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If there’s one industry that is looking at itself in the mirror right now and taking a deep breath, it’s insurance. Yes, we’re consuming media differently and yes, we demand more from our weekly shop. But insurance, an entire industry predicated on mitigating an often totally unquantifiable risk, is up against it. And here’s why.

1) Data allows us to better model risk. But data drawn from real time telemetrics (i.e. your phone), modelled against recent ‘quantified self’ data (i.e. your smartwatch), opens a whole new world for on-demand and personalised insurance. The models and algorithms literally need to be recreated from scratch. Daily. If Google changes its code 365 times a year, so can (and should) insurance companies – offering the most up-to-date, relevant and useful solutions for customers. Just look at Trov (https://www.trov.com) or new start up Brolly (https://www.heybrolly.com): insurance solutions built on my terms, to my schedule, when I want it and on specific items. Sounds a lot like Uber for taxis. And a little bit like Airbnb for hotels. I’d be concerned.

2) The power of we. If there’s one thing that recent political change has taught us (Brexit / “The Donald”) it’s that if you don’t understand the collective consciousness, you fail. Such political upheaval grew from the repeated misunderstanding of audiences,

what motivates them to act differently, and what common goals they can agree upon (not oppose). Insurance companies like Lemonade are disrupting the market because they understand that new insurance business models – which do more than provide cover – can act as a proactive change for good, and can mean more to more.

3) Which leads us to purpose. We live in a far more expectant world. For brands to thrive and survive, they must capture our imaginations far beyond their base product utility. Banking crashes, clergy accusations and political upheaval have made us wary of the once pillars of society. We now turn to brands and each other for comfort, security, and to help us navigate the world. Purposeful business is now a hygiene for brands, but it’s never been more necessary in commoditised markets like insurance and financial services. In these environments, where price dictates consumer behaviour, the only lever a commoditised business has is its brand.

So what does this mean?

Chronic mistrust and price lead conversations means I care about what people tell me. But I really care about them proving it to me. Aviva Insurance is going some way in demonstrating this by creating technology to help me consider my future – but there’s a long way to go before I start believing they’re not only after my money. Let’s look at the new model – Lemonade’s entire business is built around doing good for things that I care about in my immediate vicinity. In the same way that middle-class parents delight as their kids pop a green token into the local cause at their local Waitrose, and as we become more localised in our thinking, there’s an opportunity for brands to become more human and useful.

A less risky, connected future:

Autonomous driving. Renting not owning. Predictive genealogy and modern medicine. We’re slowly removing risk from our lives. Technology is changing the way we perceive the world around us. We’ve never known so much, or had so much access to so much information. What does that mean for insurance businesses and brands?

With all of the simplicity of data interfaces, people still find it difficult to understand and act on insight. ‘Customer at the heart’ thinking means turning this insight into new behaviours, making information meaningful in people’s lives. To do that, we must understand their

motivations and underlying psychology, and these must be writ large in both the boardroom and the product lab – not just in a media plan. As we get carried away with new technologies we must keep in mind that human evolution is not advancing at the same pace as technology. It’s the responsibility of marketers to help make sense of technology for people, not use it for technology’s sake. The way we educate audiences will be key. If we’re to genuinely help people navigate this new world, then the language we use around data and technology must be empathetic and pattern-matched to people’s psychology. As should the language of risk and the role of insurance.

So perhaps there’s an interesting opportunity for insurance businesses to help guide and enable people through better and more valuable decision making; partnering with them to achieve and experience the things in life we wouldn’t normally do because ‘life’ gets in the way. Experiences fueled by data, enabled by language and facilitated by brands with a higher, more human purpose.

There’s a clear need and opportunity to transform the insurance industry.

The brands that will win will create a new role for themselves, moving from ‘risk adverse broker’ to ‘informed advisor’.

From ‘crash mat’ to ‘trampoline’. 

Nick Tate / Verbalisation / nick.tate@verbalisation.com

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