Celebrating the growing visibility of insurance marketing and the talents behind it

IMCA blog visual

Author: Lorraine Jeckells, Managing Partner

We are officially winners!

The team at Free Partners has been recognised for the work that we do for our insurance clients with two (yes, two!) awards from respected industry body, the Insurance Marketing and Communications Association (IMCA).

We are thrilled. The IMCA awards mean so much more than just a trophy in the cabinet - they celebrate the very special and niche talents of insurance marketing teams. And as award winners, we couldn’t be more proud to fly the flag and lead the charge in recognition of the creativity behind insurance marketing.

Advocacy by industry associations

Organisations, such as the Insurance Marketing and Communications Association (IMCA) and the Insurance Marketers Group (IMG), have been banging the drum for insurance marketing professionals for some years, supporting members in their careers and elevating the role that insurance marketing plays within a business’s overall strategy for success. I was proudly appointed to the Board of Directors for the IMCA last year, so I have first-hand experience of the brilliant work that is taking place to recognise the incredible talent that we have in insurance marketing.

A quick online search and I discover that in the past few years there have been a number of new awards launched specifically for insurance marketing teams to showcase their creativity. So, perhaps the messages from IMCA and IMG are finally getting through to the wider industry.

Interestingly, it’s not just awards. Insurance marketing is also increasingly recognised as a topic in its own right by some trade publications. For example, Independent Agent’s the Big ‘i’, an online publication for property-casualty independent insurance agents in the US, has a section dedicated to regular, up-to-date articles on insurance marketing trends and podcast interviews with media and marketing experts.

The creative intersection of insurance and marketing

To most, the perceived traditional, conservative, predictable image of insurance will be in complete juxtaposition with the creative and colourful world of marketing. To celebrate their perfect partnership could be a stretch of the imagination too far.

But for those of us who straddle both worlds, we know the magic that can be created when insurance meets marketing. It’s why we at Free Partners only specialise in working with organisations within the insurance industry. Many of our creatives fell into this world but, once here, they choose to stay, which speaks volumes.

As a creative agency, we have certainly noticed a growth in demand for ever more creative campaigns from the industry. It’s clear that marketing is becoming increasingly a core component of an insurance company’s business strategy. According to The Business Research Company, its most recent global analysis of the insurance advertising market highlights growth from $11.56 billion in 2023 to $12.83 billion in 2024 and is forecast to hit $19.19 billion by 2028, a compound annual growth of 10.6%.

Evolving customer expectations; the role of marketing in building trust and engaging with emotion

The challenge has always been, ‘how do we position and promote something that is intangible?’ Insurance is a service, one that is often seen as a begrudging purchase, which relies on reputation, image, and profile. The solution is to empathise and engage with people’s emotions and well-planned, creative marketing can be a highly effective way of doing this. Some organisations have tapped into this brilliantly in the past. The once famous, ‘we don’t make a drama out of a crisis’ campaign by Commercial Union was a great example of how an insurance company can project itself as the one to be trusted, the safe pair of hands, the professionals when all around everyone else is losing their heads. We understand and will take care of everything. And who can forget the ‘Where’s Lucky?’ lost dog posters which turned out to be a spoof by More Than to promote their pet insurance product. Some were so taken in by the posters that the Advertising Standards Authority had to censure the group’s future advertisements for causing distress to people who thought they were genuine.

25 or so years on, our focus is still on tapping into people’s emotions but the main difference with today’s buyers of insurance, whether that be consumers or companies, is that it’s not enough to simply say ‘we understand so trust us’. Buyers of insurance want to see proof of this. If a company in the insurance industry wants to connect with its stakeholders, they have to be successful at proving they are what they say they are.

We hear much of social and corporate responsibility, missions, and value statements these days as a gauge for how trustworthy an organisation is. Consumers and others buying insurance are well-informed and have high expectations. It’s not simply about shopping around for the best premiums. To stand out, insurers must not only offer competitive products but also craft compelling, clear, and persuasive narratives about why they should be trusted and that their services meet or even exceed expectations. People want to feel connected to the products and services they buy along with the company from which they are buying them. Are these companies operating ethically, do they have a track record for positive employment processes, do they REALLY care? Bain & Company’s 2023 survey of 28,765 consumers across 14 countries discovered that 80% of respondents want insurers to embed environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) initiatives into their proposition.

But do consumers trust that insurance companies are working in their best interests? EY’s 2024 Global Insurance Outlook says that for the insurance industry to grow it must focus on strengthening trust. Any business that doesn’t work on trust “will struggle to build strong customer relationships or grow its market share.” Trust is also a critical component in an age when generative AI can lead us to a skewed view of the world.

The future of insurance marketing

Insurance companies are facing an identity crisis at the heart of which is the need to pivot from being a product-led organisation to a consumer-led one. Which is where marketeers can really excel. We have access to audiences, consumer data, and market research all of which can help when it comes to creating the storytelling that is needed to tap into the emotions and experiences of customers and other stakeholders.

The insurance industry must strive to build and maintain trust and marketing can help to do this. However, effective marketing needs to be undetectable – if a campaign, brand or positioning lands correctly with its target audience it will be natural. It will tap into emotions seamlessly. There shouldn’t be a sense of ‘we’re being played to’ or ‘I see what you’re doing and I’m not falling for it.’ It’s a tricky path to navigate but with an incredible marketing team behind you, it can be done successfully.

Which brings me full circle to my original point about awards and recognition for insurance marketeers. There’s a great deal at stake for insurers – we’re in a hard market, consumers have their pick of providers and with access to digital services, consumer reviews and swathes of information online, buyers of insurance are more astute than ever. As a result, insurance companies must elevate their marketing strategies from mere promotional activities to a central, integral function within their business strategy. By doing so, they can better meet consumer expectations, differentiate themselves in a crowded market, leverage technological advances, build lasting customer trust, and ultimately, ensure business success and sustainability in a rapidly evolving marketplace.

The best insurance marketing agencies will help organisations to achieve this and more, so bring on the Oscars of the insurance marketing world, as such creatives are most certainly worth their weight in gold to the insurance industry.