TELLING CHAPTERS OF AN EPIC BRAND STORY: HDFC Insurance

[Guest post by Prasad Narsimhan, Managing Partner based in Bangalore, India]

Few brands have the courage to remain thematically consistent in their communication over a long period of time, whilst continuously refreshing the executions – what we call ‘Fresh Consistency’. Brands that pull off this brand balancing act create ‘distinctive memory structure’ that allows easy and ‘fluent’ consumer decision making, driving in turn brand preference.

One such brand that we celebrate below is HDFC Standard Life, a leading insurance brand in India that has created not years but decades of fresh consistency. They have mastered the three key parts of the framework below, taken from the brandgym book: a Brand Idea & Brand Properties as the long-term foundation, on which is built a Campaign Idea that is then refreshed with Execution Ideas.

Step 1: Give birth to a big Brand Idea

Back in the late 1990s’, HDFC marketers decided to go beyond the negative emotions of guilt and fear that characterized insurance ads at the time. They explored several options, before zeroing in on pride as a manifestation of happiness. The focus was not on life-changing events, such as death, but rather on preparing constructively for them.

The team coined a pithy phrase as their Brand Idea: ‘Live with your head held high’ (‘Sar Utha Ke Jio’). This Brand Idea and a memorable jingle have remained part of their advertising story for over two decades.

Step 2: Create a Campaign Idea

The first Campaign Idea was a direct translation of the Brand Idea, with a focus on saving for retirement: ‘Live with your head held high after retirement’ (‘Retirement ke baad bhi Sar Uthake Jio’). A series of executions were used in this campaign, which remains well loved even today. One example below shows a retired Grandfather giving his Grandson the gift of a bicycle, thanks to his HDFC pension plan.

Step 3: Create new Campaign Ideas to solve business issues

Once the team had established a ‘beach-head’ with imminent retirees, it harnessed fresh consistency to create campaigns to tackle different ‘jobs-to-be-done’. These different campaigns used the same brand idea, endline and tonality, playing out as ‘chapters’ of a single brand story.

One Campaign Idea targeted younger men who were ‘Confident Climbers’, using specific childrens’ plans for their kids as the spark to bring out the pride in them.

The next big business imperative was getting customers to embrace online insurance solutions. HDFC identified barriers to adoption, including low comfort with and trust in the process. The campaign addressed these concerns, promoting an easy-to-understand online experience. A doctor was used as a character to build trust. On a daily basis he is deals with the ‘3 D’s’ of death, disease and disability, realising that these can hit anyone’s family, including his own. He plans for such eventualities, should they strike, with HDFC’s 3D Plus cover.

A more recent challenge has been encouraging customers to not only live with their own heads held high, but to also inspire this approach in their loved ones. The Campaign Idea is “Teach you family to live on their own strengths”. Executions have touched a strong chord in the psyche of consumers – real, emotional & meaningful.

For example, one story shows a  young woman marrying her fiancé with who she is planning a new business venture, only for her husband to die suddenly. Fortunately, he had planned for such an eventuality with HDFC. Armed with the policy’s protection, and the confidence provided by her husband when they were together, she is able to fulfil their shared dream.

Summarising

HDFC Standard Life is a wonderful demonstration of how Fresh Consistency can help a brand purse distinct business opportunities not just over years, but over decades. It is also a reminder of the power of communication that tells a brand story in an emotionally compelling way.

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