Marco Forato, Unum: Integration and education

Unlocking a potentially huge market for income protection demands a 360-degree approach.

Marco Forato, Unum: Integration and education

Like many financial services companies we have traditionally been a b2b company. We primarily sell to businesses that buy our product, income protection (IP), on behalf of their staff as part of their benefits package. We sell through intermediaries such as insurance brokers and employee benefits consultants.

So we have traditionally marketed like most b2b businesses, with glossy product and proposition collateral, a little trade advertising and PR, all reinforced by events and conferences. Never TV, never social media, never an integrated campaign that brings all the disciplines together.

Last year we realised that our comms challenge required a bigger solution. Just one in ten employees has income protection and the market has grown little in the past decade. Employers traditionally insure their senior management, but are reluctant to insure all staff. This is principally because employees do not ask for IP, and do not appear to value it.

IP is, however, a great benefit. The financial consequences of long-term incapacity without a back-up plan can be devastating. The risks are clear: long-term illness is three times more likely than death during working life, but 55 per cent of us have life insurance and only eight per cent have income protection. Financial advisers are recognising that incomes should be the first thing we insure, since our income pays for everything else.

So our challenge is less that employees do not value IP, and more that they do not know about it or the risks they face. Or that the cover provided by the state, their employer and their savings is less than they think. We realised that we needed to educate consumers about the value of IP so they ask their employers for it.

This year we began our first consumer-facing integrated campaign with PR outreach to raise awareness and understanding. As our campaign accelerates through 2011, this is extending into digital, social media, a newspaper media partnership and, finally, TV advertising.

At its heart, the campaign is about stimulating conversations - facilitated by social media - with friends, family and colleagues - and ultimately with employers.

It is a change for us and it has meant working in a different way. The most important change is in the way we manage our key agencies - advertising, media buyers, PR and public affairs. We operate as a cross-agency group. With Unum leadership, all aspects of our campaign - planning, messaging, content and media lay-down, social media monitoring - are managed on a cross-agency basis. We have one budget, with complete visibility. Our agencies present and feed back as one team.

Inside Unum, integration with our existing internal comms, website management and external adviser marketing comms is delivered by a new marketing strategy team. Its purpose is to set and to own a common marketing strategy, messaging framework, brand guidelines and tone of voice. This team not only manages our cross-agency group directly, but briefs internal and external teams.

We are only a few months into the campaign so we do not yet know if we have got everything working as it should. Media coverage is good, our websites and Facebook page are active and beginning to build communities of advocates. Our ad campaign hits screens soon. If your employees start asking about the value of their benefits packages and the need for a back-up plan, then you will know before us just how effective our integrated campaign has been.

Marco Forato is chief marketing officer at Unum


How has your blend of marketing disciplines changed in the past two years?

Dramatically. We have incorporated TV, various social media and digital activity, which we have never done before. This has been executed in a fully integrated manner.

What prompted this change?

This change has happened because we've begun consumer marketing. We're primarily a b2b company, selling insurance to employees as part of their benefits packages. We have recognised that consumers' lack of awareness of income protection and their own lack of protection are the key barriers to broader uptake of our product by employers.

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