After spending much of 2020 finding a way to stabilise its global business, 173-year old insurer Prudential is providing fresh focus and investments for its Asia and Africa units.
In Asia, Prudential Corporation Asia's attempt to sport a more youthful brand and connect with a younger group of target customers is being driven by the insurer's regional CMO, Anthony Shaw (pictured below). A 20-year company veteran, Shaw says the insurer will focus on building stronger links directly with its Gen Z and millennial consumers, even as the pandemic uproots the old ways of selling and marketing insurance.
This intent has been recently evident in a pact the storied brand signed with K-pop band SuperM earlier this year. But Shaw says the company is doing much more to reel in younger consumers.
"While Prudential as a brand is well known and high-regarded, it is important that we don't become dated," he told Campaign Asia-Pacific. "That's why we signed up with SuperM and are focusing not just on life and pension, but on emerging opportunities in adjacent segments such as health and wellness segments."
Building or re-building a brand in a competitive Asian market won't be easy for one of the world's oldest insurance companies. Besides the presence of strong regional competitors such as AIA, there are also strong rivals in local markets Prudential needs to compete with along with a new raft of tech-driven startups such as FWD and Blue Tie, which have changed market dynamics.
"While we want to give our customers one Prudential, we also recognise that we need to tailor our marketing strategy to different markets and sub-regions," Shaw adds. "Each market we are in provides a challenge." In some markets, bank relationships dominate distribution, he says, adding that "in newer markets such as Laos and Cambodia, digital penetration is high and there is a greater emphasis on building simple, digital first solutions." Taiwan also presents "issues", Shaw says; US-based Prudential Financial, which is not related to Prudential Corporation Asia or its parent Prudential Plc, also operates there.
As an example of Prudential's move to gain relevance with young, active consumers in its markets, Prudential in the Philippines runs its PRURide Virtual Challenge. A free virtual cycling challenge presented in partnership with Garmin, the challenge uses Prudential's Pulse app to register participants and track their performance in distance challenges for a chance to win prizes.
The initiative enabled cyclists, enthusiasts, and families to experience fun and safe cycling wherever they were. Compatible wearables could be synchronised with Pulse to track participants' indoor and outdoor progress. The challenge, which runs until January 31, garnered over 4,000 registrations within its first week of launch—twice the prior year's participation.
To try to draw in younger consumers, Prudential has had to focus its marketing activities away from traditional insurance products to newer offerings in the health and wellness space.
"Digital is dominating the discussion with this group, and we have seen strong adoption of our Pulse platform in the pandemic, and the use of Babylon, an artifical intelligence tool," Shaw says. "We are seeing a strong emergence of self-directed consumers, those who research and even buy products online, where previously the agent or institution dominated discussions."
"We are competing with disruptors we know and those we don't know of," Shaw says. "In a challenging market, we are significantly improving our customer experience and rapidly building up our data and analytics capabilities to focus on our direct-to-customer capabilities." Faced with rivals who are doubling down to compete in a crowded Asian market and tech-led upstarts eager to upend the old guard, he will have his hands full protecting Prudential's turf in Asia.