As the insurance industry faces a turning point of digital and social media transformation, determining the path to success is critical. To chart this course, we’ve gathered the expertise of industry leaders such as Denise Garth, Patrick Kelahan, Alberto Garuccio, George Kesselman, Bryan Falchuk, and Hugues Bertin, as well as insights from Eric Mignot, Steve Tunstall, and Marcel Neumann. Each has a unique perspective on navigating the digital selling revolution that is reshaping the insurance industry.
This article is more than just a read; it’s a conversation with those driving change. Providing you with direct industry leader insights that were intended for decision-makers who want to lead in a digitally driven market rather than simply adapt to it.
Question 1: We’ve noticed a notable absence of some major players at this year’s key insurance events. In your opinion, what factors might have influenced this trend?
As 2023 unfolded, the absence of some key players at major insurance events became a topic of intrigue and speculation. What could be behind this noticeable trend? Whether it’s the costs versus benefits, the saturation and shifting relevance of insurance events, or the intriguing potential of virtual spaces as a new platform for engagement.
“I think there are a few different factors in play. First is a focus on cost and value — with tightening budgets there is a renewed focus on value for attending events. Some of the events have risen substantially in cost, raising the question of value further. Second, events go through phases and in some cases come and go. There have been key industry events in the past that are no longer in existence for various reasons – one being cost and two being value. So I think we are seeing a wave of shifting events and priorities. Third, the purpose of an event needs to be clear and of value to those attending, sponsoring, etc. Some events seem to be just following a trend like InsurTech or AI… but in essence, are a hodgepodge of topics. This diminishes the value and ultimately attendance. There needs to be a well-thought-out agenda and who would benefit — even if results in a smaller event. Sometimes smaller events end up being the best.”
“There are perhaps three responses to this question- 1) 2023 was seen as an ‘expense year’ where the costs associated with attendance and sponsorship of events were a victim of economics, 2) the number and presence of events have grown to saturation with ‘major players’ having to balance availability, and 3) this ties in with the first two responses- there may be a growing realization that there is a limited ROI generated from attendance. Earlier days of insurance innovation events (and that is what we are focusing on here) had the benefits of ‘newness’, potential ROI, and a dose of fear of missing out. Event planners gauge success through sponsorship and registration but attendees must in the end find a lasting reason to support attendance. Perhaps the opportunity cost of attending many conferences has become too high absent tangible benefits of attendance.”
“In my opinion, a lot of Insurers reassessed their strategic priorities during 2023, focusing on specific markets and new products, and as a result, they could not find certain events aligning with their current goals. Moreover, with the rise of virtual events the ROI for physical events is not as high as before, so sometimes it could be a good option to invest more in virtual spaces or alternative methods of engagement.”
Insurers see a combination of a lesser threat of disruption from insurtech and at the same time more cost pressure to save on discretionary costs, such as events and innovation.
“No question the economic environment is impacting decisions around travel and exhibiting. I’ve heard from several carriers who instituted cost controls, including some who have a trigger at a given combined ratio. For solution providers, especially earlier-stage companies, with funding being a bit tighter than before, they’re looking quite hard at how to self-fund or stretch between rounds by making more careful hiring and marketing decisions.”
“I am not sure if there is a difference this year. I have observed that some key players are never present at major insurance events. Why is that? Sometimes it’s because they are very proud and think there is nothing new to learn; other times, it’s because their focus is solely internal. I know some key insurance players who don’t know anything beyond their internal office environment. Their focus is 100% internal, and they are very surprised to discover that there is a world outside when they attend some events.”
“I think there can be a number of reasons why big players avoid events from time to time. Sustainability is sometimes a genuine reason these days. I know of several companies who are scaling back travel to events unless considered critical. The other side of this coin is that several insurers who committed to aggressive sustainability targets are now walking them back as they realize these decisions impact profitability. Keeping a low profile as this plays out no doubt seems sensible to the board. The Net Zero Alliance for example lost a number of members because of this reason, this is likely a case of Green-hushing.”
“Due to increased demands and busy schedules, top managers are increasingly weighing up whether an event is ‘worthwhile’. After the pandemic, there was a great need to be able to go to physical events again, which is now often no longer the case. Personally, I am also more critical about which events I still attend, as the cost-benefit ratio was not always given in the past.”
“The notable absence of key players at this year’s insurance events can be attributed to several factors. Primarily, there seems to be a heightened focus on expense management within the industry. Additionally, the deceiving performance of investments in startups may have influenced this trend. Furthermore, there is a growing maturity concerning a number of tech-related subjects, which might have impacted attendance at these events.”
Question 2: As a decision-maker or leader, how do you see social media selling and content marketing affecting sales and business growth in the insurance industry? Many big brands have successfully implemented this strategy, so why are only a few insurers doing it?
Why aren’t more insurers embracing social media selling and content marketing, despite their proven success in other industries? The reasons are varied, ranging from regulatory challenges and industry conservatism to concerns about the direct return on investment.
“First, content marketing is key and important for the industry — both for insurers and software companies – to educate and engage the market in an array of important topics. In particular, as buyer demographics shift and new needs emerge, content marketing becomes even more important. However, doing it the right way is equally important. Increasingly, social media is more of a communication and engagement medium, rather than a medium for selling. The reason is that social media perception, trust, and value are increasingly mixed. There is increasing new research emerging about the negative impact of social media on people and society that is driving some to reconsider use or how to use it. What is emerging is the need for access to information followed by a more personal touch, meaning that engagement may start with a social media reach, but must turn into the human touch creating a humanizing experience.”
“This is a continuation of insurance being sold and not bought in parallel with social media being in large part consumed and not made. Carriers typically balance marketing expense with direct results; social media has not yet been fully framed for marketing effect- except- in instances of adverse outcomes. Customers reach for social media for insurance when something goes wrong. Big brands are most often consumption brands; insurance remains the ‘cold vegetables’ on the consumers’ plates. Social media campaigns must become digital drip marketing options where outcomes are measured only over time, communication is developed as background for consumers and effects are made in the long run, and media presence is not a surprise when a carrier needs to respond to adversity. Smart media users have a continuous, responsive presence such as having the brand become a friendly user space as opposed to only being a source of expressing dissatisfaction. Insurers need to change their thinking and not expect social media to fit a traditional marketing ROI model.”
“While many big brands have successfully implemented social media selling and content marketing, the insurance industry’s slow adoption could be attributed to a mix of regulatory challenges, resource concerns, and conservative industry culture. Are the insurance policies sold or bought? Easy question, difficult answer because there are multiple, with one final conclusion: depending on the distribution channel. Insurance sales often involve lengthy decision-making processes. Some insurers perceive social media and content marketing as more suitable for industries with shorter sales cycles, potentially underestimating their long-term impact on building relationships. On the other hand, it’s normal to be hesitant to invest in social media and content marketing because of uncertainties about the return on investment if most of the budget is invested in social awareness campaigns.”
“Social media selling has the potential to significantly upgrade insurance distribution and aligns well with evolving consumer expectations. Right now the model has only been proven in Asia, so insurers are waiting for a pioneering brand to validate it in Western markets.”
“I think this is just a matter of time. When I was growing up, it was very uncommon to see an insurance ad on television. Today, it feels like two-thirds are pharmaceutical ads, and the balance is for insurance or food. And I’m seeing the same shift in ads inserted into streaming services. But we were slow to get there. I believe this will become more normal in time. I do already see insurance ads on Facebook and other platforms, but ads aren’t the same as social selling, so we’re not quite there yet. I bet that the first real push will be in small commercial via LinkedIn.”
“The insurance industry typically lags in adopting new technologies and sales processes. It is important to remember that insurance is about risk management; thus, embracing new working methods, distribution channels, and business models does not come naturally to us. However, social media selling is an emerging and significant trend. Given that the banking industry is heavily investing in this area, we can expect to see a similar trend develop in the insurance industry in the coming years. We just need to be patient.”
“The death of the intermediary in insurance has been predicted for longer than I have been alive – and that’s a long time. Meanwhile, the brokers still seem to be the most profitable corporates in the commercial insurance space and agents are also doing almost as well in life (death) and non-life (non-death)personal and HNW lines as they ever did, particularly here in Asia. The fundamental point I guess is that until insurers work out how to break the face-to-face selling addiction, then social media will only ever be a sideshow in board room discussions.”
“The requirements of social selling are extremely complex and the success of some providers without the use of social media means that they are still resting on their laurels. The values and opportunities are sometimes not seen or understood. This can sometimes be very complex and without the right setup as well as competent initiators, it will be more difficult for some providers to assert themselves on the market.”
Regarding social media selling and content marketing in the insurance industry, there are a few key factors to consider. The industry, in general, appears to lack customer-centric approaches. The strong market share of intermediated distribution, many of which are too small to launch such initiatives, also plays a role. Additionally, the nature of insurance as a product, which is not typically sought after eagerly by customers, affects its marketability through these channels.
Question 3: Social Media for 2024: do you think insurance companies should seriously take leverage in social media to establish their brands and reach their target audience?
As we look at 2024, the question is not whether insurance companies should use social media, but how they can do so effectively to stand out in a crowded digital landscape. To better understand social media’s role in the insurance industry, this section discusses how it can be used to build real relationships, increase brand awareness, and reach new markets.
“Social media is another channel for communication, one to educate and engage your target market and audience. However, selecting the right social media for your product and audience is important, as not all social media is the same or used by different demographics. Using social media to connect the audience back with your website, with personal connections and other content is important and can enhance a brand and reach. Without a broader marketing strategy that considers a multi-channel, multi-touch, and multi-content approach, social media by itself is not effective.”
“Social media options are supplanting traditional media in the markets’ expectations for communication; that says it all. The current social media options in use are far greater than traditional media’s presence and will simply become even more so. Insurance is not big brand consumption marketing, there is little opportunity to build the excitement of a new product or tie in with entertainment or popular stars. Insurance continues to have a reputation as an unwanted product, is something sold on price, and service is expected only when something goes wrong. Social media are simply where people get information, exposure to trends, have an opportunity to participate in affinity group discussions, etc. And- social media is an on-demand access opportunity. Insurance companies need to not only recognize these changes but must become subtle entry participants to not only build brands but to maintain them. Insurance news is generally negative, carriers’ messages must therefore be subtle and continuous. If made a strategic play social media can be the messaging and consumer response option for carriers. And- it doesn’t cost a lot to get a lot through social media.”
“Social media platforms are saturated with content, creating a noisy environment where it can be challenging for insurers to stand out. Cutting through the noise requires a well-thought-out strategy and compelling content to capture the audience’s attention. Obviously, leveraging social media is a strategic move for insurance companies to establish their brands, enhance customer relationships, and reach their target audience effectively, making it an integral component of a comprehensive marketing strategy for insurers. So while there are clear advantages to leveraging social media, the key point for 2024 must be to approach it strategically, considering regulatory constraints, measuring ROI effectively, and addressing the challenges posed by a crowded digital landscape.”
“Yes, I believe there’s a significant opportunity for insurance to own this space and to establish themselves as a trusted voice.”
“I am often confused when I see people talk about cost as the reason not to do this. No doubt carriers have the brain power to fuel the content engine needed for meaningful social engagement. And they probably have younger staff who are social-savvy and hungry for the opportunity to do more in that space. I think they’re likely sitting on all the resources they need to try. That is all we need to do at first – not spend our time listing reasons why we can’t, and see how we might experiment.”
“Is the insurance industry investing seriously in Social Media? Not entirely, but yes, incrementally. Between 2015 and 2017, there was speculation about whether the insurance sector would invest significantly in technology. What we’ve seen is a consistent increase in investment in innovation, transformation, and technology. Change within the insurance industry may be gradual, but it is constant. The industry is resilient, and it’s likely that within the next two to three years, substantial investment in social media selling will become business as usual.”
Adding to my comments above, the need to use human being intermediaries as part of the existing business model remains dominant, particularly here in Asia. That works until it doesn’t. Who knows when we will hit that cliff. It seems that Gen Zs are less likely to want to interact with real human beings than any previous generation, preferring a device as default, so I expect the change to come soon.
Here, too, clever target group strategies are required, and ultimately, above all, courageous decisions and staying power. Success from social media cannot be realized overnight, as no one has been waiting for you. However, if you know how to win over your target groups in the right media, you can only reap positive effects in the long term. We at OCC and Campingfreunde have at least decided that social media is an important core aspect of our growth and respective brand values.
In terms of leveraging social media for 2024, insurance companies face a critical decision: should they be proactive or reactive? Being reactive is essential since clients discuss their brands online. Also, social media presents an opportunity to optimize interaction costs with clients. This requires a careful business case evaluation to determine the most effective approach.
The insights from industry leaders show the exciting possibilities of social media and content marketing within the insurance industry.
The complexities of insurance products require an intricate approach to digital marketing, one that strikes a balance between regulatory considerations and the need to connect with the audience personally. This emphasizes the importance of not only being present on social media platforms, but also using them to develop meaningful connections, increase brand visibility, and drive significant growth.
In this context, companies can improve their digital presence by collaborating with experts who have a thorough understanding of both the insurance industry and digital marketing variations. This ensures that their strategies reach and have a significant impact on their target audience. This is where Dr. Robin Kiera and Digitalscouting can help.