The heart of a business success lies in its marketing. How have you been crafting such marketing objectives for your company that your customers find credible and aligned with their values? Marketing is all about continuous efforts to discover, create, arouse and satisfy customer needs. In a category sold on fear, HDFC Life crafted, ‘Sar utha ke jiyo’ or instilling ‘self-respect’ which was unique and was kept at the heart of how we do business. All decisions, processes and decisions are made in alignment with the brand identity.
Marketing objectives are set by based on changing customer needs, whilst furthering ‘Sar utha ke jiyo’.
The Perfect Brand Image”- what do you perceive from it and what all goes behind its creation?
There is no such thing as a perfect brand image. Brand building is a function of several variables- good performance, great customer experiences, innovation, goof service and what the brand stands for. Great brands have a few things in common. Firstly, uniqueness; in a category sold on fear, HDFC Life came to stand for ‘pride’ in financial independence which immediately resonated with the audience. Secondly, minding the value gap; HDFC Life has constantly innovated, be it harnessing the digital power or product innovations like Cancer Care or the ‘Click 2’ series. And lastly, driving consistency; good branding is ubiquitous and HDFC Life has consistently driven ‘pride’ as a proposition.
HDFC Life enjoys a significant share of the Life Insurance Indian market. What are the challenges that the brand faces in the market?
The largest challenge for HDFC Life has been that Life Insurance is a push category with heavy dependence on agents and banks. Coupled with low financial literacy, customer acquisition and retention is tricky. Using ‘Sar utha ke jiyo’ consistently in communication and all business dealings, HDFC Life has been able to create a unique identity that invokes trust.
The other category hurdle is that life insurance is very transactional, with customers interacting with the brand only once or twice a year and that to, to essentially pay premium. It is a low involvement purchase. HDFC Life has made customer interaction more personal with innovative value propositions like ‘Memories for Life’ which is a digital platform where people can leave a cache of life lessons for their loved ones besides just a financial legacy.
What is your prime focus for retaining customers?
For customer retention, the first and foremost important business practice is transparency and transference of complete and correct information at point of sale at HDFC Life.
Customers are then regularly engaged with HDFC Life through several direct marketing initiatives. The idea is to educate customers about his policy and market trends, engage with him based on his passion points and systematically generate loyalty in the long term.
And lastly, HDFC Life constantly strives to create new value propositions that deliver value beyond life insurance in their lives. A first of its kind digital messaging platform called ‘Memories for Life’ was introduced to make our interactions with people more personal. The idea was to not only help people leave a financial legacy for their loved ones but also a cache of life lessons which can serve as their guiding light for their families, even when they’re not around.
“Money coming in says I’ve made the right marketing decision”- till what regard do you observe this quote?
As a brand, we drive several metrics like brand awareness, brand consideration, customer retention and imagery parameters as these are essential in a low involvement category like ours. Sales impact is only one metric. It entirely depends on objectives set.
In an industry so dynamic, how do you comply with respect to changing trends, behavioral pattern and expectations of society?
HDFC Life has always evolved with changing times. In early 2000’s, when life insurance was sold based on fear, HDFC Life established ‘pride’ as a proposition and its uniqueness resonated with the audience even today. With the advent of the internet, HDFC Life has harnessed the power of digital. Digital media primarily caters to today’s DIY customers who we regularly engage with, via different social media channels. Our website offers educative insights on the category and also various tools for people to calibrate their financial needs and choose a suitable product accordingly. With a strong online sales channel, we introduced a series of online products to cater to this customer. The effort has been to set a strong online servicing network that ensures the online customer stays online.
Lastly, the consumer himself is evolving. With shorter attention spans and increased competition, engaging with customers is even more challenging. Hence, crafting relevant propositions which adds value to the consumer’s life has been a large focal area for HDFC Life.
One thing you wish to change and one thing you wish to retain about your industry.
The low insurance penetration and awareness is one opportunity for HDFC Life to harness and change. And one thing that I would want to retain is very core to the category- protecting your family from life’s uncertainties. No other financial category caters this need.
How do you think marketing has changed over time?
Marketing is an evolving practice which is continuously changing. Today’s customers are not passive anymore. Yesterday’s nice-to-haves are today’s given. They’re expecting brands to have a nuanced understanding of their needs and introducing innovative solutions accordingly. Hence, agility and consistently engaging with the customer is essential for brands to stay relevant. Besides, with the rise of the digital medium, brands are working with real time input and are able to course correct immediately. Omni channel presence is key today to reach customers who are interacting with multiple screens and consuming multiple media at one time.
Awards are tricky; you don’t really aim to win, till you win. How has winning changed your approach to trophies and titles? From an accidental byproduct of good work to something you actively need to defend year on year, perhaps? Is there pressure to keep winning?
We at HDFC Life believe in doing good work consistently. Recognition is a good motivator for the team to perform better since the benchmark set is higher now. Awards validate success.
How the recognition changes things for you at business as well as personal level?
At HDFC Life, we are constantly striving to make our customer’s life easier and better. Any acknowledgement of that reflects well on the business. At a personal level, I have believed in constant innovation and disruption to break clutter and add value to the customer’s life. Recognition is of course, a validation of this effort.
Does data play a larger role in media planning (pre campaign) or in gauging the efficiency of a media plan (post campaign)
Data plays a huge role in both pre and post campaign analysis. In today’s hyper segmented world, data is key in planning the right mix of media to reach the desired audience in the most effective way. E.g. on TV, there are more than 300 channels from just 30 odd channels till a few years back. Similarly, the digital media offer real time input which offers a huge opportunity for brands to target the right audience in a systematic and focused manner.
Similarly, the power of data in gauging media performance is insurmountable. It helps to evaluate media delivery and take learning for the future campaigns.
Be your own fortune teller and tell us where do you see yourself in next 5 years?
Today’s CMO is evolving. His role has expanded immensely with the advent of the digital medium and technology available. Besides marketing, driving business and innovation also falls in his purview. I see myself playing this challenging role in the future.
What things fascinate you the most when you travel?
Seeing new places, meeting new people, understanding their culture- the similarities and differences with ours and exploring different kinds of art is a great passion of mine.
What are your hobbies?
Running, reading, graphology and watching movies!
Best and the worst thing about your job.
The best part of my job is that it keeps me on my toes and teaches my new things every day since the ecosystem is evolving faster than ever. The worst part is sitting through unproductive meetings and not having control over that time.