How the Direct Line CMO is Embracing Technology to Rebrand Insurance

Published on May. 16, 2018

When we finally get around to spare a thought for our insurance – be it for our home, our car or even our latest gadget – we think of annual contracts, a grudge purchase with unclear pricing, all delivered with a complicated service that rarely meets the way we want to live our lives.

Hot Topics sat down with Mark Evans, Marketing Director of the Direct Line Group, to understand how the group embraces new technologies to meet consumer demand.

Indeed, Evans sees a key part of his role as leading the charge on reinvigorating the brand to engage new audiences and motivating his marketing team to challenge the ‘insurance norms’. Direct Line has introduced several new initiatives that are breaking the mould in the industry – you can get your car back within 7 days, your phone back within 48 hours, and get a plumber within three hours – all examples of how the business is pioneering changes in the insurance industry to meet customer expectations and avoid letting them down in their moment of need.

Insurance is one of the most likely sectors to be disrupted or impacted by new tech: the internet of things, blockchain, driverless cars, connected homes to name a few. Direct Line estimates that between 20 – 90% of insurance premiums may disappear with driverless cars because accidents on the road just won’t happen anymore. It will take a long time but with such seismic and existential changes happening, it’s fundamental that marketers stay ahead of the curve and truly understand how best to serve customers.

Evans said: “We’ve got to continue to provide excellent service and products for our customers, but we’ve also got to make space and time to be agitators of the future and look to bring the future forward. For example, we launched a new proposition called Fleet Lights last year. These are drones that light the way for people in cars to travel safely.”

This innovation underpins the vision of the future that, Evans, together with the senior team at Direct Line, are setting for the business. They are shifting from being about fixing things when they go wrong, to being an industry leader in actually preventing things happening. It may all sound a bit sci-fi, but Direct Line is focused on igniting the business of tomorrow, today.

Multi-channel marketing

Today’s always-on customer is driven by a demand for personalization, a demand for a better experience, a demand for a genuine relationship and all of this before they even consider the price. The industry has seen a shift in how people now want to buy insurance products, and Direct Line prides itself on setting a benchmark within the industry on how they address that change.

“Some of our customers are definitely driven solely by price but don’t fully understand the service level they are buying and that’s fine. We also talk to people who get insurance and want a direct relationship and understand that having that is going to serve them best when the time comes,” Evans explains. Direct Line recognizes that mobile is “underdeveloped” within the insurance industry as it’s traditionally been a complicated purchase. However, customers like human interaction and reassurance when they spend a lot of money.

Mobile will be key. Direct Line recognizes that mobile is “underdeveloped” within the insurance industry as it’s traditionally been a complicated purchase. However, customers like human interaction and reassurance when they spend a lot of money. Mobile will be key. Evans says “Direct Line appreciates a 21-year-old who may well be able to code their own website, lives on their mobile but doesn’t really know the first thing about insurance, needs to get the brand promise and the products we provide through their preferred communication channel – so a multi-channel marketing approach really is important in our marketing strategy.”

Direct Line is pioneering mobile first in the industry and using it as the torchbearer of the customer experience for a digitally savvy customer with a mobile app that measures people’s driving skills and rewards them accordingly based on how good they are on the road. This mobile driven product is aimed at a ‘generation Z’ audience that has just passed their test and is 8 times more likely to kill someone in the first year of driving.

Such an approach shows how Direct Line is committed to truly engage customers. Such tailored products that talk to a certain audience, coupled with multi-channel marketing campaigns that focus on brand promise, as opposed to being product led, have “brought back trust and genuine value into the insurance industry,” says Evans. “Even in an industry such as insurance, creative communications and authentic storytelling plays a huge part in marketing.”

To deliver new products and change the way Direct Line Group can serve its multi-dimensional customer base, it has had to completely re-engineer its entire supply chain, back-end systems and processes to ensure it can be better than competitors in a customer’s ‘moment of truth’. Such an inward look into the business, of course, prompted some internal changes, including in Evans’ own marketing team where he has inspired his team to step forward out of the shadows.

He says his troops have found their voice and fulfilled a leadership function that he believes every good organization requires of multi channel marketing. While he believes in embracing the new channels within the marketer’s toolkit, he also looks to keep things in perspective. He explains: “There’s a big conversation right now that all marketers should be able to act digitally to the point where they can code websites. I simply don’t agree with that. Somewhere in the team that needs to be a capability, but marketers should stay fundamentally agnostic to channels. Yes, we should be aware of them and how to utilize them, but we must stay agnostic.” Seemingly, for Evans, it’s the power of the message for the audience that counts.

Whatever new initiatives Direct Line has implemented already or plan to in the future it’s working. In the past five years, its customer engagement has increased by 40% and there’s no evidence that this continued growth is about to slow anytime soon.