Decision Resources

Well-conceived concept; pieces put together wrongHold everything. It's too early for media strategy. Even great media cannot help an idea that is badly worked out. And Body Guard is not ready for selling yet.Let's first acknowledge what is good about the...

Well-conceived concept; pieces put together wrong

Hold everything. It’s too early for media strategy. Even great media cannot help an idea that is badly worked out. And Body Guard is not ready for selling yet.

Let’s first acknowledge what is good about the idea.

Research tells us that personal safety is a concern of older people, as well as of families with children.

Indeed, u.s. Tourism statistics confirmed a drop off in vacation trips by Canadians to Florida after widely publicized murders and muggings of vacationers.

More strong evidence for the likely attractiveness of Body Guard is people’s growing wish for control over things that affect their welfare.

Research across many sectors, from health care to financial services to environment, confirms people have lost faith in the ability of public services to protect them and are now being more proactive about protecting themselves.

So, Body Guard, as a concept, is well-conceived.

But the insurance company has the pieces put together all wrong. We can go through the marketing ‘Ps’ and ‘Ds’ to explain why.

Positioning: unlikely to attract new customers, and will not stop competitors from stealing the old ones.

Body Guard, a service worth less than $100, is unlikely to attract business worth thousands of dollars in premiums.

Would you go out of your way to buy a car from some manufacturer because it offered free floor mats?

Moreover, Body Guard is easy as pie to imitate; it will not hold competitors at bay for long.

Product: the Lifestyle Profile portion is patronizing. Seniors hate being patronized.

A personalized diet plan is included, with types of foods that the person should be eating.

Who wants an insurance company speculating about the foods someone should be eating? Especially when they have minimal information about that person’s lifestyle or medical condition?

The service would surely be superficial and patronizing. The insurance company also offers to list the kinds of entertainment the person would likely enjoy.

Just mention ‘lawn bowling’ to an active tennis player, and the company loses whatever credibility it has left.

Price: the price will alienate some of the insurance company’s highest potential customers.

The price is free. (That means ‘buried in the cost of premiums.’)

It is targetted mainly to customers who travel to the southern u.s. during winter.

Customers with different travel patterns (probably younger customers, with more years of premiums to pay) will have to pay for this service, yet not reap the benefits. They will catch on soon enough.

Distribution: computerized access is a poor choice; also, life insurance companies may be the wrong distribution channel altogether.

Prospective users dial a phone number to have an ‘interactive dialogue’ with a computer through telephone keyboard commands.

It is well known that many older people are not computer-literate. Moreover, when the product is personal safety one hardly gets reassurance from little electronic bleeps coming across the telephone wire.

Also, the Body Guard is too specialized and quirky a product to be tacked onto a long-term life insurance policy.

It is better offered through a travel insurance company, such as Blue Cross, which caters to the mindset of vacation protection.

Promotion: the tagline invites cynicism, and the fear appeal is risky.

‘We want you alive,’ the tagline says.

Cynical customers may well observe that the longer they stay alive, the longer the insurance company escapes the obligation to pay off their policies. No wonder they want them alive.

It reminds me of the time Air Canada introduced the theme-line, ‘Come see what you’ve been missing;’ an enterprising newspaper reporter put the tagline underneath a picture of passengers standing wistfully at the luggage carousel, waiting to see if their luggage would appear.

The insurance company’s message emphasizes the fearfulness of situations the client might encounter.

Psychologists have known for years that appeals based on fear are less effective than appeals based on optimism and taking charge.

For example, experiments with home insurance advertising showed that ads with children in the windows (the good things you want to protect) are more effective than ads showing a robber burgling your house.

Promotion: media tone misses the mark.

According to the director, the tone of the message should emphasize the insurance company’s new commitment to innovation.

Companies mistakenly believe consumers value innovation for its own sake. Companies also, typically, underestimate the difficulty of changing a well-entrenched company image.

Customers are more likely to view a single change as being inconsistent with a company’s image, rather than being the beginning of a bold new image.

The tone of the message should rather be, ‘We are always on the lookout for value, and because we are Insurance Co., it is value you can trust.’

Research? You don’t need new research to go back to the drawing board.

The director’s media brief gives away the fact this was not a customer-driven idea.

‘Find the customer first,’ the director says. So, one infers, this idea was conceived before you found the customers.

Body Guard needs to go back to the drawing board, for its product concept and its distribution strategy before media planning can be done.

Existing (secondary) research and well-established marketing experience are all you need to bring you to this conclusion.

If the insurance company is losing revenue and market share, its strategic problems go much deeper than the Body Guard concept can solve.

Ruth Corbin is president of Toronto-based research firm Decision Resources.