March 10, 2014

Esurance's Super Bowl sweepstakes got a lot of attention, but the company's marketing strategy uses technology in unique ways in the insurance industry. VP of customer experience and communications Lisa Ward explains how the company's myriad partnerships and adoptions combine on a larger brand strategy.

Insurance & Technology: Can you talk about how Esurance attempts to reinforce its brand values through the channels it uses for marketing?

Lisa Ward, Esurance: We're a company that was born online, so we really consider leveraging technology at the core of our DNA. It's even in our messaging, so it's clear that we live it. We want to leverage technology that brings some value to customers.

Lisa Ward, Esurance
Lisa Ward, Esurance

I&T: That maybe is most evident in the use of the wearable technology and experiential partnerships. How did that come about, and what do you think makes it stand out?

Lisa Ward: ClearHart Digital approached us with the idea of working together on a wearable tech experience. This is something that is easy to hand out, you don't have to download an app or think about it prior to going to the event. People like it, too -- it looks kind of cool. And it's so simple to use, you didn't have to check reception to see if it works. We've used it at two events, most recently at the Outside Lands festival. There's a lot of potential applications for it for different events.

I&T: Esurance is also planning to hand out RFID-powered all-access passes at SXSW this year. Why do you think this investment in location-aware technologies help your overall brand positioning?

Lisa Ward: We're looking for things that could be relevant to that customer experience but with a lens of modernity and tech-savvy. Ours is a self-directed audience. They like doing things themselves, they have a high degree of self-sufficiency and they expect a lot from technology. We try to select those sponsorships very carefully. We want them to be aligned with us and our target customer, and I think the difference is that we're not just there in namesake or giving things away that might be fun and then you toss in the trash when you get home. We're trying to build experiences and provide richer engagement to provide a positive association with us.

I&T: How has your target customer/audience evolved over the years? Allstate CEO Tom Wilson spoke candidly this year about presenting Esurance as a brand for a particular kind of customer, instead of trying to appeal more broadly.

Lisa Ward: It is really about having people stop and take notice of who we are as a brand. We believe it's that Esurance is a modern brand, using technology different than our peers. The fortunate thing is that was what were focused on before -- we started as an online brand we started as self-directed and tech savvy. We've also seen that our base is better distributed age-wise. A lot of that has to do people that are more comfortable with interacting with an insurance company online 10 years ago has grown up. In addition, there's additional folks who find that to be the way they want to do business.

I&T: Final question: What are you planning to do with all the new Twitter followers you gleaned from your Super Bowl sweepstakes?

Lisa Ward: Our goal was to build brand awareness, and we felt that it was a unique opportunity to have an audience like that of 100 million people and to grab their attention for 30 seconds. We're not looking to suddenly do anything differently in that channel.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, ...