Matthew Miller
Sep 24, 2018

Plainly powerful? AIA debuts a straightforward brand promise (and a new video with David Beckham)

From ''The real life company' to 'Healthier, longer, better lives'.

Kids ask Beckham some tough questions.
Kids ask Beckham some tough questions.

Pan-Asian insurer AIA today officially changes its brand promise from 'The real life company' to a more straightforward and less self-referential line: 'Healthier, longer, better lives'.

Group CMO Stuart Spencer told Campaign Asia-Pacific that the change aims to move the focus away from the company itself and place it firmly on how AIA impacts its customers.

"We didn't want to be introspective," Spencer said. "We wanted to really articulate a brand promise that was a reflection of who we are and what we do for people in society."

Stephen Thomas, head of group brand and communications, said the new line better reflects the company's evolution over the last few years, and especially its AIA Vitality programme, which rewards customers for meeting health goals.  

'The real life company' had been in use since 2013, so Spencer set about to evaluate it soon after he joined AIA, from Zurich Insurance, in May 2017. That research revealed that the resonance of the old promise had begun to decline, although Spencer admits that it had enjoyed a lot more media investment when it was new. More importantly, the company has seen how the Vitality initiative can help people make measurable impacts on health metrics, and needed a statement that would reflect this broader purpose of encouraging healthy action.

AIA wants to be "fundamentally synonymous with health and wellbeing", Spencer said. "I've got to be highlighting what's fundamentally distinct about what we stand for, and our credibility to deliver what we stand for."

Stuart Spencer

The new promise is free from any hint of wordplay or double meaning, and that is a deliberate choice. "It's intended to be understood," Spencer said. "I don't want to be clever. I want to be meaningful. I want to be impactful."

The brand will be marking the launch of the new tagline this week by hosting health and wellness-oriented activities in Hong Kong's AIA Vitality Park—the area around the AIA-branded Hong Kong Observation Wheel on the Central waterfront.

Beckham's a true believer

Today also marks the debut of a new piece of work created by BBDO, AIA's creative agency regionally. It features David Beckham taking questions from a group of children in a press conference. The spot is not destined for TV, but will be pushed out through social channels including paid social, Thomas said.

Company research showed that children are a powerful motivator for people who act to improve their health, Spencer said. "We're taking what people value the most, and leveraging that influence to try to drive behavioural change," he said.

While some might consider Beckham overexposed as a brand ambassador, Spencer argued that the football star is a humanitarian who truly believes in this mission. "His other engagements tend to be product endorsements," Spencer said. "This is a movement. This is a drive to shape the future of health and wellness in Asia."

Plus, Spencer jokes, Beckham has "50,999,983 more followers on Instagram than I have."

While the promise line won't vary across the region, the company is engaged in "extensive research" to determine how best to express it, creatively speaking, in local markets, Spencer said.

Vitality's dividends

Spencer believes wholeheartedly in what he says about AIA leading a movement, but is also frank in explaining that's it not all about altruism.

"With 32 million customers on your balance sheet, you see the prevailing trends and you say, I'm not going to be a bystander," he said. "We know if we do nothing, the shocking trends in lifestyle diseases will continue. So on the front end, we want to be acquiring new customers who we think are as healthy as possible and at the same time provide them with the options to take control of their lives, and get rewarded for so doing." He also acknowledges that healthy people don't want to subsidise unhealthy people in the risk pool, implying that the programme inoculates the brand from criticism on that front.

From an engagement perspective, Spencer compares AIA now to the old days, when insurers sold policies and then were forgotten until a claim had to be made. "We've gone from that disengagement model, which is a very traditional model in life insurance, to a massively engaged model," he said. "Vitality customers have an average of 90 interactions with us per year."

The company's data also shows they are simply better customers, he said. "They buy more, they stay longer, they spend more."

While competitors may be treading similar territory in their communications, Spencer argued that AIA is far ahead in the scope and validation of its program, which it continues to tweak.

In its most recent financial report, for the first half of the year, AIA's operating profit after tax rose 14% to US$2.65 billion and VONB (value of new business, an important profitability metric in the industry), grew 17% to US$1.95 billion.

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