RSA Marketing Director: ‘Insurance is riven with purpose – it’s all about helping people’

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

RSA has a busy 2022 ahead as it looks to lean into purpose and more tailored customer offerings, according to Natalie Whitty, Director of Strategy, Communications and Marketing at the insurer.

RSA was acquired by Intact in mid-2021, with a new CEO appointed for the UK and international businesses at the end of last year.

“There’s an extent to which we as a team need to be agile with the marketing strategy because it needs to link explicitly to the business direction.”

Natalie says that 2022 will see a “continuation” of recent work, with the strategy centred on operational improvements and more tailored offerings for customers.

“Getting that more nuanced understanding of what our customers want from us and making sure we tie our propositions to that is central.”

“This is key in the SME and mid-market insurance space: this is an area where we have real strength and want to grow. In the personal lines space, we launched a tiered product offering in Motor, helping us to shape it to the customers out there.”

Sitting alongside this is the task of positioning the RSA brand as the context for these services.

“We’ve been positioning RSA in the market as a problem-solving brand: that helpful partner who is there understand what our customers want from us and working collaboratively with them through problems.”

This has to be paired with building a culture in the business that supports this and making sure that interactions with customers back up this brand promise. Natalie acknowledges that RSA’s platforms are currently not the best in the industry, although progress has been made in creating a hub that offers customers the information they need.

“Continuing to think about how we make that simpler and more intuitive is really critical. There’s no point in positioning yourself as helpful if that doesn’t link up with customer experience and the experience is more complex than you would have liked, and presents its own problem.”

She highlights areas such as simpler customer journeys, policy wordings which are clear and new products that meet emerging needs as key areas.

The final focus Natalie highlights is more inward-focused. RSA is focusing on developing collaboration within the business between different teams – for example by having PR teams interact with marketing colleagues.

“Really key is developing a high-performing team which adds value to the business.”


Aligning CX with brand promise

The potential challenge of a brand saying one thing and the actual interaction with the company not living up to it is one that many organisations will recognise.

“We are culturally quite humble as an organisation,” says Natalie. “We have a nervousness about going out with a marketing campaign if we haven’t dotted every “i” and crossed every “t”.”

However, she argues that organisations can be too concerned about this.

“I do believe that being positive and front-footed about what you want your brand to stand for and be is a way to drive and motivate your business.

“There’s a bit of build it and they will come – you have to get the balance right so that you’re not just staying in your house and not going out until everything’s perfect. That can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

She argues that the “story” behind insurance isn’t told as effectively as it could be.

“I’ve worked in a number of industries, and when I joined my concern was I’d not find it fast paced. As it happens I’ve barely sat down over the last five years.”

This has been true during the pandemic, where despite insurance playing a vital role, Natalie says there was at times a mismatch between what customers thought they had bought and what they actually had, particularly in areas such as business interruption.

“It’s difficult to say that won’t have had an impact on the image of insurance, so how can we avoid this mismatch in expectations in future? In insurance you sell a promise to be there when something goes wrong.”

She says that the strong purpose inherent in insurance doesn’t always come across.

“Insurance is riven with purpose in my view. It’s all about helping people.”

Natalie mentions the example of Lemonade, the US-based insurance brand which promises to make insurance transparent and easy. Through The Lemonade Giveback, Lemonade pledges to take a flat fee, use this to pay claims, and then donate the rest to charity.

“This could imply that for insurance to be purpose-driven you have to do something extra, whereas I think insurance is absolutely rooted in a social purpose and it’s a product and service that is there to do good – to make sure no one can lose everything.”

She adds that the industry has “so much insight” about the world as it is today and how it will change, while also having a long and interesting history.


How RSA broadcasts purpose

Natalie highlights RSA’s acquisition by Intact, which she says is “an organisation that really puts purpose at the centre.”

“That’s going to be a really strong anchor.”

She says that RSA as an organisation has tried to shine a light on “positively surprising” things it’s been doing, including offering family-friendly policies, menopause accreditation, its D&I agenda and its apprenticeship and graduate schemes – “things you wouldn’t necessarily associate with a 300-year-old insurer.”

“You have to provide that freshness and modernity, reinvent what you do, and move with the times.”

She also thinks there is potential for insurers to have more of a voice on climate change.

“Insurers are absolutely critical to the transition, in providing insurance to industries that are going to be crucial in a green economy.”

RSA owns MoreThan, which ran the memorable MoreThan Freeman advert a few years ago. Natalie says that in a competitive space such as insurance it can help brands to stand out.

“When you look at the personal lines space, you can’t only rely on something being trustworthy – it has to have a level of recognition around it. Clearly there is a benefit to big consumer campaigns because they help put you front of mind in price comparison websites where you will be side by side with lots of brands at once and need a mechanism to cut through.”

However, she adds that this “can never be a substitute for the grounding in trust and connection. It’s not a quick win – you have to make sure the lived experience of the brand chimes with whatever it is you’re putting in adverts.”

She says that above the line work has to be substituted with timely and contextual advertising: “at the end it comes down to saying the right things to the right people at the right time.”

Particularly important channels during the pandemic have included LinkedIn, where the time that one posts has become less important due to the absence of commutes.

Natalie says she is also interested in podcast advertising at the moment.

“It enables you not to just think about another way to talk about this thing we do but what are some of the tangential topics that will help build positive associations with us. Again this is really important in insurance. The brand is foundational, but there are different ways you can execute, it doesn’t always need to be massive TV campaigns.”

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