For marketing efforts to positively influence decision-making, establish trust & simplify choices: Sapna Desai

Pranali Tawte
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Sapna Desai

In conversation with Social Samosa, ManipalCigna's Sapna Desai shares her insights on how health insurance is rapidly gaining momentum and walks us through brand's content strategy.

Coming out of the era where every other health insurance ad looked alike, now ads have started using different themes in their marketing and going above and beyond to garner the attention of millennials and Gen Z.

Insurance brands have launched pet insurance, live-in insurance, and early retirement to cater to the evolving needs of the young audience. Companies are also upgrading their marketing strategy to stay relevant.

Sapna Desai, Chief Marketing Officer, ManipalCigna Health Insurance shares a few tips on how to make it easier for the youth to engage with the healthcare ecosystem and how to leverage the potential that digital marketing brings for insurance brands.

Edited Excerpts:

Insurance marketing often gets monotonous. How can marketers make it interesting and engage with consumers?

In recent years, health insurance has rapidly gained momentum, but there is a catch: customers are evolving rapidly as well. Today's health insurance customers are unlike the ones from yesteryears: they now want to buy Health Insurance but they are simply saying first know me, help me and make it easier for me to engage with the healthcare ecosystem. They also want more customized products, and a direct-to-consumer experience, coupled with a digital-first healthcare experience and ease of use. And most importantly, they rely on trust.

In light of this, marketers are focusing on driving consideration and pull by giving consumers a strong reason to choose their brand over other alternatives. Seemingly, the best way to do this is through partnering in the customer journey, reimagining marketing strategies, and creating an outside-in organization that drives customer value. Traditional marketing focused on the masses and was previously a more linear approach, while today, it's all about each consumer's unique experience through several omnichannel mediums. People who have a good customer experience with a brand, are more likely to stick, and that is why to make it interesting and engage with consumers, marketers are leveraging purpose-driven marketing which is a pivotal part of a consumer's decision-making process.

Health insurance companies are leveraging digital to engage with youngsters to buy health insurance. How much percent of your total marketing budget is reserved for digital?

Our audiences are evolving and becoming more tech-savvy. Considering that we're on the threshold of the digital era, today consumers are constantly connected and are spending more time on digital channels. Hence, companies are adopting a digital-first approach. Over 50% of our marketing budget is reserved for digital communications. while ensuring that we stay at the top of the mind of our existing customers. Even with our recent Health Ki Keemat campaign starring our brand ambassador Manoj Bajpayee, though it was made for multiple channels, we optimized it for digital mediums. We have our ads now on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. We even had our hashtag #ExpertKiSunoSahiChuno trending at #1 on Twitter, reaching an audience of over 6 million.

The transition to a more digital world has made it possible for us to reach those far and near, across Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities as well. For health insurance to thrive through marketing efforts, the needs of various demographics must be addressed as well. For instance, Youngsters are warming up to health coverage. The search for health insurance in India has grown by 35-40% in the last 2 years, hence, marketing and communication efforts directed to awareness should be prioritized e.g. memes, gifs, videos, and emoticons are the preferred way to communicate.

There has also been a shift in the earning capacity of youngsters and the savings rates have also increased. But one does not want to burn through their savings during a medical emergency. Hence, they can rely on a comprehensive health insurance plan to protect these medical needs. Investing in a health insurance plan must be seen as a part of the financial planning process that one does regularly. Further, to ensure we reach out to our target audience, we have also leveraged cricket properties like the ICC Men's T20 World Cup on Disney+ Hotstar, where our brand film starring Manoj Bajpayee reiterated that those who know the Value of Health trust a Health Insurance Expert like ManipalCigna. There were also Ashton bands that were displayed which asked audiences to not wait for the “last over” to buy a health insurance policy. It is crucial to identify new touchpoints to stay relevant to youngsters. 

Can you share a few tips for marketers who wish to upgrade their digital strategy to stay relevant to the evolving needs of millennials and Gen Z?

Marketers nowadays have to be extremely adaptable. Youngsters switch from platform to platform very easily. They are willing to explore different mediums and they adapt to different content formats easily. Similarly, as marketers, we also have to constantly adapt to the changing environment. Youngsters, now, use their smartphones for everything. From banking to entertainment to shopping, A to Z, almost everything is done from behind a screen. So it becomes important for brands to be on the screen that they are looking at. Thus, it is important to explore new content formats.

There is now a need to capture the audience’s attention almost instantly. By creating more engaging content, and catchy headlines and captions, this can be achieved. 

Hence, for marketing efforts to positively influence decision-making, establish trust, and simplify choices, it is imperative to prioritize consumer needs and requirements. And to do that, marketers will have to adopt a more digital marketing strategy that explores all content formats be it podcasts, blogs, animated videos, Instagram reels, infographic posts, and more. 

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What role does social media play for the brand?

Social media, for any brand, is extremely important. Social media has helped create a virtual world where consumers can now interact with brands directly and a space for two-way communication, which is not easily available through alternate mediums. It offers a higher engagement rate, greater visibility, and significant brand awareness levels. Social media serves as alternate platforms where a brand can push out their content to create top-of-mind awareness and to boost sales. Brands, through social media, can also directly interact with customers to share their reviews and engage with them, which can lead to an increase in a loyal following and a greater reach.

At ManipalCigna, social media plays a crucial role and is one of our key platforms. We use this to increase engagement with our customers while reaching out to new audiences. On all our social media platforms, we have a loyal following and we are leveraging this to make create a positive brand sentiment.

Please take us through your content strategy – what kind of content hooks, formats, and tones have been the most effective in communicating with the audience?

Over the past decade, there has been a sea change in the way content is leveraged in India. Also, the Indian landscape is very diverse; roughly 880 languages are spoken across India’s 29 states and 7 union territories.  Hence, the content strategy needs to have a regional flavor and should be offered in a format that connects well with the region.

Our content strategy is designed such that it meets our company’s objectives; the Why, Who, Where, When, and How cannot be ignored. Once, the goal is defined, we align the content framework to our company’s mission and we strive for precision in every step of our plan. 

People are also increasingly buying insurance products through online mediums, and content marketing plays an important role in influencing consumers. Content enables us to showcase our subject matter expertise. One of the greatest benefits of content marketing is the reputation building of a brand. Content marketing helps us to improve conversions because it allows us to connect with and educate our leads and customers. Content is important during each step of the marketing funnel, it’s not only great for lead generation, but it’s also affordable. Content marketing helps us to set ourselves apart from competitors.

How would you define your overall marketing strategy, and how have your ad spends increased for this year?

In recent years, health insurance has rapidly gained momentum, thus to increase our brand visibility, and propel our distribution growth across India, we have increased our marketing budget by almost 50%. Also, keeping in line with our customer-first philosophy, we aspire to create an outside-in marketing organization that drives customer value to fully enable profitable business growth. We do this by building on ManipalCigna’s brand story across consumer segments; strengthening customer access, experience, and direct sales; and through increased media, customer, and employee engagement strategy and tactics.

How do creative and engaging marketing campaigns adopted by insurance companies help in reaching rural India and boosting insurance penetration?

The health insurance penetration in India is underinsured and uninsured, it is an untapped market. The smartphone penetration in rural India was at 67.6% in 2021. Hence, through digital mediums, we aim at penetrating this segment of the market. One cannot penetrate the rural markets the same way one can capture the urban ones. The messaging here has to be different. The focus, here, is on simplifying and creating awareness of why having health insurance is important. One also needs to effectively educate them through continuous on-ground activities and create an awareness of how a health insurance plan is not an expense, but an investment. We have over 50,000 health insurance agents across India to help us penetrate deep into the rural markets. We are positive that our association with Manoj Bajpayee’s pan-India appeal will further give us the push we need. 

How has Manoj Bajpayee’s brand association with ManipalCigna assisted the brand?

We are excited to bring Manoj Bajpayee on board to raise awareness about our health insurance solutions and build a purpose-driven connection with our customers. Manoj inspires trust and has the expertise to be associated with a category like health insurance, thus with ManipalCigna, it is a seamless brand association. Further given his mass fan following across the country and pan-India appeal, we believe that this association will help us maximize our reach, strengthen our brand awareness and build a deeper connection with the consumers. From our recent Twitter trend, data showed that we reached over 6 million people. So the early signs look extremely encouraging, but we still have miles to go. We look forward to having an enriching and lasting partnership with him. 

Take us through the creative process and journey of the campaign. What is the objective behind the campaign, and what RoI is the brand looking at?

Our new campaign leverages an insight that “Health is Priceless” and people try to take all the right steps to keep themselves and their families healthy. People who value their and their family’s health will trust an expert they can be certain of. Thus, based on this insight, we have designed the new campaign, ‘Health Ki Keemat’. 

We also have a new brand tagline, ‘Expert Ki Suno, Sahi Chuno’ we want to assure consumers that now they can count on the health insurance expert, ManipalCigna who offers fully loaded products, quick claim settlement, and better healthcare experience. The main brand film captures this insight and asks the audience the critical question of “What is the real value of Health” and we see “moments of recovery” of family members as the answer to that. The advertisement drives the belief that the real value of health is “priceless” and for that, you have to trust an “expert” that is ManipalCigna Health Insurance. The communication leverages the semiotics of good healthcare experience and emotional moments to drive brand affinity.

Through this campaign, we are focusing on building brand preference, driving relevance, and consideration by giving consumers a strong reason to choose ManipalCigna Health Insurance over other alternatives. 

What are ManipalCigna’s marketing plans for the coming year?

Over the first quarter of 2023, we plan to launch a few more product feature-based films with our brand ambassador, Manoj Bajpayee. JFM is an extremely important quarter for the Insurance sector and during this time, we want to ensure that we are constantly communicating with our audiences, and creating a strong consumer pull. We also plan to leverage OOH, print, Cinema halls, cricket properties, and television properties across leading general entertainment channels and news channels for maximum reach. 

Please share a few trends you foresee in the industry.

Marketing for the insurance industry is not just about ‘Image Marketing’ but rather it is all about ‘Service Marketing’ based on establishing trust, building deeper connections, and creating positive outcomes in the consumer’s journey from Illness to wellness.

Further, the rules of the game have changed: people already know that health insurance is a necessity and consumers will certainly choose companies that will strike a balance between brand trust, affordability, innovation, and relationship. 

Hence, with the right new-age marketing approaches and technology-driven operations efforts in place, we at ManipalCigna, are committed to building loyalty at every stage of the customer’s journey; making the experience part of the brand to establish trust; identifying changing customer’s healthcare need and stay ahead of emerging market opportunities.

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