Posted by Allan Steinmetz on 21 February 2018

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The insurance category in transition

Insurance is a difficult business that is crowded by many highly recognized, long-standing and reputable companies. Just this morning, I counted 12 major brands that seem to have been in business forever. Companies are often represented by independent agents that represent multiple companies as well as dedicated company agents. It is also a business in transition. Selling insurance has changed dramatically transforming from the traditional agent/customer in person sales transactions to competitive self-directed price driven broker marketplaces using web-based platforms. Web presence and brand positioning are more important than ever.

The customer is changing as well. With the aging baby boomer population going into retirement the focus of the life insurance category has been millennials who are entering the workforce, getting married and having children. Being able to appeal to the growing millennial marketplace is transforming how insurance brands are marketing and positioning themselves to the public.

A brief lesson on positioning

When I was younger and an account planner at YR Detroit, a good friend, and mentor, explained positioning to me in a way that has remained with me ever since. He said, “Imagine a parking lot with limited lined parking spaces for cars. When a car pulls into a space, it occupies that position. It is impossible for another car to share the same space. This forces new cars to a find new parking space and a new position in the parking lot.” Some spaces and positions are better and sought after, worth more or less than others, such as being close to the exit, distance from the entrance and so on.

Using the parking lot analogy, life insurance has many “parking spaces”. Some parking spaces (positioning) focus on value, others on longevity/having your money last, some on retirement, some on service and responsiveness, others on the comfortable future, and some on costs and product features. There are even a couple insurance companies that are communicating the same thing occupying the same space and causing overcrowding and confusion in the lot. They are crossing over the lines and messing up the narrative.

After watching many life insurance commercials lately, I get the sense that they’re all the same. The brand names and logos are different but the message really hasn’t stood out. Everyone seems to be in the same parking lot and in their various spaces. Until this past week.

MassMutual is changing the traditional rules

Mass Mutual, in my opinion, has changed the rules in the insurance category by enlarging and repositioning the parking lot, not just filling in vacant spaces. They have established a new narrative.

In its commercial showcased at Super Bowl LII, MassMutual acknowledges the tragedies of 2017 and the ways strangers helped strangers to overcome them. Paying tribute to these unsung heroes, men, and women of all ages sing the heartwarming song, "I'll Stand By You," as they band together nationwide.

MassMutual remembers when strangers rushed to the aid of victims after Hurricane Harvey and when a synagogue welcomed Muslims after the destruction of their mosque, bringing attention to the human kindness found in humanity's darkest moments.

They have redefined insurance as “kindness and caring for one another” and positioned Mass Mutual as the company that understands the value of doing acts of kindness. They are suggesting that Mass Mutual, will be there for their customers when they need them most. They won’t let their customers down. They care. They stand by you. When my wife and I saw the spot all we could say was, “Wow!” We both had tears in our eyes.

Acknowledging the need to care for others was meaningful and heartfelt. It positions Mass Mutual perfectly as a company that cares like I have never seen before. Here is a link to YouTube

No doubt, MassMutual did their homework well. They tapped into the millennial audience’s emotional and experience mind sight. Millennials see themselves as activists with a sense of high civic duty, moralism, heroism, and sociability. They consider themselves as members of a global community, to which they contribute. They are optimistic about their future.

Internal Agent/Employee Alignment

Now comes the big question. How can Mass Mutual create a movement and employee advocacy with their thousands of employees, agents and brokers to be/and act in a heartfelt way in their daily activities and behavior, as if they were first responders, helped the homeless and be compassionate?  How can they align their personal purpose and inspiration with the narrative of the spots? How do can they align the internal behavior with this new disruptive external message? What are they doing in their communities to support this new purpose, day in and day out?

This new narrative has to translate into a new reality and customer experience with MassMutual as a result of a new and different interaction with their employees, agents, and brokers. If MassMutual doesn’t get the internal and external behavioral alignment right, this outstanding spot will just be another unfulfilled extravagant promise.

Kudos to the team for creating a disruptive positioning and taking the risk to think out of the box and well outside their comfort zone. I hope they follow through with their internal behavioral change and launch successfully.

Allan Steinmetz CEO - Inward Strategic Consulting 617-558-9770