Hiscox: the benefits of bravery

I was lucky enough to recently meet Steve Langan who runs the UK business of insurance company Hiscox, and their marketing globally. I have long admired the way this brand had been brave enough to stand out in what is a pretty dull and uniform market overall. Steve shared with me the impressive growth Hiscox has generated over the last few years, in terms of brand awareness, policy count and cost per contact. Here I share some of the insights into how they have created this growth.

Big brand idea:
the foundation of the Hiscox success is a differentiated and memorable brand idea: “Extraordinary cover”. Whichever sector they enter, the cover the provide is beyond the norm. There is a nice bit of sausage/product in everything they do. So, in the TV advertising for home cover they are able to make the bold claim “1/2 of the claims we paid last year would not have been covered by a standard policy”.

The brand idea also helps guide and inspire new service development, such as a recent entry into prestige car insurance. This has many innovative features to appeal to owners of high-end cars, including

Super-charged sizzle: Steve and his team have done a super job in creating a distinctive and aspirational visual identity for the brand, using black, white and red as key colours. First, this helps Hiscox stand out from “the sea of blue” of other insurance brands. The identity has an aspirational and professional feel to it. Second, this identity has also been applied consistently over the whole Hiscox mix, from brochures to websites to direct marketing.

Brand-led business: everyone talks about driving the brand into every bit of a business. But this is incredibly hard in a service business like insurance. One of the keys to Hiscox’s success is that in the key UK market Steve is responsible for marketing, but he is also the Managing Director. This has allowed him to drive the brand idea deep and wide, including key areas such as claims handling.

This is a big difference to the situation most marketing directors in service companies find themselves in. In most cases the marketing director has no direct influence over the front-line service delivery, even if this is the most important bit of the brand in a service business. No wonder that most marketing directors end up changing the “image wrapper” of logo and communication, as this is the only area they control.

The power of true internal engagement: the power of the Hiscox brand also works inside the business. This is shown by people now coming to Steve with ideas of how to make the service they deliver truly extraordinary. The challenge now is figuring out which of the many ideas will provide the best return-on-investment.

In today’s tough times the temptation is to be conservative. The success of Hiscox shows that being brave enough to stand out from the crowd is a better way to grow.