INTERVIEW: New SunLife CMO looks to build brand platform for long term

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

SunLife’s new CMO Victoria Heath is drawing on customer research and segmentation as she looks to build the firm’s brand platform for the next five to ten years.

Part of Phoenix Group, SunLife specialises in products for the over-50s, including life insurance and equity release products. Victoria joined the firm in March 2024 from specialist lender Vanquis Bank.

She has had several priorities since starting the role, including driving efficiency through measuring and continually optimising marketing performance.

Another has been understanding the customer base, demographics and market opportunity, including segmentation of existing customers. This means immersing herself in the research and insight that SunLife and the broader Phoenix Group have.

“As a brand, we’re obviously a specialist in this part of the market and have a really deep heritage.

“So I’m looking at how do I take all of that amazing work, research and insight that’s gone before to  deeply understand the wants and needs of our customers.”

Currently SunLife has a huge amount of insight into the customer base in terms of their needs and attitudes towards money in later life and already has a segmentation model in place.

“[The next step] is really about putting the colour around this so we can be clear about what our customers needs are now and, in the future,” says Victoria.

“How do they think about their finances? How do they think about their life planning and then how do you use that to find them at those moments that might either trigger a product need or just make sure that when they have that product need, we’re high on the consideration list.”

Victoria says that the industry has perhaps lost sight of how to represent the over-50s segment in an appropriate way. As the market leaders in the guaranteed over-50 space, she argues SunLife “has got a real job to make sure that the way we’re portraying that stage of life is relevant and accurate and people can really connect to that.”

She adds: “50 isn’t what it used to be – there is this kind of artificial line in the sand around being 50. I think people just don’t think and feel that 50 is old anymore.”

This better understanding of the customer will inform the third major area of focus for Victoria: developing a brand platform that will be fit for purpose in the long term.

“[It’s an incredibly] successful brand which has done fantastically well through marketing efforts and has become the leading guaranteed over-50s provider. So it’s now about where we take the brand next and how do we build on that deep heritage?”

Victoria says all brand plans will be led by the data, adding that SunLife has high levels of awareness and good levels of consideration, as well as “so much equity and over 200 years of heritage.

“So how do we take all of those amazing parts of the brand and just it forward for the next five, ten, 15 years.”

The Phoenix Group uses a master brand, endorsement approach, and SunLife already uses the endorsed brand approach on some of its activities. There will also be opportunities to combine the strengths of the two brands.

A year on, along with the development of the brand, Victoria hopes to have evolved SunLife’s measurement frameworks.

In addition, she hopes to have a clearer view of the market segments and the attitudes for the consumers within those target segments.

“I think those three areas will give us a brilliant platform as we continue to grow the brand from its current position of strength.”

Previous article

INTERVIEW: Ctrl Alt CMO on the continuing power of long-form content

Next article

GUEST COLUMN: With enough time, any brand name can be accepted - including abrdn

Get access to valuable thought leadership from the financial services marketing industry

Keep up-to-date with current trends and changes across marketing and financial services is vital in this fast-moving business environment.