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The building blocks of wellbeing: New frontiers of Hong Kong insurance marketing

In recent years, insurance companies have no longer been solely relying on agents to drive sales, and instead are backing a variety of marketing initiatives – from sponsorship, to rebranding, to digitalisation, to advertising. Keeping up with ever-changing consumer demands, this greatly enlarged toolset is helping address healthy lifestyles, early retirement planning, and more. Sharon Kwok reports.


The healthcare scoreboard

The healthcare scoreboard Zurich-based insurance company Swiss Redefines the “health protection gap” as “the sum of financial stress arising from unforeseen, direct, out-of-pocket medical expenses and the unaffordable portion that households avoid”.

In 2017, the health protection gap in Asia reached US$1.8 trillion, affecting 40 million households. Of that, Hong Kong’s share totals a significant US$23 billion. What’s more, according to Swiss Re’s predictions, Asia’s gap is only expected grow.

Patrick Graham, CEO of Asia Pacific for Cigna’s international markets, comments: “Asia is particularly vulnerable in terms of life and health protection gaps when you compare it to other regions in the world. I think it is a big challenge of the industry to step up and close those gaps. We can’t necessarily keep doing what we have done historically and hope to close the gap.”

He further explains that with an ageing population, combined with an emerging wealthy middle class with higher standards, the government is struggling to provide the population’s demand for quality care. These megatrends are going to shape the environment for decades. Health care will be a major concern for the foreseeable future.

Graham suggests Hong Kong’s situation may be improved by educating consumers, evolving distribution channels, and developing new products and solutions to attract different customer types or solving the variety of existing needs.

Such remedies would require a joint effort with the government and private insurers to tackle the health protection gap. The Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (VHIS) is set to be rolled out in April 2019. It is a government sponsored and regulated voluntary insurance scheme designed to drive Hongkongers’ participation with private health insurance, giving people access to affordable quality care.

“VHIS is a legislative priority for the government; we have been a big supporter of that. For us, it is an opportunity to drive penetration of solutions deeper into the Hong Kong market, and make products more accessible to all levels of society,” Graham says.

Cigna Hong Kong has marked its third year sponsoring the Hong Kong Sevens, which was tied in with the launch of VHIS in the Hong Kong market.

“We are under the process of going through approval to get products licensed. We are going to market two products in April, nice timing around the Sevens,” he says.

“Rugby Sevens is the biggest sports event by far in Hong Kong. It is a great way for us to promote the messages that are important to us and relevant across our customer base in the community.”

Tackling the insurance industry head on: Rugby Sevens is the biggest sports event by far in Hong Kong and a great way for Cigna to promote its message.

Elite Hong Kong rugby athletes and Cigna brand ambassadors Salom Yiu and Chong Kayan are the faces of the campaign. Appearing on the stadium’s giant diamond screen and on social media channels, the pair participated in a “job swap” to encourage Hongkongers to take time off to look after their health and wellness needs.

Graham says: “Health insurance is unlike life or general [insurance]. It is a product you engage with. If you have life insurance your number one hope is never having to use it, while health insurance is somewhat different; we want you to use it. For example, we want people to have an annual health check. A dollar spent on prevention saves a dollar down the road in terms of treatment.”

The trend for Hong Kong insurance companies sponsoring different types of local and international sports is growing, according to Philip Kent, CEO of MSIG Hong Kong.

He tells us: “Healthy lifestyles is also one of the focuses of insurance marketing. There are different health and wellness-related apps in the market that encourage people to exercise in order to receive rewards.”

MSIG has chosen to sponsor the MSIG Trail Running Series 2019 organised by TGR International (Green Race). It presents the Hong Kong running community with a meaningful trail challenge that showcases the city’s spectacular and unique country parks, lending a particular focus to nurturing the city’s talented trail running youth.

Apart from sports sponsorship, insurance companies are also leveraging live events to connect with consumers and promote healthy lifestyles. The AIA Vitality Park at the Central Harbourfront is one such example, while FWD Group’s acquisition of the lease for House 1881 in Tsim Sha Tsui is another. FWD plans to launch activation and engagement activities there in the upcoming year, with the goal of creating experiences to bring the “Celebrate Living” brand promise to life.

Focusing on youth: MSIG sponsored the MSIG Trail Running Series 2019.

Rebranding back to basics

Another target for insurance outfits is bettering their consumer interactions. As one example, Manulife has launched a rebranding campaign, introducing a refreshed logo and visual identity.

Francesco Lagutaine, chief marketing and experience design officer at Manulife Asia, says: “The new identity is designed for digital usage. It wasn’t designed just to look pretty, we wanted to make sure it was designed for actual usage. The typeface was designed for legibility and usability on our digital platform.”

With competition among insurance companies intensifying, a tidal wave of insurance products and services are being introduced to the market, potentially overloading consumers with information and choices.

“It’s like when I get a menu that has 57 entrées; I never know what to choose. I prefer a good restaurant with fewer entrées,” Lagutaine says.

“Our industry unfortunately not only participated in complexity, but also historically exaggerated complexity; we are heavy in jargon, we speak the language of financial institutions, we have terminology, the way our products are constructed is very technical.”

Manulife saw the need for a rebrand focused on clarity. The company has not merely simplified its logo; it has streamlined its products and services offerings and reduced the complexity of its internal processes. The goal is to have coherent communication and meaningful discussions with customers, helping them to make the right financial decisions by choosing appropriate insurance products.

Since the campaign is related to how the company runs its business, Lagutaine thinks it was better to do it in-house rather than hiring an agency. He has, therefore, built his own highend design team, working in partnership with the global team.

“Financial services are driven by interaction. Brands are created through interaction; how your website works, how your materials are received in the mail, how the claim process works. That’s the only thing you can’t copy,” he explains.

“Interaction and identity can’t be copied, and that becomes your most competitive advantage. I feel no responsible company that wants to be the leader of the industry could outsource its most competitive differentiation.”

Digital determination

With rapid technological development, digitalisation is transforming the insurance industry in terms of operation, sales and marketing.

“I don’t like to call it digital disruption, because for the customers, it is digital enhancement. The disruption happens to us, but we need to focus on what happens to the customers,” Lagutaine says.

Paul Tse, CMO at FWD Insurance, believes the status quo is shifting.

“Hong Kong is a well-developed insurance market with a variety of insurance products and services, and insurers are accelerating to innovate and bring value-added services to customers. New disruptive players coming into the Asian markets, such as compare sites and Robo Advisor companies, have been causing changes to the ecosystem of the insurance industry.”

“I would say in Hong Kong we are still generally at quite an early stage of leveraging emerging technologies such as mobility, cloud, augmented intelligence, internet of things, in insurance with a lot of possibilities to explore.”

He believes the development of InsurTech has always been a prevailing marketing trend in the industry. Up and coming technologies will disrupt how people feel and use insurance as part of their daily lives. For instance, through data analytics, insurers will be able to more effectively observe and anticipate patterns of consumers’ preferences, and therefore design more relevant products and services.

Responding to the digital disruption of recent years, in 2017 FWD committed HK$500 million to invest in the development of proprietary InsurTech solutions, more than five times the investment put into this area over the previous three years.

Making life easier: FWD Hong Kong is focused on making insurance a more accessible and integrated part of people’s routines.

Tse says: “The company’s digital marketing strategy also evolved to cope with ever-changing digital trends. We take on an interactive approach to enhance the company’s engagement with the general public through social media channels, mobile apps and chatbots. We also continuously leverage on data analytics to understand and review public responses on our digital marketing campaigns.”

FWD Hong Kong has also focused on making insurance a more accessible and integrated part of people’s routines. While leveraging new technologies to elevate customers’ experiences, it emphasises claims services and support such as a one-stop e-claim web portal, a mobile app, and BoardingCare, HK’s first flight delay insurance tool, which features an auto-claim function.

Similar to many other industries, insurance companies are attempting to capture the hearts of younger generations.

Graham says: “We’ve got new consumers entering the market who know nothing but digital internet, looking to consume differently. So you think about traditional channels like agencies, and bank insurance may be less suited for those consumers.”

There are a number of insurance companies developing online insurance purchase platforms (such as Blue Insurance and AIA’s iShop) while others are developing their own apps to engage and retain customers.

“An ideal insurance app with great design, engaging content and easy navigation can further enhance the user experience and increase app engagement,” MSIG’s Kent says.

“As the capabilities of digital technologies evolve, customers have grown to expect new standards of excellence. Millennials are highly digital-savvy and demanding for frictionless, hassle-free and personalised user experiences which can be accessed securely anytime, anywhere.”

On the right track: MSIG and Manulife believe the trend for Hong Kong insurance companies sponsoring local and international sports is growing

MSIG has developed a mobile app that provides support and care to customers through a simple and secure mobile experience.

“Customer first is the priority in developing our app to differentiate it from other brands,” Kent says.

And indeed, customers can benefit from a streamlined mobile enrolment experience, user-friendly interface, and an enhanced control of personal accounts on their own devices anytime, anywhere. Member loyalty and “Member-Get-Member” programmes with rewards have been introduced to encourage repeat purchases.

“We believe insurance is far more than just a transaction, it is a way to secure peace of mind,” Kent adds.

Yet, with all this, the human touch is not dead. Marketing initiatives and digitalisation may enhance the customer journey and generate leads online, but most of the time customers still eventually close the deal in person.

Manulife’s Lagutaine points out these high levels of human contact are still absolutely necessary for the insurance industry, particularly for the Asian markets. Insurance agents remain instrumental to drive sales, yet these digital platforms can help agents to perform better.


This article was produced for the April issue of Marketing Magazine. For more features, and other magazine-exclusive content from this and upcoming issues, you can subscribe to receive your print copy here or can read our digital version in its entirety here.

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