AIA’s ‘real’ deal for Gen Y

Mid-last year, AIA launched a new brand positioning. The campaign created hype across Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore, running with the tag line: “Real Life Never Stops.”

Created by TBWA\Hong Kong, the campaign saw massive media buys regionally across TV, outdoor billboards, newspaper ads, online promotions and social media activation.

The 66-year-old brand came to a point where it needed to rejuvenate its image. As the company’s first major brand initiative in recent years, “The Real Life Company” was a concentrated push to reinvigorate the brand and connect with a younger generation of consumers.

However, the challenge to engage youths is never an easy one. This was made especially harder for an insurance brand because very few in the Gen Y age group seriously consider life mortality or the need to insure against risks.

In a conversation with Advertising + Marketing, AIA’s chief marketing officer Thomas Wong (pictured), says: “There is the tendency among Gen Y-ers to think that if an unfortunate event strikes, their youth and vigour will enable them to quickly get back on track again.

“Many, therefore, tend to put off financial planning because they feel they have many more years ahead of them to start thinking about the more serious issues.”

However, statistics tell a different story.

According to Wong, nearly 50% of accident casualties involve those in the 16-35 age group. Meanwhile, the incidence of cancer among adults between the ages of 20 and 39 is equally startling because it accounted for up to 14% for every 100,000 of Malaysia’s population.

“We needed to remind our target group that illness and accidents do not discriminate; they can strike at any age. This means it’s important to have the right protection so it’s easier to get back on your feet again,” Wong says.

But the intention of AIA is not to scare them. Rather than weighing them down with piles of information, Wong and his team decided to make insurance a little more enjoyable. That’s how it decided to lure the youths through music.

Seeing an opportunity knocking on its door with international superstar Taylor Swift’s red tour, AIA jumped on board as the lead sponsor. It urged the public to show what “Real Music Never Stops” meant, keeping in line with its “Real Life Never Stops” brand statement. The public was also urged to share creative videos or photos where winners stood the chance of attending the sold-out concert.

Making it a first for the nation, AIA also decided to bank on the popularity of the Hallyu Korean wave from the year before and brought in Korean superstars who entertained more than 12,000 K-pop fans. This, it said, was the first ever music concert sponsored by a life insurer in the country.

At the group level, AIA entered into a five-year major partnership with the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club in February 2014. The partnership allows the AIA brand to be featured on the shirts of Spurs players in all competitions until the end of the 2018/2019 season.

All in all, this resulted in the insurance company taking top spot for both brand consideration and overall rating in the insurance industry for 2013, according to research by international research company Millward Brown.

“To have reached this top position in the industry one year after integrating our operations in Malaysia is a proud achievement for us. It is certainly a powerful motivator for us to build on our key strengths to keep the brand vibrant and relevant,” Wong says.

However, it doesn’t end there. Wong believes it is simply not enough to attract the young; the brand must walk the talk.

AIA launched a nationwide recruitment drive called “Let’s Get Real” to attract a younger generation into its workforce who would better connect with the youths of the nation. This resulted in 5,800 new recruits with 80% of them from that age group.

While the move is certainly in line with its rejuvenation efforts, attracting the Gen Y-ers into the workforce and keeping them on track and retaining them is an uphill task on its own.

To manage this, AIA put together a programme that gave the youngsters hands-on experience, mentoring and training to ease them into what is typically a challenging first year or two in the business. Furthermore, with the help of a newly refurbished AIA Financial Centre, it hopes to create a vibrant work environment for employees to foster better engagement and teamwork.

“At AIA, we see a role in educating Gen Y-ers much earlier about securing their future through adequate protection, savings and retirement plans. Our brand positioning is centred on the fact that real life never stops changing. Because of that, Malaysians need a life insurer who understands that and supports them through life’s happy moments as well as in bad times,” Wong says.

“This insight helped us create a clear vision of how to correctly position our brand to resonate with consumers.”