AIA: What’s in a brand?
A few days at a Bay of Plenty marae proved a watershed interlude for a new sponsor, and showed where brand and community intersect, says AIA New Zealand's Head of Marketing and Distribution, Darrin Franks.
Friday, April 1st 2011, 9:00AM
by Darrin Franks
"The hardest part of any big project is to begin.
"We have begun. We are underway. We have a passion. We want to make a difference."
Sir Peter Blake, in his final journal entry before his death in 2001
Our team's recent trip to a Murupara marae was some of the greatest evidence I've seen of the power of a community at work. Rival gang members worked alongside children, families and TV crew members for the makeover of Rangitahi Marae, one of the sites to feature on this upcoming season of Maori Television's Marae DIY.
As the show's sponsor, AIA New Zealand was afforded the privilege of pitching in, and that we were allowed to get alongside the people of Murupara with brushes and shovels was ground-breaking in more ways than one. Every company worth its salt knows the value of corporate social responsibility, but many approach it as a bottom-line deal - pay a fee per annum to a cause that ‘fits' the brand, ensure you get rights to use the relevant logos in your advertising, and call it done.
This strategy is effective in some ways. Unfortunately, it entirely misses the point: even if the purposes of the sponsored party are aligned with that of the sponsor brand, if there isn't a true engagement between the two, the opportunity to use the commercial relationship in ways that are measurably useful to consumers will be lost.
But when a company gets fully involved in something worthwhile, especially at a grass-roots level, it cannot operate at arm's length. At the marae, a school teacher remarked that it was the first time that some families had got together for years, let alone worked alongside each other. One of my colleagues had a chat with a guy shovelling bark, who said that what he was doing that day made him proud, because his family thought he spent all his time wasting his life away. He was just happy, he said, to be helping out his community by contributing.
There was a sense of hope that infused all of us, and believe me, it had nothing to do with flogging product. It occurred to me that it made sense for our brand to be associated with this kind of support of a community, because that is what insurance was originally about.
And from the headline-grabbing events involving our former parent company, AIG, in 2008, we learned the painful truth that you never get the chance to explain the technicalities or truth behind your brand: your brand is nothing more or less than what the public perceives it to be.
In thinking about what we need to do to better our brand, it was a lesson for me. Unlike so much brand activity these days, our presence on Marae DIY - both at the marae and on-screen - isn't an in-your-face one. It's about working with like-minded people towards a common goal, and about re-establishing our roots locally, where we do business. It's what community should be about, and what a brand should be true to - we're all consumers, after all.
Nonetheless, we are well aware that there remains a disconnect in our market space between the brand perception, the brand promise and the customer experience - something that is not uncommon among insurers in New Zealand - and part of our relationship with Marae DIY is about closing that gap.
I'd also like to believe that it's proof of the value of what we are doing as an organisation. There's no way a company should be selling insurance and not be trying to help and connect with people in a multitude of other ways. How can you know what people want and need, and what they like and dislike about what you do - and, most importantly, what they think - unless you talk to them, on their home soil?
There's a saying in our industry that you don't believe in insurance until you've had your first claim. Likewise, I would say, you don't believe in a brand until you've seen it at work. And few would dispute the truism that you seldom get a second chance to make a first impression. Put it together, and if your brand promise is different from what someone experiences when they engage with your company, you've got a problem.
As Sir Peter suggested, if anything important is to happen, someone's got to start it off, put stakes down, show people which way to go, lead by example.
The AIA brand is underpinned by what we call ‘The Power of We'. This was never so evident or tangible as it was a few weeks ago at Murupara.
|« AIA: The leadership vacuum||AIA: Good behaviour, bad attitude? »|
Commenting is closed
|Printable version||Email to a friend|