● Lean on low-cost, high-impact channels to test initial brand positioning assumptions when budgets are tight. Back these insights up with quantitative and qualitative customer insights to consider if it’s worth investing in large-scale marketing campaigns.
● Conduct customer surveys regularly to receive insights on what’s working and what’s not when it comes to messaging, positioning, and even marketing channels.
● In 10 years, the ‘monoline’ trend where providers offer just a single type of insurance will become the norm and tech companies will take the disruption reigns.
Andrea Collins profile
Andrea Collins is a data-driven storyteller. Starting in public relations, her impressive background includes roles as Director of Atomic PR, US Managing Director at Clarity PR, and a stint working for herself as a Strategic Communications Consultant.
She moved into the world of InsureTech back in 2015, when it was still a fledgling industry, working as a Vice President (VP) of Communications and PR at Policygenius before migrating to Hippo to become their VP of Marketing.
Can you tell us about your background and your career to date?
Around 20 years ago, my career began in communications, journalism, and PR, before growing into a full-stack marketer. My early experience has influenced me greatly. At the core of everything I do, my journalism roots always bring me to ask: ‘Do we have a story to tell?’ This helps me identify and leverage big-picture trends going forward.
Since I moved into InsureTech, the industry has exploded in size and value, so I’m very fortunate for my timing and foresight. I’m one of the earliest marketers to get involved in InsureTech from the get-go, which has allowed me to navigate the growth and regular shifts the industry has taken with a real competitive advantage.
I began my work in Insurtech at a company called Policygenius before moving over to Hippo. In a nutshell, my job was to make insurance more approachable to consumers so they can, in turn, get the coverage and protection they need.
It’s a massive challenge because there is no set playbook to follow and insurance isn’t a topic most consumers want to engage in a discussion around. However, it’s fascinating, useful and I love a good challenge, which has been the driving force motivating me through these years.
By taking on such a big challenge I was able to not only push myself but to feel an immense amount of satisfaction with the body of work I’ve created and what I’ve achieved so far.
So what does Hippo do?
We’re creating a different kind of home protection experience by helping our customers identify and resolve issues before they become big headaches. It’s what we refer to as proactive insurance. As part of our approach, we offer a range of preventative services, such as smart home devices for eligible customers and home care and repair services through our home maintenance platform Hippo Home Care.
Our mission is to preserve the joy of home ownership and we do this by deepening our relationships with customers and help them care for their homes. We want to create a household home insurance brand built for today’s consumers and their specific needs. We recognized that only around 5% of consumers typically file an insurance claim. For the remaining 95%, insurance is a“set it and forget it” type of product.
How do you set your storytelling prowess to use in conveying this message?
There was a lot of testing and iterating in the early days. I leaned on low-cost, high-impact channels first to test out positioning.
We invested in testing tools and surveys to understand what is resonating with consumers. After that, we sat down with some really smart qualitative and quantitative survey groups to construct a brand narrative.
You need to constantly reevaluate everything you do on an ongoing basis.
So are you still conducting plenty of surveys?
Yes, even more so these days. We run a couple of annual surveys on our target audience – people who aren’t customers but could be in the future. I generally find this so much more insightful than talking to our existing client base alone.
That being said, we do have two internal customer surveys. They give me some great feedback on what’s working and what’s not when it comes to messaging, positioning, and even marketing channels.
Do consumers generally seem to be on board with the idea of InsureTech? Or is there still a bit of work to be done?
There are regional variations. For instance, consumer perceptions on the East Coast are very different from the Midwest. We roll out slightly diverse products for each region to take these discrepancies into account. We want to provide an all-encompassing service while not treading on peoples’ toes.
For example, we offer smart home devices to eligible customers to install in their homes. It’s a great kit with select sensors to detect things like a smoke alarm going off while you’re not at home, or an open garage door that your son may have left ajar when he left for soccer practice.
Hippo provides these kits as an added value to our customers so they are active participants in protecting their homes and become aware of what’s going to cause a potential issue that could result in a claim.
We only receive basic data from the device, if it’s on or off, but in some regions, there was initial hesitation around installing a device that your insurance company sent you. So, we had to lean into educational messaging to break through the noise and concerns that the smart home industry has faced for years.
What else do you do to protect customers using technology?
I’ll give you an example. Let’s say it’s fire season in California. We combine our data with aerial imagery to predict any (potential) causes for concern prior to issues arising and then arm customers with the information and resources needed to better protect them from potential dangers. Like, someone might have a bush near their fireline, which is the defendable space around their homes, that can catch fire and destroy the property.
Based on this information, we make recommendations to homeowners to cut brush back or fix a down fence because fire season is approaching, and bring them people who could help them fix it.
How do you pick what market to go into next?
The US insurance industry differs in each state. Before we enter a market, I try to get a baseline conversion rate and compare it to a controlled market of a similar size. Then I price out options by market and compare the opportunities against the business’ goals.
For example, I realized that in Atlanta during specific months, I could get the size of Chicago’s market for just 30% of the price. So, we ran a great campaign there, but it wasn’t necessarily the only market I was targeting, it just floated to the top due to the pricing opportunity.
How do you approach the process of moving into a new market?
When launching in a new market, we follow these steps:
1. Launch the product
This would take place two or three months before we do any other marketing activities. At this time, we conduct extensive research into our product-market fit.
2. Fill the top-of-funnel
We typically run a brand awareness campaign, typically lasting for 2 or 3 weeks. This involves a mix of TV, out-of-home advertising, audio, etc.
This includes content marketing, sponsored posts, and a PR tour. It all depends on the market but gives us some great data on how the top-of-the-funnel audiences are reacting to the product and messaging.
We pour resources into bottom-of-funnel channels and run market-specific tests. Anything from new creative showcasing customer stories to detailed case studies.
You have to be honest. Was it worth it? What did we learn? If it was, we just start the cycle over again in a new market, calibrated to the local audiences.
It sounds like you certainly have a strong process in place. Have these ways of working been at all affected by COVID?
We were fairly lucky. It was a pretty seamless shift. Being a technology company, we were already in a better position than some of the bigger insurance firms. Remote working was an easy transition for teams from sales to marketing.
It’s certainly been a wild ride. In March, we cut our marketing spend significantly. At that time, we recognized the need to take stock and speak to our audience instead of just churning out new campaigns. We made a new, tailored TV commercial that I scripted and filmed at home with my son. That was a sign of the times!
We also launched a brand new virtual product, Hippo Home Care, to help homeowners with their home maintenance issues. Before COVID, this service involved someone going into your home and carrying out a 3-hour inspection to see which areas could potentially drive damage in the future.
Now, we’re doing this process entirely virtually. It’s been incredibly successful, though I imagine we’ll return to in-person inspections once the pandemic is behind us.
What are your next big challenges?
We’re preparing to be a public company. It’s kind of like getting a ship ready to sail – plenty of scrubbing, tying up loose sails, getting it shiny, and shipshape. Buttoning up internally is a big piece of that.
2021 will be a year of massive brand growth. We turned off so much in 2020. It’s high time to turn it on and up.
What will the world of insurance look like in 10 years?
Previously, an insurance agency was entirely focused on the agent and the agent was concentrated on the customer. But insurance has been evolving for a while. Now it’s about the end-customer, their needs, and experience.
Customers should have full control over what they’re buying, and how it’s used. That’s what we’re doing in the InsureTech industry, making insurance easy and empowering. In other words, the customer comes first.
There’s also the ‘monoline’ trend to consider, where providers will offer just a single type of insurance. Look at Tesla. They’re now offering their own car insurance. And the folks at Google have just launched an insurance product in India.
In 10 years, this trend will become the norm. Insurance will be led by monolithic customer-focused companies like Amazon and Google, which people already know and trust.
The insurance sector will become more faceless and brandless, and more about the delivery vehicle itself. The downside is that the customer won’t necessarily know what insurance they’re buying. They’ll just know who obtained it for them. This is a general, cross-industry trend. Some supermarkets even offer their own legal services.
The power of flexibility in the insurance industry
What resonates with your consumers can change on a year-by-year basis. What made sense to them last year won’t necessarily hit the mark this year. You need to constantly stay on top of an ever-shifting consumer landscape and the insurance industry is definitely no exception.
We’re completely transforming the way people think about insurance. We go beyond simply helping people handle claims. Instead, we give them a way to avoid claims altogether via preventative work. That adds a huge value to peoples’ lives.Andrea Collins, VP of Marketing at Hippo Insurance