CMO50 #17: Jane Merrick, IAG
Jane Merrick is the head of marketing at IAG, with responsibility for end-to-end marketing planning and execution of customer marketing across all channels for the insurance group’s personal insurance brands including NRMA Insurance, SGIO & SGIC.
Before joining the world of insurance five years ago, Merrick worked as a marketer at Vodafone, American Express and Avon Products in Australia, with a couple of years as an FMCG product manager in London.
Empowered and long-term thinking
“The CMO should bring together data with customer insights in a way that is
appealing, interesting and easy for customers to then engage and interact with the brand. In order to do this, there will have to be three clear areas of focus,” Merrick says of her strategic plans for the next 1-2 years.
“The first is leveraging data. Sure, creative executions will still be at
the heart of what we do, however, we will be using data to do this in a
way like never before.”
Secondly, it’s about customer centricity, Merrick says. “The marketing function
will be leader in a customer-led organisation where the customer dictates our strategies, not the balance sheet. As a result, human centred design methodologies will be part of everyone’s DNA.
“The third piece is innovation.”
Merrick describes innovation as about taking risks.
“It’s also being persistent regardless of rocky surrounds, and really celebrating success to demonstrate what a difference a new way of thinking can achieve,” she says.
Top marketing attributes
Merrick sees the top attributes of modern marketing leadership as a strong
balance between working towards a vision, and supporting the team in the here and now.
“You need to set a clear direction while also embracing a diversity of
thought on how to get there; and always pushing the rest of the business to be looking at things from a future customer point of view,” she adds.
From the CMO50 submission
Business contribution and innovation
Brand building and innovative insight has been a core focus for Merrick in
the past 12 months. In her CMO50 submission, she described recent research across all of IAG’s main brands to understand the drivers for customer engagement. Through this, she realised there was no ‘one big thing’ that could change prospect views of its brands, and that it was time to shake things up.
The result was to introduce a marketing innovation team. But in an organisation that has historically been product- and pricing-led, questions were immediately raised as to how marketing as a function could drive future innovation.
“Cross-functional engagement and a huge amount of stakeholder management through my
leadership team was required to get support across the business,” Merrick said in her submission. “A commercial lens was overlayed, and together we created quite clear boundaries where we could complement, and not compete, with internal resources.
“I am proud to say we are now a dedicated function within the team with a
clear remit; our work has been showcased across the organisation as more innovative than anywhere else; and we are about to take something new and different to market. I took a risk, had some battles and now look back and wonder how the organisation ever lived without it.”
Modern marketing and customer engagement thinking and effectiveness
With 70 per cent of new business sales coming from its existing base, a key
job for Merrick’s team in 2015 has been customer retention.
One of the examples she pointed to in her CMO50 submission was the ‘NRMADE
Better’ campaign, which focuses is about increasing engagement with the insurer’s loyal customer base. However, concerns were raised initially about how the NRMA team would hit targets by taking its eyes off pure acquisition strategies.
“But over the course of time, having had the right conversations with the right people, and the data to show why it was important to focus on our customers, we launched the campaign with strong internal advocacy and support,” Merrick said.
The campaign was launched with a call out to customers to share what home means to them through pictures or video. For each post, NRMA $5 donated to the Red Cross. A digital portal was also created for the content.
While it’s early days, Merrick said initial indications are positive, with home sales interest up from existing customers. There’s also higher customer advocacy, and positive social commentary around the campaign.
“And we have a better understanding of our customers and what is important to them than ever before,” she said.
Data and/or technology driven approach
Leveraging the huge amount of data held internally to fuel better brand engagement
has been another priority, and Merrick noted two projects being launched. One, which remains confidential, is a transformational piece of innovation due in November for NRMA. The second is the ‘Safer Homes’ tool.
The tool allows consumers to type their postcode into a website and see a range of data about the area in which they live, including likelihood of fire, storm, flood, burglary and top claim incidents, plus a range of risk mitigation tips. This ‘Safer Homes’ tool helps bring to life the vast data sets IAG has in a way that is interesting,
interactive and available to everyone, while also demonstrating NRMA’s thought leadership outside of selling insurance policies, Merrick said in her submission.
It also ties into IAG’s wider purpose of helping customers make their world a safer place, she said.
“It is a signal to the market and internally that we are doing things differently and are future focused,” Merrick said. “Plus it addresses a customer need and driving a reason for engagement outside of renewal time.”
For Merrick, creativity is grouped into three camps: Creative thinking, creative execution, and creative process. All of this is about doing things differently with the end goal in mind, she said.
One illustration of creativity from this year is the rebrand of SGIO and SGIC, IAG’s insurance companies in WA and SA, respectively. Merrick said the team did a huge amount of customer research to ensure the brands were engaging customers along the journey and to better understand what they need to deliver.
The work resulted in ‘Surprisingly Good Insurance’, which included animations and multiple executions with proof points never used before, along with aggressive offers. The initiative also leveraged event and community sponsorships.
“We did this with a different internal process and go-to-market process
which focused on speed, agility and getting it 80 per cent [not 100 per
cent] right,” Merrick said.
Results included an 8 per cent sales lift over same period in the previous three months, and stronger customer advocacy.
“This piece of work has transformed the way we go to market and embrace creative thinking across the whole marketing end-to-end process,” she said.