For Sanjeev Kapur, the problem is compounded in the insurance sector. The problem in question: standing out.
All brands in every sector are seeking that key differentiation that makes them stand out to consumers. “When you compete as MetLife, it’s not just versus another insurer, you’re competing for share of attention in a consumer’s mind,” he says. “That’s what you’re fighting for.”
This is a tough enough proposition in most markets, but in insurance, an industry that is heavily regulated, standing out is even harder.
“When you have a very regulated space, products start looking and sounding very similar,” he explains. “They can become complex, and from a marketing perspective you’ve normally got to make things simple. That’s not the same as an FMCG setup, where you have much more operating freedom to create differentiated products.”
Luckily, Kapur brings significant regulatory market experience to his role as MetLife’s Asia CMO (he joined in June) from his time as regional head of marketing at Citi, covering APAC and EMEA. Facing similar issues there, he says he learned that the key is going beyond the product and into experience.
“If your products are boxed in, you’ve got look at more holistic value propositions, which are the total of the products, services and experiences you deliver,” he states simply. “Nobody likes products being pushed on them. Customers want a more consultative experience.”
Typically an insurer approaches [its] role from the standpoint of when and if there’s adversity, they’ll step in and provide support. But if you think about it, there’s a role in preventing customers from getting to that adversity, which is a much more powerful role.
Easier said than done, but it’s clear that Kapur is excited by the prospect. Transformation was at the heart of his previous role in banking, and although he is a very recent addition at MetLife, Kapur is eager to hit the ground running.
“MetLife is transforming into a company where customer centricity and digital will become the point of difference,” he says. “That transformation starts from the top, which I believe is the right mindset, and it was decided that marketing would be the catalyst.”
Kapur says he was attracted to MetLife’s commitment to transformation, which has been evident since its rebrand in October 2016. In reasserting its brand vision, Metlife is thinking big about its role as an insurer, which fits with his ambitious plans.
“There’s an opportunity for us to reimagine the role an insurance company plays in the life of a customer,” he proposes. “Typically an insurer approaches that role from the standpoint of when and if there’s adversity, they’ll step in and provide support.
“But if you think about it, there’s a role in preventing customers from getting to that adversity, which is a much more powerful role. It opens up several growth opportunities to engage customers and provide them value on a day-to-day basis.”
To that end, technology and data are critical. Kapur says in his limited time in insurance, he sees an industry that can sometimes be “data rich, but insight poor”. Harnessing all the structured and unstructured data Metlife has, and turning them into insights that better serve customers, is a major part of his plan to differentiate the brand from its competitors.
Customers today find themselves dealing with unprecedented complexities, and are looking for brands like MetLife to be a trusted partner who can help them on a daily basis.
“You can use technology and data to create an interactive decision-making process. So you’re handing control of the decision to the customer. You’re helping them navigate the complexity,” he says.
“When you then go back and engage the customer, you can provide more thoughtful engagement with them based on insights from that data. The philosophy should be one of providing incremental value over a customer’s life.”
It all comes back to creating a positive end-to-end brand experience, Kapur says, which is the key to building enough trust with consumers that they welcome you into their daily lives.
“Customers today find themselves dealing with unprecedented complexities, and are looking for brands like MetLife to be a trusted partner who can help them on a daily basis. That’s our over-arching purpose, and we’re now looking deeply into the challenges faced by the Asian consumer,” he says.
Healthcare is a big issue in the region, for example, and Kapur said consumers “will see a lot more action from our side in terms of marketing on this issue” in the coming months.
By tapping into their consumers’ concerns and aspirations, Kapur hopes to provide the sort of personal, seamless experience people normally associate with much more consumer-facing brands.
“The true test is whether you can create MetLife experiences that people love talking about, and that genuinely bring value to their lives,” he sums up. “When you talk about an Uber experience, or an Ikea in-store experience, these are great experiences that people love telling each other about. We’ve got to find a way into that set of experiences.”
Ambitious to be sure, but Kapur says with MetLife’s future-forward thinking and desire to transform the brand, the company has already begun its exciting journey.
A 2015 Metlife video: