What tools/technology do you use to manage your brand?
ME: As the media landscape continues to evolve rapidly, we have developed a Marketing Effectiveness approach which incorporates many methodologies, including econometrics, geo-testing and first-click attribution. We have also increased the sophistication of our Insight approach.
However, arguably the more interesting aspect of our utilisation of technology is in the ways that we have used leading-edge technologies to reinforce our brand credentials in a somewhat tangible way. We wanted to have a conversation with customers outside of the annual purchase cycle but needed to find a legitimate way to do so.
In this context Fleetlights was developed in response to the unfortunate fact that more deaths happen in winter due to shortened daylight hours. The UK’s lighting system is very old fashioned, and mainly focused on busy urban areas, paradoxically leaving the most dangerous roads in the dark. Therefore, we wanted to find a way to ‘hack lighting’. The result was the Fleetlights concept, which is a fleet of synchronised drones that can light the way in places where lighting is poor.
We described the project as a brand activation activity, designed to increase search and consideration. At the point that we launched it, we did not have a clear plan as to how we would commercialise the technology. We were thrilled that only six months later, Caister Sea Rescue approached us to use the technology to help save lives at sea. They believe it now helps them to find people five times faster than before.
This activity reinforced our forward thinking and technology credentials. It is, therefore, perhaps unsurprising that we have subsequently developed partnerships with the likes of Tesla and Volkswagen.
Emboldened by the success of Fleetlights, we challenged ourselves to consider how we could actually hack roads. In general, our roads are out of date, having been designed and built when they were far less busy and when pedestrians weren’t staring at their mobile phones. So, we launched the Smart Crossing, which is an adaptive road that morphs and provides guidance to road users in real-time.
These campaigns continue to change consumer perception of the Direct Line brand and support our mission to Revolutionise Insurance Again. At the heart of these were complex technology collaborations which is indicative of how important technology is going to be as we move further into the world of prevention.
Which trends are likely to have the largest impact on your brand?
ME: Whilst nobody knows when autonomous driving will become ubiquitous, the advent of driverless cars is one of the hottest topics on our radar at the moment. The good news for the insurance industry is that legislation requires drivers to still insure themselves even in an autonomous vehicle. There will likely be a reduction in the number of crashes, but the cost of repairs will go up. There have been cases reported where a near new autonomous car has been written off as a result of a relatively minor accident simply because the replacement part is not available.
It would be easy to put our heads in the sand about such developments. However, we are choosing to stay on the front foot and are part of Move UK, a government backed consortium looking at how to accelerate the uptake of autonomous driving in the UK.
The same is true of connected homes, where data and technology can be used to prevent bad things from happening. For us, this is the natural extension of the fixer positioning; preventing things from happening in the first place.
Is brand more important now than ever?
ME: Brands still act as a lightning rod for consumer decisions in a world where there has been trust erosion and I believe that brand has never been more important. The medium isn’t the message: the message is the message and many marketers seem to have lost sight of this. At Direct Line, we embrace mobile-first thinking in the customer journeys that we create, but from a targeting perspective we would describe ourselves as “digital conservatives”.
The key point is that Marketing 101 still applies and being curious about consumers evolving needs will never go out of fashion. I was fortunate enough to work for Bruce McColl at Mars for a few years and he used to say that “curiosity is the cornerstone for any great Marketer” because there’s always that insight just lurking around the corner.