Feb 14

Commoditizing a commodity with comedy

Sheep_herd

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it's a poor substitute for strategy. Take the insurance industry, please!

Geico broke out from the pack long ago with a hip and irreverent campaign that alternated between the gecko and the sad sack caveman. Aflac followed suit with its duck and Progressive wasn't far behind with Flo. Next came State Farm and Allstate.

All of a sudden, a commoditized industry was commoditizing itself again with lookalike, soundalike commercials.

To test my theory that, when everyone says the same thing no one says anything, I asked 10 friends to name their favorite insurance commercial. Nine selected 'mayhem', but only four could correctly identify the advertiser: Allstate.

The pack mentality works well in the wild, when strength in numbers is needed for defense. But, it fails miserably in marketing where a distinct positioning and point of view is critical.

I experienced the pack mentality first-hand, back in the dotcom days. We were being paid $35,000 per month to launch an interactive web designer. When we presented a suggested positioning, the CEO hit the roof. "I don't want to be different. I want the market to see us, and price us, just like Sapient and Scient (two white hot IPOs of the day)." We disagreed, and we're soon shown the door.

Needless to say, the 'me too' dotcom failed. And, while these major insurance companies won't fail, their campaigns will. And the CMOs will soon be looking for new jobs.

Talk about mayhem!

Dec 26

Is it Murder?

Guest blog written by Deb Brown.

Recently, a 17-year-old girl desperately needed a liver transplant and, which we hear too often, theCigna
insurance company — in this case CIGNA Healthcare — refused to pay for the operation. It wasn’t until 150 teenagers and nurses protested outside CIGNA’s offices that the insurance company finally decided to reverse its decision.  But, it was too late.  The young girl died last Thursday.  And, the family is planning to press murder or manslaughter charges against CIGNA.

Maybe we do need insurance companies to be charged with murder and have several top executives thrown in jail for callously refusing to try to save a person’s life.  Why does it take producers like Michael Moore, protests from teenagers, or the media in general to force insurance companies to reverse their decisions and pay for life-saving operations? This is the reason we all pay insurance premiums in the first place…so we don’t have to worry about critical procedures or medications.

Apparently, the health insurance industry doesn’t seem to care too much about its reputation.  According to a Harris poll from 2006, health insurance companies and HMOs are only ahead of oil and tobacco companies when it comes to doing a good job. 

The attorney of the family who just lost their daughter during this holiday season says, “The insurer ‘maliciously killed her’ because it did not want to bear the expense of her transplant and aftercare.” 

Maybe it has something to do with H Edward Hanway’s salary and compensation? According to Forbes in 2006, Hanway, CIGNA’s CEO, had a total compensation package of $28.82 million. 

It’s tragic that insurance companies can continue to make these heartless decisions.  This is certainly a case to follow.  If CIGNA is charged with murder or manslaughter and some executives spend some time in jail, maybe then, and only then, will they see a child as a child and not as a claim form.

I wonder if Hanway has a 17-year-old daughter?