Brand Saga: HDFC Life- Two decades of defining ‘Sar Utha Ka Jiyo’

HDFC Life advertising journey

Not ‘fear’, but ‘Pride’ has been at the core of HDFC Life’s key proposition since its inception. This brand saga delves deeper into the HDFC Life advertising journey of making pride an integral part of its marketing tactic.

Established in 2000, HDFC Life is touted as the long-term life insurance solutions provider in India, offering a range of individual and group insurance solutions that meet various customer needs such as Protection, Pension, Savings, Investment, Annuity, and Health. Last week we saw how Kotak Mahindra Bank scooped a new norm in the BFI marketing by not being a part of the herd advertising, this week we cruise through the HDFC Life advertising journey who too decided to take a brand new path of connecting with the potential consumers.

The HDFC Life story

“Decades back when life insurance was advertised on the back of fear, we broke the regular category norm and established our core emotion of ‘Pride’, celebrating stories of the hard-to-replace individual, who is not only the provider but also the financial and emotional backbone for the family,” shares Pankaj Gupta – Sr. EVP (Sales) and Chief Marketing Officer, HDFC Life.

The company was established when there were already a few of the known players in the market occupying large chunks of the marketing pie. Almost every life insurer looked at instilling the ‘fear of losing’ in the consumer’s mind and therefore generating the need to get themselves insured. This also formed the base for their communication strategy and reflected in HDFC Life advertising journey.

HDFC Life, on the other hand, was quick to identify that fear will only help them bring in sales but won’t do any good in forming the much-coveted brand-consumer bond to bring in loyalty which is a core essential for any brand to sustain. After years of market research and studying the category, HDFC Life kick-started its marketing efforts of making consumers a part of the brand family through innovative and progressive take on advertising.

Advertising a Product-For-All

Initially, HDFC life looked at providing as many insurance services and offerings to its TG and set up a record for all-inclusive product benefits in its services catalogue. It also marketed itself as the one possessing a range of products for individuals, investment, and pension and saving plans that assist and nurture dreams apart from providing protection and that the customers can choose from a range of products to suit your life stage and needs.

HDFC Life – Sar Utha Ke Jiyo

As mentioned earlier, HDFC Life aimed at breaking the clutter of fear-induced advertisements and communication in the insurance segment and introduce a tangible narrative that will stay with the customers for long. And thus, the company chose ‘Pride’ to get associated with and accentuate the significance of insurance in one’s life through it.

Also Read: HDFC Life’s Dreams Come True targeting youth, received 8.33% engagement rate

Gupta shares, “Since the very beginning, HDFC Life’s brand journey has revolved around the core emotion of ‘Pride’. This strong emotion continues to be relevant even today. The idea of being self-sufficient and living with your head held high is the driving force for our society. Our brand tagline, ‘Sar Utha Ke Jiyo‘, celebrates this emotion in its true sense. 

The year 2014 marked the beginning of Gupta’s journey with HDFC Life, although he claims to have followed the brand even before he joined the Company. “I vividly remember the iconic train ad in which a confident father proudly refuses to take his son’s help to alight from the train. That ad film conveys our brand ethos of being self-reliant in a timeless manner,” he recalls.

‘Raho Sar Utha Ke, Jiyo Sar Ke’ has been the central theme of the campaigns promoting the functional and product benefits of the company’s insurance products that suited every age group- from children’s plans with triple insurance benefits to the age-old pension standard insurance to catering the working population and helping them in getting possession of the dream homes with house insurance plans, the TVCs were set in a traditional family and job setups to be relatable and understood better.

In the year 2010, HDFC Life went through a complete re-branding exercise and launched the new HDFC Life logo signifying a more vibrant brand image. Its marketing strategy has always been based on deep insights aimed at understanding the changing consumer behaviour and shifting trends in society to ensure that the company remains relevant.

The narrative mostly revolved around etching emotional bonds in consumer’s hearts and also withhold the importance of having one’s family and loved ones secured with the proper life insurance plans. Whether it be the ‘Hamesha’ TVC of 2011 which promoted the home insurance plans or the elderly being at their joyous best because of ‘pension toh hai safe’ to advertising the kid’s wellness plans.

Also Read: HDFC Life Sparks a Dull Industry

The Click2Protect campaign gave a boost to HDFC Life’s online services and guided consumers in reaping benefits through it with a message that – Insuring your family is a necessity for their well being in your absence. Click2Protect Online Protection Plan by HDFC Life makes it easy for you to do so in a click.

From partnering with movies like Hawa Hawaii to leverage in-cinema advertising to catering to user-generated content as part of initiatives like ‘Young Star Udaan’, HDFC Life moved beyond mainstream advertising over the course of time and delved into showing that the power of its products while not hard selling it through TV commercials.

Also Read: HDFC Life Enhances World Cup Experience with #MyTeamMyPride

Going Behind the Journey

“What differentiates us is the passion to always try something new and stand out from the rest, based on relatable insights. As a brand, we undertook many initiatives that could be called a first in the category,” highlights Gupta.

One of them was ‘#YoungandResponsible’ series, where it built a strong affinity with the younger segment by identifying that disciplined savings are an important aspect of financial planning amongst young millennials today. It enabled HDFC Life to connect with the younger age group – who, contrary to some stereotypes, are actually quite focused when it comes to financial planning. The brand had roped in young achievers from different fields for this campaign including ace batswoman Harmanpreet Kaur.

HDFC Life also became the first private life insurance company to launch its own musical logo, the ‘HDFC Life MOGO’ to establish a strong sonic identity for the brand. Gupta adds here, “With a lot of voice-based assets becoming a part of our daily lives, the sound will play a big role in the future to strengthen brand identity and our unique sonic asset will help build on this opportunity.”

Over the course of time, HDFC Life stayed away from signing a popular personality to be the face of the campaigns, rather gave diverse talent platform to showcase their potential and integrate the brand essence in their work by crafting series like ‘Little2Adjust’ and Behind the Journey.

A BFSI brand experimenting with comedy was a tactic considered risky being in a serious business. HDFC Life went ahead with the thought irrespective and joined hands with various stand-up artists to subtly market the brand philosophy.

Next up with ‘Behind the Journey’, the brand partnered with Only Much Louder (OML) now in its season 2 featuring artists across the country. They narrated their journeys of achieving short and long term goals.

HDFC Life is known for its innovative digital campaigns involving young achievers who have carved a niche in their respective fields while ensuring that they plan their finances.

Through such campaigns, HDFC Life has time and again focused on strengthening its foray into video content for the savings and investment category, where they have created meaningful resources for the audience that inspires them and influences them to plan their finances smartly.

On the marketing front as well, digital has been an important engagement medium for the brand. Back in 2016, it had launched a first of its kind digital platform called ‘Memories for Life‘ that encouraged people to come online and record video messages as memories to be shared in the future with their loved ones. The platform was widely used even at a time when many consumers were not as digitally savvy as they are today.

Campaign memories and anecdotes

When quizzed about his top of the mind campaigns and some behind the scene anecdotes, Gupta asserted that from the repertoire, there are a few that stand out for their relevance and the attribute of timelessness.

For example, the ‘Ghungroo’ brand campaign from 2015, is one of his most memorable and emotional ads, which tugged at the heartstrings of many parents. The film showcased a heart-touching father-daughter story where the father not only plans for his daughter’s secure future, but also instils self-belief in her, enabling her to live with confidence and Pride. The campaign also went onto win several industry awards.

“I still remember when we shot the Ghungroo campaign – the brand was brave enough to go for the long-format video where the challenge was to keep the brand as the central focus while also bringing out the emotions and entertainment quotient in the story, till date it is one of the most memorable campaigns that I have worked on,” shares Rajdeepak Das – MD – India & CCO – South Asia, Leo Burnett.

Similarly, another campaign that is very close to Das’ heart is the ‘Memories of Life’ campaign where the agency created a time capsule platform that lets you record video messages for your loved ones; helping you leave behind not only financial support but also invaluable advice and messages.

Since 2019, HDFC Life’s campaigns have been based on the theme of bouncing back which is extremely relevant to life insurance and the present global pandemic. Our culture is one where we take pride in our successes but never prepare ourselves or our loved ones to cope with setbacks or failures.

“The idea of ‘Bounce Back’ stemmed from here and led to a campaign based on the real-life story of Darpan Inani, who lost his eye-sight due to an illness at a very young age, and yet bounced back to become the highest-rated visually impaired chess player in Asia,” says Gupta.  

The campaign talks about failure. As parents, we always focus on positives but with this campaign we talked about the importance of failure. Failure is one of the most important teachers of life but we often shy away from talking about our failures.

With this campaign, HDFC Life took a refreshingly different and bold perspective. Das adds, “The campaign was the perfect springboard to talk about empowering loved ones to bounce back from setbacks. The brand keeps its customers at the heart of every initiative and we are honored to partner with them.”

The brand’s campaign launched in January 2020 took this platform further with a film showcasing a father-daughter story about overcoming setbacks as a stepping stone to success. The campaign was based on a strong insight that as a society we tend to glorify success so much that it builds an unnecessary pressure on individuals, especially children, and how it’s important for parents to ensure that their kids see setbacks as a part of life and are emotionally prepared to tackle those.

“Let me tell you about something about our brand campaign that hit me at a personal level. The entire film was shot in a moving car while creating an artificial rainy day, a very challenging shoot for our ad film and a first for us,” asserts Gupta.

He further shares that as part of this campaign, he participated in a panel discussion on television with a few other subject matter experts to discuss coping mechanisms for children and how to tackle setbacks in life while not getting pressurized by the high standards of success set by the society. “Being a father of two young kids, the topic felt extremely relevant, and I took back a lot of relevant points as a parent after the session,” he exclaims.  

HDFC Life is one of Leo Burnett’s oldest partnerships and one of the brands with which Rajdeepak Das has been personally, closely involved. He says, “It is one of the pioneering brands in its category with many firsts to its credit. Very few brands have the vision and clarity of thought and have evolved the way HDFC Life has and that is reflected in the kind of work we have done with them over the past few years. Be it the iconic ‘Ghungroo’ campaign, creating the ‘Memories of Life’ platform or the ‘Bounce Back’ campaign where we actually talk about the importance of failure; the brand has always been ahead of the curve and true to its philosophy.”

Meanwhile, Gupta shares that there are many milestones and fond memories that he have, associated with the campaigns over the last six years. What excites him is the very idea of making a difference via the work that the brand does, and being the custodian of such a marquee brand.

“It is not easy to get an audience to see value in a product that is intangible – you often do not reap any immediate benefit by purchasing life insurance. But when we are able to create an impact when a customer realizes the need for the product – we have managed to make that difference,” he elucidates.

The brand is currently running its #WhenIGrowUp campaign putting out a strong message of ‘Its never too late to chase your dreams’.

HDFC Life- Leading the digital way

While HDFC Lie is touted to be a digital-first brand often leveraging the newest trends and changing consumer needs to weave insights around their campaigns, the brand is actively involved in amplifying digital platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to back the campaigns.

HDFC Life | #WhenIGrowUp

It's never too late to chase your dreams! So, the question is, aap bade hokar kya banna chahte ho?To know more:

Posted by HDFC Life on Saturday, August 15, 2020

Also, from leveraging moments to weave some quirky and fun topical creatives to crafting occasional wishes to integrating influencer marketing to put the right message via known faces at the right time, HDFC Life has been on its foot to match the speedy social savvy audience’s wants and demands.

Alas, there is no cure to overthinking! But, with a term plan, you can safeguard yourself and your family from the…

Posted by HDFC Life on Monday, August 17, 2020

Insurance is a product that acts as a backup during difficult times. “The current crisis is one-of-a-kind and something we have never experienced before, with uncertainty everywhere. We have launched a Term Plan campaign to build awareness around the importance of protecting our loved ones in these uncertain times,” shares Gupta.

Term Plans ensure that families are financially protected and enable them to overcome uncertainties that might arrive unannounced in the journey of life. We hope that this campaign would help our customers make informed financial decisions.  

HDFC Life has been one of the stand-out leaders in the digital space. Right from the start, it has looked at digital beyond a conversation and communication medium and more as a way of doing business that helps its customers, employees, and partners.

HDFC Life wishes you protection for the rest of your life, on the occasion of #RakshaBandhan.

Posted by HDFC Life on Sunday, August 2, 2020

During this pandemic, digital has become the new normal. Many consumers who have now experienced easier access to content and transacting online may continue to explore and demand online solutions for their other needs as well.

Hence, every business including HDFC’s would need to further simplify and reinvent existing offline and online methods of business to stay in the game. “The customer benchmarks you across industry categories when they look at your digital processes, and not just within Life Insurance or Financial Services. This keeps raising the bar higher for us to keep striving for. For us, investing in technology, being customer-centric and digital-first has been a way of life,” concludes Gupta.