Financial products like pensions are a hard sell as news from the Pensions Commission attests: some 12.1 million people over 25 are failing to make any provision for their retirement.
But the toughest job of all is selling life insurance to young adults.
For them, not only is death a foreign concept, but paying monthly premiums for it (and not getting anything in return) seems nonsensical. Moreover, as pensions and savings continue to grab the headlines as something we should all be doing, life insurance is arguably falling down the list of priorities.
But it was precisely this that Norwich Union Direct decided to tackle.
While younger prospects are an obvious gap in the market, the provider felt that there was an important message that needed to be said, as Lisa Connolly, marketing manager and project leader at Norwich Union, explains: "Although life insurance becomes more normal as people buy houses or get married, it gets more expensive, and the younger people begin with it, the cheaper it is."
It was this kernel of information that influenced the content of an ingenious integrated off and online campaign, which ran from August to September 2004, devised and implemented by email marketing agency Harvest Digital.
The concept was based around a person's age, and showed how the longer insurance was delayed the more expensive it became.
"We know that birthdays trigger thoughts about where people are in their lifestage, and we already had a birthday card mailer which provides our best cold responses," says Connolly. "But we wanted to make it more dynamic to appeal to younger ages and collect fresh prospect data."
It was from this that the idea of a bespoke 'insurance calculator' was born. Offline creative would drive prospects to a microsite where they could input age and address details for an 'insurance now' quote alongside a 'how much this would go up to' price comparison if they left it a year.
Stretching the theme, a strap 'Before my next birthday I'd love to....' appears alongside 12 experiences that people could choose from, supplied by gift website Memorisethis.com, ranging from hot-air ballooning to a trip on the Orient Express. Prospects were invited to choose three activities and enter a prize draw to win one. It also showed that getting an insurance quote could save them money before their next birthday.
"Focusing on the prizes was a key element," explains Connolly, "Insurance is the opposite of sexy, so we wanted to offer aspirational experiences people really wanted."
Getting people to the Norwich Union microsite was through a co-ordinated offline and online approach. Ads were placed from July-September in The Metro and a partnership was set up with The Mail and Mail on Sunday, where slots were placed in the Financial Mail and Femail sections to appeal to young men and women alike. There were deliberately no telephone numbers on the press ads - people had to go to the website. The Mail/Mail on Sunday ads had a URL that led to a similar microsite but with the newspaper logo on it to perpetuate the idea that this was a joint Norwich Union/Mail reader offer.
Banner ads were also developed, again produced by Harvest Digital. Heading up this side of the activity was its creative director, Mike Teasdale.
"These had to catch people's attention, so again we played on the experiences people could win first," he says. "Examples included having the hot air balloon float by within the banner to make it more interesting." These were placed on MSN, Eurosport and buy.co.uk, as well as experiences and activities website memorisethis.com, which donated the prizes and had its own audience and customer base. As part of the Daily Mail and Memorisethis.com partnership, the Daily Mail sent an email version of the press ads to 40,000 of its opt-in database and Memorisethis.com to another 200,000.
The aim of the work was to get people to submit their birth dates, postal and email addresses so that prospects could be fed into later direct marketing schemes. These were mandatory fields for entry to the competition. Once the competition details were filled in, the microsite calculated a cost for £100,000 worth of insurance based on their age. There was double emphasis of this, because built into the registration process was an automatic email confirmation.
"This was the really clever bit," said Connolly. "The email was entirely personal as it included images of the three experiences they chose, and told them what a life insurance policy would cost based on their age and what it would rise to if they left it just one year."
It was at this point that a phone number was given so that people could call a representative, or people could apply directly by clicking onto a link to the Norwich Union site.
It is the response to the campaign though that really gave some food for thought. "The interaction between offline and online was very surprising," says Teasdale. Exactly 50 per cent of response came from the web (there were 20 million impressions from the mixture of banners and links from the Norwich Union, Daily Mail and the Memorisethis website) and the other 50 per cent from the press ads. "The message is very much that people use offline media to go online still," he adds. "This proved to us that while it's very much an email campaign, traditional channels are still sizeable drivers."
Harvest Digital measured the peaks in competition entries during the two month period, and found the largest spikes corresponded to the days when the newspaper ads ran. It was also surprised to see that while an address to send postcard entries to was in these same press ads, eight per cent of entries came from this route. "We were really pleased that we didn't just make this an online campaign," comments Connolly, "as this would have drastically cut response."
What is clear from this campaign is that offline marketing created high awareness that people remembered, and then went to the internet to pursue it later. "While there were 3,213 people that came to the microsite by typing in the exact URL, there were 798 searches on dailymail.co.uk for Norwich Union," says Teasdale. "It's clear that people registered the ads in their minds, and even if they couldn't recall the exact URL, they tried to find it by other means."
According to Norwich Union, more than several thousand people entered the competition from all sources, and many of these surpassed expectations by ordering an insurance policy directly from the microsite or follow-up email. "We fulfilled our competition entry requirements by a long way," admits Connolly, "and have really learned a lot about how channels work together." Plans are already afoot to turn this newly gathered data into mail campaigns. Carefree young spenders must be counting the days until they finally become responsible.
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