Holding the lion’s share in the industry (51%), State Life felt that it was time to make a strategic shift from ATL to digital marketing and revamp the brand’s image. “Our competitors have long focused on highlighting their strengths and it was time to break the cycle of our stereotyped advertising,” says Muhammad Izqar Khan, Executive Director, State Life.
The video posted on Facebook on December 4, 2019, is said to have gone viral on social media, garnering 6,000,000 views and 50,000 shares in a month. It depicts the relationship between an orphaned boy and a woman who assumes the role of his guardian – not by adopting him but by securing his future by buying a State Life insurance policy for his education. The boy grows up and becomes a doctor, the two reunite and he pays her medical bills, ending the commercial on an emotional note.
This revamp – a campaign that brings to the fore the notions of sacrifice, charity, savings and altruism and replaces the conventional “Ae Khuda meray abbo salamat rahein” concept – aims to overcome the challenge posed by the negative connotation attached to insurance products.
“It is difficult to make customers understand that the amount one saves in the form of an insurance policy is not only useful in the case of death; these savings can be tapped into when the policy matures,” says Khan. Putting this message across has until now required face-to-face contact in the form of field agents making this an expensive proposition. With this digital campaign, State Life has both generated awareness and attracted customer attention for this product.
Apart from social media, the video has been released on YouTube and generated virality through the Google Display Network (GDN), whereby links to the ad were placed on web pages accessed by the target audience.
Khan defines State Life’s target audience as a mix of urban, semi-urban and rural. “The major chunk of our business is derived from small towns and rural areas. The small premium policies allow ordinary people to save and plan for the future, essentially making SEC B and C our target market.”
Pirzada Sharf-e-Alam, Associate Creative Director, Spectrum VMLY&R (State Life’s agency), adds that the fact that “there were 50,000 shares in a month’s time is proof of the acceptance the concept received. The brand has highlighted how savings can play a large part in securing one’s future. Also, the decision-maker in the video is a woman, emphasising the fact that saving, planning ahead and taking responsibility are not male-specific domains. In essence, the brand has moved from the Ae Khuda Meray Abbo Salamat Rahein idea and has put the emphasis on the role every family member can play in securing their future.
Towards the end of the video, mention is also made of the Sehat Sahulat card that is offered by State Life for health insurance. “The Sehat Sahulat card is a government initiative aimed at covering every member of the population in terms of health insurance and we are the government’s sole distributors of this facility under our health insurance programme,” says Rizwan Ahmed, Head, Corporate Communications, State Life. He adds that “we have not been very strong on digital and are now working on this.”
Sharf-e-Alam adds that “digital audiences are now quite mature and our emotional video content was well-received. Considering that it was a two minutes-plus video (longer than the standard), it says a lot that it went viral and that too without any celebrity appeal. The objective was to connect with ordinary people and thus it was displayed in a very humble manner.”
When citing industry challenges, Khan says that “awareness of insurance has always been an issue and will continue to be one and it cannot be tackled by the efforts of a single organisation. It has to be an industry effort and although several pan-industry plans have been suggested, they never made it to the implementation stage.”
The industry has often highlighted lack of awareness as a strong reason for the minimal penetration of insurance in Pakistan. Last year was another discouraging year for the industry as a whole, and according to Khan, “even our business figures were not too bright either – and this was due to an internal restructuring effort which we initiated to comply with the SECP (Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan) expense ratio requirements.”
Furthermore, says Khan, “the lack of awareness paired with government policies that are not industry friendly have resulted in a an already low insurance penetration rate of 0.8% falling to 0.7% in last fiscal year.”
In this respect, it is worth noting that provincial governments have implemented a sales tax on premiums and on agent commissions. Both taxes have affected revenues and if a company tries to pass on these to customers in the form of higher premiums, they cancel the policy before maturity. In fact, many customers perceive this as a company going back on its word, by increasing the premium – causing mistrust.
“The government needs to understand this impact on the industry and create insurance-friendly policies. Internationally, life insurance is a basic commodity and a must-have. We need policies that increase penetration through awareness and better accessibility,” says Khan. Nevertheless, he believes the campaign “has left a lot of room to build upon in the future. It will help us build a digital presence and we look forward to adding a light, humorous version this year.”