Mind your Marketing

Global is local, and local is global

| Updated on November 01, 2019

Aalok Bhan, Director and Chief Marketing Officer, Max Life Insurance

This week, we are in conversation with Aalok Bhan, Director and Chief Marketing Officer, Max Life Insurance. Aalok joined Max Life in 2012 and led the company's distribution footprint across the nation with the responsibility of managing and driving agency and all bank partnerships, further strengthening the company’s multi-channel distribution architecture and growing its market share.

To win in the marketplace, which horse would you bet on - better technology or the better idea?

It’s not an either-or between a great idea and technology. In today’s marketplace where customers are spoilt by 24-hour deliveries, instant returns and cashbacks at a click, the job of marketers is to not only think of cutting-edge ideas but also look at the technology enablers that make it accessible to a consumer in their own ecosystem.

There is a paradigm shift even in the way customers are approaching financial products today. In the life insurance industry, while technology is helping us make customer touchpoints and delivery channels nimbler, if the offering isn’t rooted in a well-defined idea that accomplishes customer needs in a compelling manner, the effort will be rendered stunted in the long run.

What makes customer experiences the differentiator of the future?

The most important aspect for any business is to provide its customers with a solid experience. Providing an agile, easy and intuitive experience will make for loyal customers.

In the increasingly digital era, marketers across-the-board are recalibrating their strategies because engaging customers in the digital age is believed to significantly impact the kind of customer experiences they will provide. These experiences are characterised by a clear customer value proposition reinforced with a simple, easy and elegant experience.

Indian life insurance marketers are driving transformation at a great speed, but customer experiences will be the strongest differentiator. Enabling need-based selling to deliver insight-driven customer experiences will remain a key metric that will define performances of brands in future.

What are a few steps to bridging the gap between expectation and experience?

Reaching consumers at the right time with the right message is something that all brands aspire for. In the life insurance industry specifically, companies must consider greater investment in marketing efforts aimed at identifying the most effective timing, narrative, and medium to tailor engagement for each consumer and inform them of the full value of a life insurance product. Scaling efforts on this aspect could positively reduce the deficit between customer expectations and eventual experiences. Marketers will have to understand data holistically and put that at the centre of all decisions.

Millennials and GenZ is top of mind for every successful marketer today. How much have they transformed marketing strategies?

Leveraging deep customer insights, data and crafting experiences that make brands omnipresent, marketing has moved beyond just brand-building to boost overall customer experience through engagements, customer acquisitions and enhancing lifetime value for businesses. Marketers must realise that being closer to the customer will be the winning strategy, as against being closer to the brand. The dynamics are changing and the way we communicate plays an essential role when it comes to targeting millennials and GenZ.

As this generation seems to have a more conscious approach to living and a heightened awareness of the risks to health and life in today’s world, it becomes imperative to communicate with them in an effective manner. The millennials are really the first generation to grow up with the internet and marketers need to approach this generation smartly through meaningful engagements with a strong “WIIFM” (what’s in it for me) messaging. In this era, it will be important to participate in the allied industry of insurance like health and life sciences to connect with your customer and capture their experiences and deduce their expectations.

What are the effective methods to engage with these generations?

There are multiple ways to engage with the millennial generation, given that we have a plethora of media available. Easy access through internet, onset of apps and better connectivity gives us room to reach out to the target audiences at the right time through appropriate medium. While it is important for today’s marketers to measure the value that each channel is creating, it’s also essential to look at all the marketing efforts in a cohesive manner. Today, life insurance companies have to also communicate with millennials, who may not be looking at financial protection as a priority of life. We have to be present where they are, and that could be social media, fitness clubs or eco clubs. The marketing strategies are fast evolving to reach out to this group of population who are very important for business.

Alok says…

1. My top three marketing buzzwords

Customer-before · Stories · Simplicity

2. One strategic change we plan to execute by 2020

Our brand strategy is part of the larger corporate strategy for the next few years. While our consumers may not see a big strategic change in the brand, they would definitely see a brand that speaks more of their language, that thinks like them and that resonates with their emotions in a stronger and more unified fashion

3. Three words I believe define a hot brand

Relevant · Engaging · Customer-centric

4. A powerful ad campaign I liked

The Titan Raga “Flaunt your Flaw” personally resonated very well with me. The campaign spoke a narrative that is a fresh alternative to that of a “selfie obsessed” generation that’s always looking to be “perfect”

What are specific technologies that have driven these changes?

India is home to one of the youngest populations in the world, is the second largest smartphone market in the world and has over 450 million internet users and is the second largest online market. This has created a massive opportunity for marketers to reach out to consumers in a smart, targeted

and cost-effective manner. Whether it is for prospecting a sale, customer service or engaging conversations with the customers, digital technologies, like online portals, apps, chat and email bots and AIdriven interactions bridge the customer and seller. Technology is changing the game and this is just the beginning. This generation is an on-the-go generation and is largely smartphone enabled; thus, making the smartphone technology or website the most important channel of communication.

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

No; India is too diverse a market for this approach to marketing. While brands must have a cohesive strategy, its manifestations across media, region and customer segment should stay relevant and engaging.

Localisation is no longer about dubbing national campaigns. How much local should brands think?

Yes; gone are the days of dubbed national campaigns for regional audiences. Today is the age of hyper-customisation not only down to regional cohorts but also to customer-level. I have always believed that brands should follow the ‘Global is local, and local is global’ as a multi-approach for targeting audiences. They must put to use all available marketing tools and techniques such as digital and non-digital media, SEO, local websites, community engagement, local content marketing, guerrilla marketing and more to develop a local connect between the product and the people.

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

The Max Life brand resonates completely with audiences across the country in their regional character and languages. Whether it be the brand’s celebration of regional festivals to localised messaging through social and traditional media, we believe in speaking to the customer in her/his choice of language, at a moment of time and through a media that is relevant toher/him. As of now, we communicate with audiences across the country in seven languages.

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

South India is among the most financially aware zones in the country. In fact, we recently conducted the India Protection Quotient survey to check the extent to which Indians feel protected from future uncertainties on a scale of 0 to 100 and among all zones South India leads the race among zones, with a score of 38. This is an indicator of the fact that communication with these consumers has scope to be more evolved and at a level where they need not be informed about the need for our products. It can be more focused on the differentiators and competencies that they are more likely to buy into.

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

Published on November 01, 2019

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