Asia Brand Congress 2008: Anisha Motwani on wishing for that little extra

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Marketing | September 26, 2008
Motwani of Max New York Life Insurance presented a case study on the brand's shift in positioning: After seven years of being 'Your Partner for Life', MNYL took the challenger brand route

The & #BANNER1 & # financial category can be a particularly dreary one when it comes to communication, but at the Asia Brand Congress 2008 organised by Times Now, Reliance Consumer Finance and Airtel, Anisha Motwani, executive vice-president, marketing and chief marketing officer, new markets, Max New York Life Insurance, said it may not necessarily be so.

Motwani spoke on how challenger brands defy category codes, giving a case study of Max New York Life Insurance (MNYL) to make her point.

Anisha Motwani
"In the beginning of 2008 when I joined MNYL, I was told that insurance is never bought; it is always sold," Motwani began. "This is quite a challenge in the service industry, which is particularly punctuated in the financial services category." This led MNYL to re-evaluate the state of affairs and that's when the brand decided to adopt the stance of a challenger brand.

In the beginning of 2008, MNYL was No. 7 in terms of market share. "We want to be No. 4 or No. 5 at the end of this year and, hopefully, in the top three in 2009," said Motwani.

She went on to highlight the credos of challenger brands (six in all), starting with "intelligent naivety". This is a state in which brands try not to be boxed into the category they operate in, thereby delivering better results.

She also spoke about the 'Building a Lighthouse' situation, wherein a situation is created in which consumers come running to the brand, instead of vice versa. "Yes, I'm talking of creating pull in a push category - quite a mammoth task," Motwani grinned.

The third principle is that of taking thought leadership in the category; in essence, even though MNYL is the seventh player, it should break the rules and behave as if it were the second or the third largest in the group.

Fourth, the brand becomes idea centred and not consumer centred (in that sense, it should occasionally take it easy on chasing consumers). Fifth, the challenger brand should "overcommit", that is, achieve the highest level of commitment towards the brand's vision and focus, with employees in particular rallying around the brand.

Lastly, a challenger brand uses communication to enter the social culture - to reflect it in some unique way.

Coming back to MNYL in particular, Motwani said that the insurance category chiefly addresses an adult's need to be a good, responsible family person and protect his family from the possible perils of tomorrow.

"Generally, all communication by the other players was centred around assuring the consumer that 'we have your future covered for you'," Motwani said, citing taglines such as 'With Us, You're Sure', 'Be Life Confident', 'Kal Par Control' and 'Suraksha, Zindagi Ke Har Kadam Par'.

Max New York Life, too, was positioned around 'Your Partner for Life' - a positioning established seven years ago when it was launched in the Indian market. "We were generic too, if I may say so," Motwani admitted.

MNYL conducted a study and came up with the finding that people don't see insurance as a priority. Over the years, Indians had grown up with the mentality of being satisfied with what they have and not expecting results in return (even the Hindu scriptures preach this). In a sense, simple living was what they abided by, and prosperity was almost a vice - not a virtue.

This was the single biggest barrier that commercialisation broke. "Today, we want it all; we believe we can alter our own destinies and people don't want to stop their aspirations for anything," Motwani said.

She added, "People want more money, success, fame and, often, it may not be tangibles only that we're talking of. An old man may aspire to go back to his younger days, for instance."

There was a great rush of confidence - and this accelerated pace is what MNYL captured in its branding. It started endorsing the thought that the world would be a better place if people could be unabashedly ambitious and didn't settle for less. Each stage of life has a new ambition attached to it, which is where MNYL steps in.

Thus, the tagline, 'Karo Zyada Ka Irada', was arrived at, with a TV commercial that reinforced wealth creation, prosperity and financial security as propositions, rather than drab talk of protecting/ saving lives. It showed how each individual had something that others wanted, but yet, the grass was always greener on the other side.

"Just in the way we show the protagonists expecting more from life, we want them to expect more from MNYL," Motwani asserted.

Following the repositioning exercise, MNYL has also unleashed a commercial for the Smart Steps Child Plan, which shows a couple trying to get their baby to pronounce words when he has just learnt how to talk. The father pushes things a bit when he asks his baby to say Czechoslovakia, which is where the twist about expecting more comes in.