Most insurance brands dole out ads based on a tried and tested formula. Create fear using death and negativity, then offer a remedy, lull the scared customer, and sell the plan.
But, Abhishek Gupta, CMO, Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance, doesn't subscribe to this formula. Instead, his brand's communication, since inception, has always remained positive.
"It's very easy for an insurance company to talk about death and negativity...," says Gupta, as he talks about his brand's new ad. It's for an income-led product that focuses on giving periodic returns, and features actor Sonu Sood.
According to Gupta, this product wasn't made keeping the present 'unpredictable' scenario in mind because it has happened before.
"The recession happened in 2008, 2012, and pandemics, too, have happened, albeit low frequency..." he says, adding that the product was in the pipeline before the pandemic struck. "Unpredictability will always remain, and this product was designed keeping it (not the present one) in mind."
With over 20 years of experience in the BFSI and retail world, and stints with Shoppers Stop Limited, ICICI Bank and Bharti Retail in the past, Gupta is no stranger to unpredictability. So, when we questioned about the hard times in the insurance sector, he sounded optimistic, and said that despite this downturn lasting more than what people expected, the belief in the India story is still strong.
And so is his belief in his brand's philosophy of 'Zindagi unlimited' - to take out limitations from life. And it's this very philosophy that shaped the brand's decision to rope in Sood.
For Gupta, Sood's efforts during lockdown, where he helps the migrant population reach their hometowns, was exactly what Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance did – remove limitations... "We realised it's a good brand and product fit."
A little late?
We wondered if Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance had missed the bus to capitalise on the popularity and goodwill Sood had garnered due to his efforts to help people during the lockdown... Gupta feels differently, though.
He explained Sood's efforts in terms of brand terminology. This is what a brand extension means. Are you able to extend your brand to relevant categories and, therefore, the brand keeps on growing? Brand Sonu is going into adjacent categories from core product (help people reach homes to any kind of help)... this action will give him relevance for time to come.
For example, a woman could not go out of her home because she didn't have a wheelchair, so Sood arranged one for her.
After Sood's efforts during lockdown caught the limelight, his brand rating zoomed to newer heights. Pepsi roped him for its digital campaign championing the cause of contactless greetings and encouraging adherence to social distancing norms.
We also wondered if we were witnessing the changing nature of celebrity endorsements that focuses on the popular face of the season, and then move on to someone else...
Darshana Bhalla, founder and CEO, D'Artist Talent Ventures, had a different opinion. While she agreed that "popularity is a recency contest", she wouldn't say yes to the assertion that celebrity endorsement is going to change forever as recency creeps in...
She remarked that what Sood did was out of compassion, and people have seen a side of him. That's wonderful and endearing, as he's gone beyond what one would expect him to do. "People know him better now, and it's fine if he gets some benefit... "
Instead, Bhalla asserted that brands are focusing more on micro objectives that are three to six months in nature because we (brands and consumers) are unsure about the future and, therefore, lack absolute clarity.
She stated that we are seeing a lot of "digital videos, social messaging oriented videos, positivity spreading videos..." and added that marketers are playing it wisely, "... they're selling as much as they can in such an environment, plus they're playing on the affinity people have, and third, somewhere they're endorsing good. It's all a bit of a package right now."
In the end, it's Gupta's remarks that remain with us, "As a brand marketer, I am very happy. If he (Sood) manages to amplify his brand further, I am sure the rub-off effect will be on us, and if we do good, the rub-off effect will be on him as well. "