Kelly Thomas - If I could spend £3m on protection…

Kelly Thomas, Brand Director, Vitality

If this global pandemic has proven one thing – it’s that collaboration for the greater good is the most effective way to really make a difference.

So I would create a fully integrated industry-wide consumer protection campaign.

But first things first, and that is to agree why it is so important to have an industry-wide campaign. It’s something we’ve talked about for years, but yet never seem to get any traction – for a whole number of reasons. One would now argue that it is more important than ever to ensure that as many people as possible have some level of protection in place.  Whether that is encouraging more people to take out protection or simply ensuring those that have protection, have the right level of cover, see the value and keep it in place – especially during these very hard economic times, where in many households, people are scrutinising every pound and penny spent. 

This leads me onto my next point about why we need to do this now. There is a new consumer reality. Existing trends that were underway, are now the new norm; flexible working, online shopping, a sense and value on community, and the value and appreciation of family and friends. According to CACI*, this new consumer reality is here to stay and the impact will be significant and long-lasting. The impact is also unequal. And above all else, consumers value perception of safety. 

It is our job as an industry to give people not just the perception of safety, but real peace of mind. We need to stay relevant to those people that are now in more uncertain financial circumstances as a short and medium-term priority. It is also our role to ensure we adapt to these changing realities, ensuring our products are not just covering those that can afford it, but also those that are vulnerable. But why would these people ever prioritise protection when we simply aren’t talking about the need, demonstrating the value or making it easy for them to access information and our products. We need to be having a conversation.  

So, who should be involved in this campaign? For me this is simple, it should include the industry as a whole. If we are going to have an impact, if we are going to build trust, we need to do this together. This must include providers, reinsurers, distributors, sales channels (including the aggregators), media outlets, journalists, and importantly - industry bodies and groups – such as the Protection Review.

A clear goal that we all sign up to and agree is critical for bringing all parties together to have the most impact. We need clear KPIs and measures of success so that we can then demonstrate our return on investment, but also ensure there is some accountability.

And then, the creative – the big idea! Now whilst I don’t pretend to be a creative, I do know the power of good authentic creative and most importantly a single unified message that hangs it all together and threads right through the campaign (regardless of channel), is critical.

Getting the creative and messaging right is so important and warrants getting different representatives from the group together to brainstorm and agree on a creative direction, but also to get buy-in from all those involved. Key issues we face as an industry such as lack of trust, price, value and the overall customer experience should be considered as part of the creative process.

Now, having launched a direct business for Vitality Life, I can tell you that £3m can merely be a drop in the ocean. Especially if you want to use mainstream media such as TV, Print, Outdoor, Radio etc. But there are clever ways we can deploy this budget across lots of different channels – to create a fully integrated campaign. A campaign that punches above its weight. Where every pound spent is meticulously planned and accounted for.

With a small budget, you have to be creative – you have to create standout and cut through all the noise. We all have existing channels that we can promote and talk about protection. Our corporate websites, our social media channels, right through to our distribution channels and partners. So, I would sweat our existing channels, but lead with a TV and Radio campaign, with a heavy focus on digital and social activity.

But we must not forget about the power of PR, which has the real capacity to elevate a campaign - by telling people’s positive stories and experiences with protection. This is the gold dust of any campaign.  

There will, of course, be some details to work through, such as budget and who contributes what amount. This could be proportionate to market share or percentage of new business? This should include big distributors and sales channels, including aggregators. Those who are best positioned to reap the benefit of a big consumer campaign. Then there is the decision over the creative and messaging, which could be agreed by a committee. The call to action. I think the best solution would be to create a new generic protection website that would give consumers important protection information which would then allow them to make the decision on their next step – which could be to engage a provider directly or a financial adviser.

If ever there was a time to try and close that astronomical protection gap – now is that time. To come together and do the right thing. In the same way we have seen science and medicine from around the world come together and really push the boundaries for a Covid-19 vaccine in record time, we as a protection industry for once can try and do things differently. The more we talk about protection together and get other (everyday) people talking about protection, the better. Let’s have the conversation.

Let’s make 2020 the year to forget and 2021 the year to remember!

*CACI - “Engaging the new consumer – Behaviour, brand and preference trends” 2020.

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