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  • Posted by: Jelger Arnoldussen on Thursday, April 17 2014 11:44 AM | Comments (0)

    A study of the Best Dutch Insurance Brands 2014

    Interbrand recently launched the Best Dutch Insurance Brands report, which, for the first time, was spotlighted in an article published by the Netherlands’ leading professional journal for the insurance industry. The research that forms the basis of the article shows which brands are leading in the marketplace and why. In this blog post, I will share key takeaways from the report that will benefit insurance industry marketers and brand leaders around the globe. However, because international readers may not be familiar with brands like Centraal Beheer Achmea, ANWB, or Interpolis, I will keep the focus on general insights we’ve gleaned from the report, rather than specific brands.

    Dutch insurance industry is under pressure
    Before we get to the insights, I will provide you with some important background information. Across the globe, insurance companies are seen as somewhat disreputable institutions. The Netherlands is no exception, and with an obvious reason. Not so long ago, in 2004, 80percent of Dutch consumers had a positive perception of insurance companies, which were regarded as reliable and responsible. But that changed in 2006. The industry was shaken up when research on investment-linked insurances by the Authority for Financial Markets revealed that clients had been overcharged and consumers were being misled. Since many well-known companies offered these plans, the entire industry was affected and most companies suffered huge blows to their reputation. Although the situation has begun to stabilize, Dutch consumer sentiment is at an all-time low when it comes to the insurance sector. The pervasive belief is that it doesn’t matter which company you join, they all want you for your money anyway.

    Expertise is not enough
    It has been eight years since the scandal emerged, but the insurance companies have not been able to turn the tide. One of the reasons is their failure to re-establish trust. Focusing on expertise in insurance, its functional benefits, and telling customers how much safer they’ll feel when they’re insured, is apparently not the way to go.

    ANWB, ranking third on our Best Dutch Insurance Brands list, illustrates the importance of the trust factor. The ANWB is an automobile association, comparable to the American AAA and British AA. It is a consumer rights-organization at heart and offers insurance as a by-product. Despite not being an insurance company, ANWB’s trustworthy reputation earns it a top spot in our ranking. This indicates that being an insurance expert has become less important than being trustworthy, credible, and customer-focused as an insurance brand. Given the state of the Dutch insurance industry, ANWB’s high ranking is exemplary.

    The best Dutch insurance brands are the ones that have connected with the public on an emotional level. This year’s winner, Centraal Beheer Achmea, has used the same central, easy-to-understand message (that focuses on convenience) since 1985. All of the brand’s messages use humor, setting the brand apart in a “serious” industry. The runner-up on the list focuses on prevention in its communications instead of insurance, which minimizes the link with insurance itself. In short, being part of the insurance sector seems of little benefit if you want to be a strong insurance brand.

    Little differentiation between insurance brands keeps status quo in place
    The research for the Best Dutch Insurance Brands report shows that a large majority of consumers see little difference between the brands. Insurance companies are unable to show what makes their brand different from their competitors’. As a result, the general belief remains that it does not matter which insurance company you join. The understanding of the brands is limited as well: almost all insurance brands seem to be unable to effectively convey a clear vision and corresponding message to consumers.

    Though the big Dutch insurance companies could use mass marketing to shift negative sentiment, strengthen their identities, and bring clarity to their messages and positioning, their communications have not changed much since 2006. They commit to corporate positioning messages that represent category values rather than showing a “personality.” Catchphrases like “…Whatever happens” and “Critical at the right time” emphasize the function and practicality of insurance, but are unlikely to bring these companies and consumers closer together. Not only are the messages ineffective in terms of differentiation and understanding, it is also very doubtful whether they are credible in the light of the events of 2006. The bottom line: Dutch consumers don’t need to be reminded why insurance is useful; they need to be convinced that insurance brands are trustworthy.

    Offering choice (and a human touch) to improve the industry’s reputation
    Consumers appreciate options. They want to know they have the freedom and opportunity to make a choice that befits them. In the insurance industry, this feeling of choice does not exist, leading to a victimized role for consumers and little confidence in the industry as a whole. The industry needs differentiating brands that show aspiration, ambition, and a higher purpose. The fact that these players have not presented themselves over the last eight years leads one to question whether Dutch insurance brands have changed in any fundamental way since 2006. And when it comes to internal clarity around and commitment to company vision, there is clearly room for improvement. The upside of this situation is that there is a big opportunity for insurance companies with a clear vision and true consumer focus to shape the insurance landscape of the future. We challenge today’s insurance brands to step up the plate, for their own good and the good of the industry.

    Insurance companies should embrace the notion that consumer focus is more than providing a feeling of safety and showing expertise. Expertise is necessary, but not by any means a driver of choice in an industry in which consumers lost confidence almost a decade ago. Offering tailor-made solutions and facilitating choice benefits consumers, but these instruments alone will not regain lost trust or touch hearts. 

    Jelger Arnoldussen is Senior Consultant in Interbrand’s Amsterdam office

    You can follow him on Twitter @IBJelger

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  • Posted by: Michael Mitchell on Tuesday, March 18 2014 04:22 PM | Comments (0)
    The Art of Storutelling

    We know that words matter. They have an incredible power to move people, and when used thoughtfully—even poetically—they can change the way people experience brands.

    For example, there’s something poetic about Volkswagen’s 2013 campaign encouraging us not to text and drive. In one ad, a nearly blank page simply says, “See you n…” —cleverly incorporating auto-correct to anticipate the last word as either “now” or “never.” It’s a powerful use of four words to tell a story, affect behavior and solve a problem.

    If design thinking is how brands can use design to solve problems, perhaps poetic thinking is how brands can use language to solve problems.

    The suggestion is not that brands begin speaking in iambic pentameter. But, if we craft a brand's language to be as poetic as its design is artful, we can have a significant impact. As our new article on the art of effective storytelling notes, the key is “finding that balance between having a living and breathing expression while still remaining true to the core what, how and why of a brand.”

    Artful language helped HSBC claim the second highest rank of any financial services brand on Interbrand’s latest Best Global Brands report. Delivering on their positioning as “the world’s local bank,” their iconic advertisements featuring a single word seen from multiple perspectives was a sublimely poetic way for a bank to raise its brand value by conveying understanding, empathy and humanity.

    In an equally poignant mix of design and poetic thinking, an Asian non-profit, Samaritans of Singapore, promoted their crises-prevention services by crafting phrases that convey different messages from different angles. These heartfelt ads show that depression can hide in plain sight, reading, “I feel fantastic” when right-side up, and “I’m falling apart” when upside down.

    The thoughtful use of language is essential to helping brands express an emotionally engaging, strategically consistent and differentiated point of view. When combined correctly, an inventive piece of design coupled with a poetic turn of phrase can move hearts—and business margins—in powerful, world-changing ways.

    For more on crafting language and story to elevate brand communications, download our new article on “The Art of Storytelling.”

    Michael Mitchell is a Senior Consultant, Verbal Identity, at Interbrand Singapore.

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  • Posted by: Sarah McLaughlin and Tori Miner on Friday, January 10 2014 02:10 PM | Comments (0)

    GravityMost people send out cards between Thanksgiving and New Year's because they think that is the holiday season. But every movie fanatic knows that the holidays really start at the beginning of awards show season. And it all kicks off this weekend with the Golden Globes.

    The Golden Globes are the biggest, glitziest booze fest that brings together stars of film and television. So dust off those tuxedos, get out your Jenny Packham dresses and drape yourself in Harry Winston diamonds because it’s award season and black tie is not optional.

    Like a red carpet in a sea of black ties, brands look to stand out this time of year. And we don’t just mean designers and luxury goodie bag fillers. Every actor also has a personal brand. And actors are given the chance to showcase it every time they sashay on stage for an acceptance speech.

    They may convey their unique brand personalities and individual voices in the tone of their speeches and the way they communicate. Often, they use this platform for personal messaging as well. Sometimes, winners will deliver politically charged acceptance speeches or highlight a social cause related to their films' themes. Think Sean Penn for Milk.

    So, while everyone else out there is making predictions about who will be going home a winner, we decided to take it a step further. We wanted to predict not only the winner, but to try to imagine the voice and messaging of those who might take home a trophy on Sunday. What will they say? How might they say it? Sure, the people we would love to see win might not go home with gold, but even if they lose, they’ll still look really fabulous.

    Let’s start with Tom Hanks, nominated for a Best Actor Golden Globe for his incredible performance in Captain Phillips. On Twitter this award show veteran’s voice is playful, engaging and unpredictable. It’s not a surprising brand voice from Mr. Hanks, and it is one that makes whomever he’s speaking to really feel like they are a part of his life.

    So when we went back to look at past acceptance speeches, we were surprised to see that the voice of the Tom Hanks we know and love on Twitter didn’t come across at all. His Oscar speech for Philadelphia was lackluster, the first three minutes were very functional, running through a laundry list of industry folk he wanted to thank. Overall, his brand voice was fairly bland. But then his message rose to the surface, concluding with a moving speech about the devastation of AIDS, elevating the message of the film. When he accepted for Forest Gump, his speech felt very generic, lacking any sort of individuality.

    However, we predict this year, should he win, Tom will speak and act in line with his recent rebrand via Twitter because everyone knows a good brand is a brand with a consistent voice. Moreover, in the decades since those wins, Tom has come into his own and created a more authentic, confident voice that shall rise to the top. Fingers crossed we find out on Sunday!

    Moving on to another red carpet regular, Sandra Bullock. After years of playing less than meaty roles and establishing a relatable girl-next-door personal brand, Sandra burst onto the awards circuit in 2010 with Golden Globe and Oscar wins for her powerful performance in The Blind Side.

    In both of her acceptance speeches, self-deprecation (Did I really earn this or did I just wear y’all down?) and a sprinkling of playful wit (Meryl – you know what I think of you… and you’re such a good kisser) helped her stay true to her brand and only increased her likeability. She also linked her film’s themes of family and motherhood with her own personal messages of gratitude for her loved ones, all while consistently conveying a down-to-earth sense of humor. Should Sandra win for Gravity this weekend, we’re confident she will show us that engaging balance of accessibility and sincerity that will keep us rooting for her as awards season rolls on.

    Now, continuing on the topic of likeable ladies, let’s look to the younger generation. Jennifer Lawrence tripped her way up the stairs and into America’s (and apparently, film critics’) hearts at last year’s Oscars. Since then, the J.Law brand has only grown stronger. Known for her easy attitude and rather blunt brand voice, Lawrence refreshingly tells it like it is with an approachability that wins over audiences.

    But, Jennifer also demonstrated a bold confidence that set her apart when she opened her Golden Globes speech with “What does it say? I beat Meryl?” Like Sandra, Jennifer also balanced self-deprecation (Harvey – thank you for killing whoever you had to kill to get me up here today) with authentic and personal expressions of gratitude to the people that helped her get on that stage.

    Her acceptance speech at last year’s Oscars was heartfelt, but not quite as humorous as at the Golden Globes, which makes sense given the more formal atmosphere and the fact that she had just taken a rather embarrassing tumble. If she wins a Golden Globe for her supporting role in American Hustle this weekend, we predict she’ll maintain her sincerity but sprinkle in a little more sass.

    One actor who’s a bit of a wild card in the acceptance speech category is Bradley Cooper, nominated for Best Supporting Actor for American Hustle. Snubbed last year for both the Oscar and Golden Globe for Silver Linings Playbook, we haven’t seen him on stage accepting an award at a major show yet. And as a celebrity, he doesn’t have a clearly defined personal brand (No, 2011 Sexiest Man Alive doesn’t count) – which may partially be a result of the diversity of roles he takes on.

    We took a look at his acceptance speech for his 2013 MTV Movie Award for Best Male Performance to get a sense of what we might have in store. Interestingly, at one of the most casual award shows out there, Bradley didn’t capitalize on the opportunity to showcase a unique sense of humor or witty charm. Instead he used his speech solely as a platform to message a profoundly serious call to action regarding posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Looking ahead to this weekend’s Golden Globes, given that Bradley’s role in American Hustle may not have an obvious link to a social issue or personal cause, this acceptance speech may be an opportunity for him to bring his personal brand to life a bit more, and we hope we get the chance to hear it.

    Another regular on the award show circuit is Veep’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus, nominated for Best Actress in a Comedy. When we looked back on her win in 1994 for Seinfeld, we weren’t impressed. Much like Tom Hanks, her acceptance speech lacked pizazz. While she had no clear voice, she did have a distinct message of gratitude, thanking everyone she’s ever met.

    Compare that to her Emmy acceptance speech last September. Before the ceremony she and Tony Hale, who plays her body man on the HBO show, came up with a bit. In Veep, his character carries around her purse and tells her things about the people she’s meeting. So fans were delighted to see him follow Julia up on stage to accept her award, dutifully walking behind her, holding her bag and feeding her lines for her speech. It was hilarious and a speech people were talking about for weeks after. Major coup! It demonstrated her ability to stay true to the brand of her character in the show and allowed her to showcase her voice. We hope she wins so we can see what she will come up with next.

    These five favorites might not even make it up on stage on Sunday, but we’re looking forward to seeing what the big winners have to say. Will they stay true to their personal brands? Will there be surprises that will keep tongues wagging for weeks to come? We’ll report back post-show to see how we fared with our predictions and to give our perspective on the ultimate Globe-holders’ words of winning.

    Sarah McLaughlin is a Senior Consultant and Tori Miner is an Associate Director, Verbal Identity, at Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Soo Kim on Thursday, December 19 2013 04:57 PM | Comments (0)
    Nike Holiday Ad

    During the holidays, brands compete for people’s attention more than at any other time of year. Trying to wave down shoppers in a crowded commercial space can make it tempting to veer off message in favor of a short-term focus on holiday-speckled dollar signs.

    Brands with strong identities inherently have strong messaging. That is, they have a knack for telling people what they stand for in a consistent and inspirational way. For example, if you invited Nike to a dinner party, it wouldn’t drone on about its latest shoe technology for runners. It would talk about how everyone around the table has the potential to be an athlete. That’s Nike’s message.

    Retailers that stick to their messaging do it because they understand their brand is a more powerful driver than discounts and deals alone. Anthropologie speaks to the idea that clothes transport women to a world of fanciful delight. That message underlies all of its communications and rings true even as it introduces its holiday collection, “a rather giddysome collection of wants & wishes, oohs & aahs, fancies & finery and just about everything one’s heart could possibly desire.”

    E-commerce design curator Fab also doubles down on its message that design creates space for people to be adventurous and bold with invitations like “let it all hang out.” It's a cheeky way of introducing their take on modern holiday décor.

    Staying on message during the holiday frenzy is more challenging for others. A few months ago, T-Mobile announced its rebrand with fists up, declaring, “Ladies and gentlemen, T-mobile has left the clueless-cellular-company building.”

    Its messaging platform of challenging the status quo, however, is more difficult to find in its holiday campaign, which focuses on seasonal deals, “great gift ideas for everyone,” and “T-mobile wish lists.” CEO John Legere, who’s popular for provoking his competition on Twitter, throws most of the blows through his personal account, but this feisty spirit isn't reflected in the brand's holiday messaging.<p/>

    While we can’t deny the importance of ringing up as many sales as possible, it’s the brands who take the opportunity to flex their messaging chops and remind shoppers what they stand for that will turn customers into brand evangelists, long after the holiday season is over.

    Do the brands you relate to tell a story you appreciate? What about those messages appeals to you?

    Soo Kim is a Consultant for Verbal Identity at Interbrand New York.

    For more on holiday brand messaging, see Speaking for the Holidays: Brand Voice and Holiday Shopping.

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  • Posted by: Jemima Maunder-Taylor on Tuesday, December 17 2013 05:26 PM | Comments (0)

    Cast your mind back to the Victorian era, and imagine you dwell near the Gin quarters and crowded slums. The first National Insurance Act of 1911 is yet to arrive and the cost of medical attention is high. Doctors treating low-income patients are rumoured to prescribe Guinness for a variety of afflictions, including influenza, nervous conditions and post-natal depression. Guinness was more affordable than medicines, but rarely recommended in public as a medicant.

    The Guinness team decided to investigate, so a series of pamphlets to doctor’s nationwide, advocating the beer’s benefits and asking for opinions. A huge number, including Harley Street residents, affirmed their beliefs in the nutritious and disease-busting values of the beer – only 2 percent of responses were negative. Doctors even referred to the beer as a "tonic," with "therapeutic value."

    Guinness’ boosting properties became a branding plaform for the beer until well into the 1960s, encapsulated in the famous "Guinness is Good for You" slogan in 1928. This was used for almost a decade, until 1937, when John Gilroy, creator of the beloved Guinness Toucan, advanced the positioning. Further slogans included "A Guinness A Day," "Guinness for Strength" and "My Goodness My Guinness."

    A few consequent studies have proffered medical insights into the claims, although the topic is still much debated today. Concentrations of antioxidants, such as those found in fruit and veg, inhibit harmful deposits on artery walls - other lagers don’t all have the same effects. Some have also recommended the low-calorie beer as a source of iron, hence the one-time use of Guinness post-operations, after blood donation and as a galactagogue for nursing mothers. Even today some pregnant women extol the virtues of drinking Guinness. Reports of Gwyneth Paltrow in 2006 being spotted with a Guinness outside a restaurant in New York while pregnant caused a stir, but in the last few years she's given her favorite beer credit in interviews for being one of her best beauty secrets.

    The mid-century advent of stricter advertising standards propelled the brand to look for a new resonance. Moving away from being medicine for the body, Guinness became fodder for the soul. The brand repositioned itself as the beer that benefits us, and today’s beloved Irish tipple has evolved considerably from the 1900s Victorian remedy.

    The 1998 "Surfer" ad was a definitive moment in Guinness’ good-for-you messaging. The ad compared the brand experience to the tension of surfers awaiting a wave, and the consquent cathartic exhilaration of mastering the pounding surf. Horses leapt over the breaking waves, hooves hammering the sea below. The ad won more awards than any other commercial at the time, and in 2002 was voted "Best ad of all time" in a poll from Channel 4 and The Sunday Times. It enjoyed a revival in 2013, when surf photographer Brian Bielmann shot new footage of the Tahitian waves. The message was simple: Guinness is a feel-good factor, a boon for health and wellbeing.

    The current "Made of More" campaign continues to resonate this message, with some imaginative and evocative stories. January 2013’s "Clock" ad personifies the town clock, fast-forwarding time, and turning it back again to avert disaster and prolong the townfolk’s special moments. The "Friendship" ad features a wheelchair-basketball game, ending with all but one participant standing up at the end of the game, walking off the court, and drinking a pint with their wheelchair-bound mate.

    The voiceover pronounces: "The choices we make reveal the true nature of our character." The spot was hailed as one of the most effective TV beer ads this year, beating other brands in popularity stakes, with some stats claiming it had outranked competitors by 30 percent. It accumulated more than 7.5 million views, and was praised for departing from more customary laid-back-lifestyle beer messaging.

    Guinness drew on a different interpretation of masculinity and sports – comradeship. The story again carries the feel-good momentum, communicating the message that Guinness facilitates more meaningful moments in life, and can improve how we live.

    Over the path of a century, the brand has communicated in a variety of ways, but has maintained its original resonance. From Victorian tonic to today’s pub favourite, Guinness has always been more than just beer.

    Jemima Maunder-Taylor is an Analyst, Brand Strategy at Interbrand London.

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