Mumbai: Insurance companies have launched a slew of advertising and branding initiatives intended to forge bonds of empathy with the people of Mumbai after last week’s terrorist attacks. They have been sending SMSs and emails and calling customers to drive home the point, albeit gently. And they have actually been inviting those affected to register their claims, instead of the other way around, which is usually the case.
Sample this: “ICICI Prudential is with you in this time of crisis in Mumbai. To register any claim please call 24x7 toll free on 1800222020.” Another one read: “The tragic events in Mumbai remind us how precious life is. We r with u always. SMS FG to 567678 for total insurance solutions or claims, if any. Future Generali.”
Others, such as HDFC Standard Life Insurance Co. Ltd and Bharti AXA General Insurance Co. Ltd, also reached out to their customers through similar channels to show that they cared. Some, such as National Insurance Co. Ltd, are building brand awareness via rousing print ads: StandUpUniteWalk’—Mourning the departed and saluting the brave.
Safety and security: A file photo of a Life Insurance Corp. building in New Delhi. Rajeev Dabral / Mint
For the insurance sector, caring in the physical and emotional realm has become its second new brand and category trigger, close on the heels of the financial safety and security hooks that it started throwing just recently at customers with the financial meltdown. Terrorism covers, of course, promise to be a growing revenue stream for the insurance sector.
Everyone is striving to strike empathy in the first step, though. “Here is a chance to make good our promise...” says Milind Joshi, Bharti AXA’s senior vice- president, operations and claims, explaining that insurance agencies could use this opportunity to facilitate the claim process and be seen as delivering on promises.
“While a claim is a common issue, it’s important that we show empathy at this time. If you (customer) haven’t been affected, great! If you have, we are here to stand by you, thereby making it easier to forge long-term relationships with customers, an important consideration in the crowded Indian insurance market. Yes, it is an opportunity…but it is also a responsibility,” he says.
Which is probably why a number of insurers are going that extra mile to reach out to customers. ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Co. Ltd, for one, has been sourcing names of people affected in the terror attacks from government agencies, hospitals and the police.
The company also extended its customer outreach through its call centre, which is processing claims 24x7 compared with the regular 9am to 9pm shift six days a week. And it is offering to send people to customers’ homes to help facilitate the claims process.
“At a time like this, few people are comfortable doing this over the phone. Which is why we also offer to send someone across and help them complete the claims process. Under other circumstances, they would be expected to come by our office,” says Poonam Bhardwaj, senior vice-president and head, underwriting and claims, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance. The company has in the last year developed its strategy for such situations, following terror attacks in other cities such as Jaipur, Delhi and Bangalore.
In the coming days, experts say, a number of brands could use this opportunity to gain consumer attention by riding on the back of the terror attacks, an issue that is both important and topical. Like the economic crisis, the recent spate of terror attacks in India have provided these companies with an opportunity to reach out to newer customers and create awareness about new or existing products that cover terror attacks or other emergencies, they add.
Media buyers say this is a good time for insurance agencies to play up emotional hooks. Traditionally, the December-March period is considered peak season for the insurance industry, because of which a significant portion of the ad budget is also deployed at this time.
Chandradeep Mitra, president of Mudra MAX, the Mumbai-based media specialist of the Mudra Group, said insurance in India has historically been seen as a tax-saving instrument. So, for a long time, the entire cycle—in terms of advertising, marketing, promotions or otherwise—has been skewed towards the January-March period, leading up to the end of the fiscal year, that accounts for up to 80% of ad spending in this sector.
In the fiscal year ended in March, this sector spent about Rs400 crore on advertising, says Mitra. Some of the top spenders were Life Insurance Corp. of IndiaLtd, HDFC Standard Life, Reliance Life Insurance Co. Ltd and ICICI Prudential Life Insurance. This year, ad expenditure is likely to grow, experts say.
As of August, the sector had already spent an about Rs138 crore on advertising. This was more than double the amount spent last year (Rs63 crore) during the same period. Some of this was driven by the entry of new firms, such as Aegon Religare Life Insurance Co. Ltd, and Canara HSBC Oriental Bank of Commerce Life Insurance Co. Ltd.
Meanwhile, Max New York Life Insurance Co. Ltd raised its ad budget this year as a key sponsor of the Indian Premier League cricket tournament, Mudra’s Mitra said.