The pandemic has thrown open a huge opportunity for insurance products: Karthik Raman, IDBI Federal Life Insurance

Karthik Raman, CMO & Head – Products, IDBI Federal Life Insurance

In conversation with Social Samosa, IDBI Federal Life Insurance’s Karthik Raman speaks at length about the brand’s digital-led communication and marketing strategy.

According to Karthik Raman, CMO & Head – Products, IDBI Federal Life Insurance, the company’s strategy to adopt a contrarian stand- focused on health & wellness – looks to have become the ‘new normal’ in these circumstances. We delve deeper into IDBI Federal Life Insurance communication strategy, social media plugins, evolving marketing tactics, marketing insurance in the ‘new normal’, and more.


How has the advertising journey for the insurance brand evolved to date? How is the brand approaching the crisis?

When we started our brand-building journey, we were totally opposed to this negative approach of fear and crisis. This meant we had to adopt a contrarian stand, and we went ahead and did exactly that since we believed in our point-of-view. We decided to position life insurance in a positive light; as a product that liberates one of their financial concerns and helps them lead a life without limitations.

We focused on health & wellness as we believe that the best insurance an individual can have is their health. And over the last 5-6 years, we have not just talked about it, but we have also walked the talk. We brought Sachin Tendulkar on board as our brand ambassador, because who better than Sachin to talk about health & well-being. We also encouraged people to become fit and active by participating in our 4 popular marathons in Mumbai, Cochin, Kolkata & New Delhi, as well as our other sports initiatives.

Our approach during the crisis hasn’t been any different; we continued to encourage people to stay active, fit, and positive to overcome the pandemic challenges. During the initial few months of lockdown, we had fitness experts conducting daily workouts on our social media platforms. When the situation improved, we organized a series of virtual marathons where enthusiastic runners could participate by running anywhere – in their homes or on the roads or in their society compounds.

The response to these activities has been tremendous. Our ‘Run to the Moon’ event in June & July saw 14,000 participants while the IDBI Federal Future Fearless Marathon on August 15 saw 12,500 participants. In an environment where the general mood is sombre, people want positivity which is something we have always been promoting.

Recently, the brand launched the #FutureFearless campaign. What was the insight & rationale behind the campaign? The idea behind roping in Sachin Tendulkar as the brand ambassador & the face of the campaign?

Sadly, the pandemic has cast a shadow, a mental gloom over what the future holds for all of us. There are numerous other issues which are worrying viz. global warming, lack of clean drinking water, depleting source of fuel, etc., and the pandemic has added to these concerns. As parents, we worry about what to expect in the future and what kind of world are we leaving behind for the next generation? I have a daughter and I am apprehensive every day about her future.  

However, when we interact with the kids of today, they are so positive, optimistic, and excited about the future. The video helmed by Sachin Tendulkar showcases the way the kids of today look at the future; it spells POSITIVITY. And the way the kids responded, it was evident they were #FutureFearless. The campaign positioning became obvious and beautifully resonated with our approach of positivity and optimism.

When we discussed this with Sachin, he immediately related to the issue and mentioned, as a parent, that he too is concerned. At IDBI Federal, we believe that to brave the challenges and emerge stronger, one needs to have a positive attitude; not just mentally but also through our actions. And we strongly believe #FutureFearless is the attitude which will make us succeed going ahead.

How has social media been helpful in engaging with your consumers? Which platform has yielded maximum results for the brand?

We have always used digital as our preferred medium of communication even before the pandemic as it offered us the biggest bang for the buck. Not only is there easy access to data on mobile phones, but digital allows us to effectively reach out to different customer segments with targeted communication. This has been our go-to strategy and shall continue.

And thanks to the lockdown, digital consumption has seen a quantum jump making this choice a no-brainer. Our #FutureFearless campaign has seen great traction, garnering over 39 million impressions across various digital platforms over a two-month period. We have also engaged with our audiences through relevant campaigns on keeping busy and staying active while working from home, as well as posts around topical occasions such as festivals and Teachers’ Day.

We have been at our busiest during this lockdown period, working on creating engaging content for our audience in order to capitalize on the high consumption. So I guess you can say, for us marketing folks, this lockdown has been extremely positive.

You launched a microsite as a part of the #FutureFearless campaign. What is your objective from digital marketing? Is social media/digital a good avenue for lead generation in the BFSI sector?

Our #FutureFearless campaign focuses on the current generation of kids who are fearless. Exposed to AI, robotics, space travel, bio-engineering, and other exciting new fields from a very young age, these kids are ready to embrace new technologies and explore innovative careers. Through a short quiz on our #FutureFearless microsite, parents pick skills and personality traits that they believe their child possesses. Based on a combination of the kid’s skills, parents are informed about a unique, possible future career option for their children such as gene doctor, drone pilot, space architect, or virtual reality designer, amongst a host of others.

Considering the world is changing at a frenetic pace, parents are definitely curious to know what could be their child’s area of interest which can help them plan accordingly. Launched at the end of August, we have seen reasonably good traction on the microsite so far.

With the ongoing pandemic & sensitive times, please take us through your content strategy across platforms. Which content hooks work the best for the brand?

We have realized that in these stressful times, anything positive gets consumed. It could be helping people stay active, fit & healthy or it could be about their children or even their own future. There is enough to worry about and in this gloom, anything which shines is received positively. This is what we have always focused on for the past five years and we will continue to tread this path. Our strategy to adopt a contrarian stand looks to have become the ‘new normal’ in these circumstances.

In terms of ad spends, what does your marketing plan for this quarter look like? Please take us through your media mix. What kind of a role does social media play in the next few months for the brand?

As mentioned earlier, digital is the way forward for us. When we launched our #FutureFearless campaign, we studied the Google analytics data to identify what platforms in the digital space should become our communication vehicles. We looked at various news sites, gaming apps, OTT platforms, education portals, and then adopted some of them to become our medium for communication. Social media is something we have always used to get our message out and we shall continue to leverage our social media platforms in the best possible way going ahead.

Also Read: Interview: We saw a 21% rise in followers last month because of campaigns says, Shefali Khalsa, SBI General Insurance

What will be the impact of COVID-19 on the BFSI industry? The top 3 challenges mitigated by the brand during this time?

We believe the pandemic has made people sit back and rethink their financial plans. Also, in a deeply under-insured and under-penetrated Indian market, it has helped to create awareness about the importance of protecting one’s family by investing in insurance. As a result, the pandemic has thrown open a huge opportunity for insurance products.

We did see a slowdown in the first quarter of the financial year, but that was more on account of the lockdown, which was required then. As the economy slowly gets back on track, we will see a surge in the BFSI sector. Having said that, we did experience some challenges. Because of the lockdown, our sales representatives could not reach out to their customers. Our ability to quickly shift gears to activate digital sales tools helped us to get back on track, and now our entire sales fulfilment process has moved to the digital medium.

With the evolving consumer behavior, which have been the top 2-3 consumer trends observed during these times?

Customers have begun to accept the digital medium for purchasing their investment plans. The pandemic has surely helped leapfrog digital acceptance by customers and the transformation of companies. We are also seeing a move towards pure term plans besides health insurance. These are positive indicators of enhanced customer understanding of insurance as a product.

Top 3 marketing tips for the brands in the sector industry to deal with a crisis situation.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. I believe that a customer becomes jittery when his or her brand of choice stops communicating during a crisis situation. It’s important for the brand to keep communication channels open with customers across all touch-points and consistently allay their fears.

What will be the way forward for the brand in the coming times? How do you see the industry shaping up in the post COVID world?

We are #FutureFearless and shall continue to keep marching ahead. Digital will play a massive role across every function of our organization as well as the larger insurance industry. We will see huge digital transformation in the way the business is conducted. While we hope and pray that the COVID pandemic crisis ends quickly and never ever happens again, on the positive side, it has helped to create more awareness about the need for insurance and has forced the insurance industry to think out-of-the-box. So I believe the future looks optimistic.