THE 2ND OF 6 POSTS IN AN EXCLUSIVE, BI-WEEKLY BLOG SERIES FOR INSURANCE ADVISORS
By Andris Pone
Andris presented on the topic of branding at Sun Life’s Practice Development and Thought Leadership Summits this past summer. In this series of six bi-weekly blogposts written exclusively for insurance advisors (both independent brokers & IIROC insurance specialists), he provides branding insights that advisors can apply to their businesses today.
Recently I was at a sports bar and asked the server what beer she sold. She replied with a list of the usual suspects: Bud, Bud Light, Blue, Coors Light, Canadian and so on.
So I said: “Yes, but do you have any beer?”
My wisecrack was based on being a beer snob who regards the above libations as lightly-flavoured water (Wayne Miller also appreciates a fine beer, fyi). More significant is that each of those beers is only barely distinguishable from the others. And they are all among the top-selling beers in this country.
So we have a small cohort of highly commoditized products that nonetheless have managed to stand out in consumers’ minds and sell extremely well.
This question will sound familiar to you as insurance advisors, because like the beer companies, you sell a highly commoditized product and thus have a challenging time differentiating. On the other hand, the answer – which is “buckets and buckets of money” – will not be something you can relate to. The good news is that you can learn from the folly of the big breweries, spend a microscopic fraction of what they do on marketing, and still stand out from the pack.
1. Be Remark-able
As it happens, you compete with Budweiser. It matters not that you sell insurance and they sell beer. Several thousand commercial messages hit your clients’ brains each day, and humans are only willing and able to absorb a certain amount of messaging before they start blocking things out.
Bud gets around this problem by spending astronomical amounts of money on advertising, commanding a significant swath of real estate in our brains. Assuming you don’t have, or do not wish to spend, hundreds of millions of dollars on ads, you can get around this problem by being “remark-able”, ie. worthy of word of mouth. Word of mouth happens to be free, and studies show that compared to paid advertising, people are much more trusting of it.
How to be remark-able? It’s all about being creative. This past summer in the Ontario countryside, Greg Jizmejian, an estate and insurance advisor with BMO Nesbitt Burns, invited a group of investment advisors to an event he calls “Retreat and Refresh.” The gift bag in each guest’s hotel room included a bottle of water, a Power Bar, mint-flavoured gum and a magazine that happened to be called Refresh. The creativity and commitment it took to create an on-theme gift bag is impressive, reinforced his event, and is something I have mentioned a number of times. In a word, it is remark-able.
2. Have a Clear Position
What is Bud’s value proposition vs. that of Canadian? How about Bud Light vs. Coors Light? To most people, the differences are negligible. That’s why the beer brands have to spend so much money in the never-ending war for brainspace.
Unfortunately, to the observer, there is likewise little difference between one insurance advisor and the next. Most of your LinkedIn profiles and websites (whether your own site, or a microsite within your bank’s site), have language that describes your skills and education, your many years of experience, your dedication to your clients, the outstanding customer service you deliver, and so on.
But this is table stakes: if you didn’t have those attributes, you never would have become a top performer. Those details do not serve to differentiate you from the pack: they do not articulate the unique and important value you provide clients, or the benefit to them of retaining you. If you want to stand out, you have to articulate your one-of-a-kind story.
3. Be Consistent
A brand is what people think of you. So if you keep changing the message all the time, people won’t know what to think. That’s why the number one rule of branding is: Be Consistent.
Beer brands are legendary for inconsistency. Molson Canadian is a classic example for having killed off the “I Am Canadian” campaign, which made perfect sense because it was on the lips of every living, breathing Canuck old enough to watch TV. And what brilliant campaign replaced it? Who knows?
On the other hand, consider Steam Whistle, an independent brewery based in Toronto. Their tagline? Do one thing really, really well. There is no Steam Whistle Light. There is no Steam Whistle Dark. There is just Steam Whistle, period. Its drinkers have an emotional connection to the brand’s story of traditional quality and Canadian heritage. As for the story of Coors Light or Molson Canadian, who really cares? It’s going to change tomorrow anyway.
Why Beer Is Not Like Insurance
Unlike the big beer brands, you really are different from everyone else in your industry. Each of you is measurably unique, something I know from working on branding with several of you. But how precisely do you articulate that difference? Having a beer to start the creative juices flowing would not be the worst thing. In fact, as the owner of beer bistro once told me: “At the bottom of every beer glass is a great idea.”
What do you think? All opinions are welcome.
This special series runs every second Friday until December 13th. Coin Branding is offering a branding package created exclusively for insurance advisors. For more information on how branding can make a big difference to your business, contact Wayne Miller at 1-416-408-7542 or firstname.lastname@example.org