health initiatives in the country.

Have millennials and GenZ transformed the way businesses approach marketing?

When we talk to millennials, we have to look at the cultural fabric and the society they were born in. Millennials were born with a lot of choices. That is the world that they were brought up in. They also have a point of view, thanks to globalisation and the education that they have had. And if you look at a lot of them, they are far more experimental than some of our other consumers. When we talk to these customers, we have to talk to them in their language, show them real value as brands, and also evolve and experiment as our consumers evolve. Let me take an example, health insurance as a category is generally not bought by millennials. They think there is no real value and we're going to get into the category when we are 40, we have children, or we are going to fall sick. That is when the brand changed the narrative and we introduced new products and new conversations with these customers. We introduced a new product, 'Co Active', which talks to millennials in their language, gives them real experiences to connect with the brand beyond a hospitalisation conversation, and actually participates with them in their real life, everyday.


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

The best way to connect with millennials and GenZ is actually to not sell to them. You have to be present where they are and when they want it. It is also important to have just conversations with them. And it is okay to have long-term conversations. It is not about introducing myself to you and selling you something in the next seven days. That is not going to happen. They want experiences. They want to have a deeper engagement with the brands they buy and engage with. So, it is important that a brand takes a long-term view when talking to millennials.

What are the specific technologies that have driven these changes?

The advent of mobile marketing, that is a big driver and change. And how customers and brands are constantly engaging on social media. These two changes actually lead to a lot of technology that all marketers invested in. You look at marketing automation, that is a big driver today to create personalised experiences. Personalised experiences cannot be created without content marketing. So, there is large investment in content creation to enable speaking with these customers. And then comes the question of at what time do you speak to them with that content? Marketing automation, data-driven attribution, is all helping. But I think it is really the advent of mobile and social media that brought about this change.

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

It is always ideas that win, and technology is just an enabler, always. When you look at marketing, it is both a science and art. But I believe that it is more of an art first. So, you need to have a great idea, you need to have a great brand promise. And then technology will help you communicate it in the most efficient manner to your customers.

What makes customer experiences the differentiator of the future?

In today's competitive world, there are many options for the customers to choose from. What really differentiates one brand from the other and one business from the other is how you treat your customers and the customer experience.

Customer experience itself is also a very loose word. When we talk about customer experience, the most important thing is consistency. You need to deliver the same experience to the customer each time that he is with you and at every touchpoint. That is the Holy Grail for every business today. Which is why, if you see, a lot of marketers are also Chief Customer Officers in their organisation today, because the brand is not built by just the brand promise, but also on how we treat our customers each day, and how many promoters we are creating for the business.

Anika says…
  • One strategic change we plan to execute by 2020

We're trying to find deeper meaning in our brand. There is a huge personalisation strategy that is under way right now. I hope that this year will actually help us bring personalised experiences to all our prospects and customers.

  • My top three marketing buzzwords

Video marketing, native content and content marketing and data-driven marketing.

  • Three words I believe define a hot brand

Purpose, authenticity and innovation.

  • A powerful ad campaign that I liked

I love what Samsonite did in Kerala and their simple hashtag #KeralaIsOpen. That was beautiful. The other one which I really enjoyed is the entire Make My Trip series. Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhat have been used beautifully to communicate the single-minded benefits that Make My Trip offers.

How do you bridge the gap between expectation and experience?

Expectations are really what the brand promises. It is what the brand communicates each day about what they stand for. And that becomes the brand promise and hence the expectation of the customer. When we talk about experience, that is where the rubber hits the road. Take the example of Max Bupa today, we actually do it in three steps. The first step that we have today is learning what the customer thinks is the promise and what is the real expectation. The second is to measure it each day and see whether we are able to deliver this consistent experience across our entire journey and for us it is extremely important because when the rubber really hits the road is actually when you know the customer is experiencing a claim with us.

Also, how do you really convert detractors to promoters? It is very easy to say that the experience has to be consistent. Experiences fail due to human errors and technology errors. But how do you convert this detractor into your promoter? How do you really do a service recovery, which makes the customer experience positive? That is the third thing we do. And we call it closed loop marketing. That is the three-step approach that we take, from converting the brand promise into real customer experience.

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

The first thing that organisations need to realise is that brands are naked today. You are out there, you do not really know what is being written about you, who is writing it and what were the real experiences on the basis of which they are writing something about you. So, what is important is to be authentic, to be consistent and have a purpose beyond money.

It is not just about having a business transaction, it is about having a purpose, which is larger than just the business and the money, and then talk to the customers in a real authentic voice, be honest and transparent.

What are the three secrets to successful branding?

First is purpose and then consistent messaging, speaking about purpose every day and creating an emotional experience and bond with your customers and prospects. Those are the three successful ingredients in my mind, starting with a larger purpose.

At Max Bupa, our purpose is to help our customers lead healthier and more successful lives. And that is what we communicate to them each day. We are their healthcare partners, and we take care of their health and care beyond insurance. That is what allows us to form an emotional bond with them, which is beyond a transaction.

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

A one-size-fits-all approach does not work in the world that we live in today, leave aside India. The kind of customers that you're speaking to today, the number of options that they have, they are well-travelled. With globalisation, you can get pretty much anything from anywhere in the world. So, it is not just about India, the customer has evolved, which is why a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. We need to look at different customer segments, their life stage, and propositions for them. Beyond that there is technology to then enable personalisation.

If you look at India as a market specifically, you've got a multitude of customers and cultures and hence a variety of needs. These customers today, we can address differentially. Today, our brand does not necessarily have to speak to the customer in Delhi in the same way that they speak to a customer in Chennai. You have options and media available, and even technology available to actually talk to them in their language, customise products to their needs and ensure they reach them at the right time.

How does your brand approach the Southern market both in branding and consumer engagement?

When we look at the South Indian markets, we do not necessarily differentiate in terms of pure advertising differentiators which you used to do traditionally, saying, “Let's cast a South Indian or North Indian model.” It is a lot more to do with what is your marketing strategy when you talk to these customers. We focus a lot more around press outreach. People in the South are avid readers and consumers of content. Focus on content, where we also speak to them a lot more in their native language and partner with local publications and websites where we can have a real conversation with them around health insurance and Max Bupa.

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