From a marketer’s perspective, the IPL is one of the biggest sporting extravaganzas that happen in the country. Therefore, if there is any way that we can participate in that extravaganza and if that benefits our business, then it is an ideal situation. RCB is one of the prime brands in the IPL, and so for us at Max Life Insurance it made perfect sense to associate with the team. Our endeavour was to be part of this extravaganza, while also building a stronger connect with the millennial consumers. Now that the IPL has just concluded, we will evaluate the effectiveness of this campaign. Accordingly, we will look at renewing our association with the team.
Q] Was the association also aimed at driving greater growth in the Bangalore and South markets? Will the South be a key market for you, going forward?
We are largely a North-dominated brand because of the Max ownership. Therefore, from a strategy perspective we need to leverage the South market as well; so that was one consideration. That said, I must add that Max Life is focusing on top 15-20 metros for business, because 95% of the country’s wealth lies in these markets. Bangalore is certainly one of them. But you must understand that the tie-up with RCB was for all the centers where RCB had its games. All the IPL matches happen in 7-8 locations, where they play twice over. Most of these markets were a big focus area for us, so the strategic objective was to increase awareness for the brand in these cities, especially among the youth.
Q] How are you looking at driving growth for the company in these 20 markets now that this season of IPL has concluded?
Well, we have a pan-India focus, though we try to maintain a sharper focus on the top 20 metros. However, our focus on these top markets will not come at the cost of other States and cities in the country. We are the fourth largest life insurance company in the country. We are also a multi-distribution channel company and for the rural markets, we have large tie-ups with banks, specifically Axis Bank, Yes Bank and Lakshmi Vilas Bank. So, we use their presence as well to reach out to our rural consumers. So while we continue to ensure a mass, pan-India presence, our larger focus is on the urban markets and the segment with Rs 5 lakh plus income, which makes greater business sense for us too. Ultimately, the ownership of life insurance is in direct correlation to family income.
Q] The insurance sector is currently a really cluttered one. What kind of growth do you envision for the brand in the current scenario?
If we are the fourth largest player, we are certainly doing something right. We keep the customer at the centre of everything we do. We just launched our vision for the year, and our customer is at the centre of it too. Last year, in fact, we were number one in the claims settlement ratio and while we are not allowed to talk about it in our advertising, last year was the first time that we had a higher claims rate ratio than the Life Insurance Corporation of India! The claims settlement ratio is the biggest metric for choosing from a ‘customer-first’ perspective. Our customer-centric approach is an important part of our brand vision and identity. That is definitely a differentiator for us. We are completely customer-obsessed!
Q] What is the kind of media mix that you use for your campaigns?
Insurance is still very much a distribution-led business. So you will notice that this is largely a business where customers search online and buy offline. Therefore, a lot of our marketing spends go towards outdoor advertising and towards our sellers so that they can reach the customers better. There is also a clear movement towards the digital space, and to be absent from that would not be wise. So, going forward, the digital space will be as important as any other platform in the offline mix. I would say about 50% of our advertising budget is on Digital, and the other 50% is devoted to non-Digital platforms. As far as Digital goes, we will largely be using platforms like Hotstar, YouTube and the social media pages of the Max Life brand. Digital will continue to be a key focus area for us, going forward.
Q] What are some of the challenges for the brand in the Indian market?
Perhaps the largest challenge lies in the understanding and awareness of insurance as a category. Most customers do not understand the relevance of insurance. If you ask anyone with an insurance policy if they know what is the sum assured, chances are most of them will have no idea. That is the gap we want to address. People take insurance for tax benefits but that is not its core purpose – our aim is to help consumers understand this. This challenge affects the entire category, not just Max Life. That is why we plan to roll out a campaign along with the regulator and the industry to build greater awareness and understanding for the category.
Q] Who would you say are your target customers?
Well, on an average, close to 60% of our customers are millennials, aged between 35 and 36 years. Life insurance is a product that becomes attractive to the consumer when an event happens in her/his life. That event could be a death or even a happy event like a wedding or the birth of a child. That said, while millennials are an important segment, we cater to all age groups. Therefore, our advertising spends are directed at all age groups and not just millennials.
Q] How much are you spending on advertising this year?
I cannot share the exact figure, but we are spending about 20% more on advertising this year compared with the last year. At Max Life, we need to grow 30%-35% year-on-year and our marketing budgets grow accordingly. This year also, our focus will be to grow the topline by 35%, grow protection by 50% and ensure that all our channels are doing well. Digital will be an important focus area. In future, all insurance companies, and not just Max Life, will need to ensure that they simplify insurance for customers both online and offline. From my viewpoint, simplicity means Digital. Life insurance has traditionally been sold using death as a premise. Instead, we at Max Life choose to have conversations about life with the customer. That is why we partner with events focused on community fitness. We want to keep the conversations as positive as we can. Consumers respond better to that too.