CMO50 2016 #16: Jonathan Kerr

  • Name Jonathan Kerr
  • Title Director, marketing and digital
  • Company Auto & General
  • Commenced role March 2013
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 42 staff, 3 direct reports
  • Twitter @jonathankerr
  • Industry Sector Insurance
  • 2015 ranking New to CMO50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    The modern marketing department can be an interesting mix of technical experts, generalists and facilitators, Auto & General’s director of marketing and digital, Jonathan Kerr, suggests.

    Over the past year, he’s worked to address such role diversity through three things: A common set of values; role clarity; and a journey to greater autonomy, responsibility and accountability.

    “We worked to get this framework established, and underwent considerable training to help team members leverage it,” he says. “In assessing everyone’s capabilities against their current role and what they aspire to, we agreed a development plan for each employee. This has led to higher engagement and better visibility on skills we have and ones we need to develop more for the future.”

    Kerr says the key attributes he’s trying to foster at a holistic level are innovation, action and execution.

    “We must constantly challenge how we are doing things in search of competitive advantage, and that means asking the team to push ideas into action,” he says. “Not everything will work in a fast paced, fail-fast environment, but combined with an old-fashioned passion for outstanding execution, you can create outstanding results.”

    More from the CMO50 submission

    Innovative marketing

    In 2015/16, after years of significant and profitable growth, A&G’s insurance brand, Budget Direct, was facing increasing customer acquisition costs. This was because the car and home insurance marketplace had significantly heated up with the arrival of the supermarket brands, international competition and the duopoly’s loss leader efforts to stay competitive.

    To address this challenge, Kerr initiated and had full strategic, creative and P&L responsibility for a transformation project to: Identify what the brand needed to address in order to compete more successfully; create the resulting strategy and requirements to deliver a step change for the brand and in customer experience; and restructure the marketing and digital department accordingly.

    Through formal research, the team identified Budget Direct needed to evolve from a transactional platform trading on price, to a bigger brand story that could maintain growth volumes while reducing acquisition costs.

    “We needed to secure Budget Direct’s place on consideration lists and address the brand’s key issues around a lack of trust and low spontaneous awareness,” Kerr says in his submission.

    The work culminated in the Budget Direct ‘Captain Risky’ campaign; the story of the risk Budget Direct won’t insure to keep prices low.

    “In terms of innovation, the core truth about how Budget Direct manages to provide award-winning insurance for much lower premiums meant we had to become the first insurance brand in the world [that we are aware of] to talk about who we won’t insure,” Kerr says. “We knew our core truth makes sense but we had to have the courage to tell it.

    “We also believed being transparent about our method would increase customer engagement. We wanted to use transparency and confidence to drive trust while clearly being different to other brands in the market.”

    MCR brand research and internal KPI reports show the fully integrated campaign has been a significant success. Notable results include lifting spontaneous awareness of the brand by 25.8 per cent, increasing car insurance advertising recognition levels for Budget Direct by 70 per cent, and growing the brand’s association as a trustworthy car and home insurer by 46.18 per cent and 41.66 per cent, respectively.

    In addition, 44.5 per cent of people claimed to trust Budget Direct more having seen the Captain Risky campaign. The comparable cost of acquisition, meanwhile, fell by 12.88 per cent without giving up on volume.

    Empowered business thinking

    With responsibility for marketing strategy, execution and sales, Kerr oversees all of A&G’s customer acquisition, as well as existing customer add-on sales and cross-sales across its five key product lines. His department is also responsible for the full digital customer experience in terms of websites, online quote and sales design and optimisation as well as all digital marketing.

    “It is hard to list an initiative outside of day-to-day marketing because I have developed an in-house marketing and digital model and team that stretches a lot broader than most marketing departments,” he comments. “As an example, it is my in-house digital team that has won the award for Best Car Insurance Online Customer Experience for the last two years in a row from Global Reviews.”

    One strategic business-led initiative spearheaded by Kerr in the last year was building more transparency in the way A&G engages with customers. This quest to improve credibility saw the group become the first car and home insurance provider in Australia to publish all customer reviews online.

    “We also wanted a very public expression of how important customer service is to our company and give everyone across the business visibility of how successful - or not - our efforts to improve customer experience were,” Kerr explains.

    Crucial to the success of this initiative was having things operated by a third party (BazaarVoice), including all claims reviews, not just sales reviews, and ensuring the process of getting claims reviews included everyone that had completed a claim – even those that had been rejected. These were published on the brand website as well as on a standalone website where people could see every review.

    As soon as it was live and had enough data to be credible, A&G published the star-ratings and customer recommendation percentage scores through the business. Kerr notes the system is also full of very useful feedback the impact of internal processes on customers.

    “The entire company rallies around the effort to improve our ratings and is proud of the fact that 94 per cent of Budget Direct customers would recommend Budget Direct to a friend,” he says.

    “This winter, we increased the role of that 94 per cent statistic in the Budget Direct Captain Risky campaign. That would not have been possible if we had not integrated the reviews system into our business and as a business, rallied to improve our overall customer experience.”

    Data- and technology-led approach

    According to Kerr, Auto & General is considered a world leader in marketing analytics and attribution. Since 2006 and the early days of Omniture (now part of the Adobe Marketing Cloud), the team had been operating what is considered to be one of the world’s most advanced implementation of the Adobe Marketing Cloud.

    “Just as crucially, I built an advanced team of analysts within our department to maximise its capabilities,” Kerr says. “In 2014, I identified that issues would soon emerge in analytics and attribution due to the rapid growth in mobile device usage. As analytics and attribution is the absolute backbone of our approach to marketing, I initiated a project to identify which stack/provider had the best chance to land the next generation platform we needed.”

    As part of that journey and review, A&G started a significant migration to Google Analytics Premium, now the 360 platform.

    Another cornerstone to success is the way the team is structured and operates. The emphasis is on being able to make rapid decisions as well as a commitment to speed in integration and development efforts in support of analytics, Kerr says.

    “Once again, this has led to Auto & General rapidly becoming the vendor’s number on beta partner in the APAC region,” he says. “We are confident we now have a considerably better understanding of the multi-device environment than our competitors, which is great for our customers as we are able to increase the personalisation of their experience and superb for us because we have the best marketing attribution in market.

    “This means we can run the most efficient marketing programs and after all, it’s hard to optimise when really don’t know who you’re counting.”

    Customer-led approach

    With such as analytical approach to marketing, however, Kerr says the team has to be careful not to miss the more emotive-based side of its brands’ relationships with current and potential customers.

    To combat this, Kerr has invested in an always-on brand tracker study this year that goes to a representative sample of non-customers as well as existing ones. This information is being benchmarked against all main competitors to see how marketing programs and product features are landing, relative to competitors.

    “Our approach to new product development involves significant dialogue and design sessions with representative groups from our target market customers and our user interface design goes through rigorous usability analysis and Web analytic reviews,” he continues. “Lastly, it should be noted we are significant user of A/B testing. It is common for us to have over 20 tests in market at any one time. So in many ways, customers are helping us decide what is the best experience for them.”


    In creating Budget Direct’s ‘Captain Risky’ campaign, one of the key elements of the strategy and advertising brief was: “No wallpaper / like no other”.

    “Insurance is the classic grudge purchase and what makes matters worse, is it a highly contested. This leads to loads of always on, wallpaper advertising,” Kerr says. “My counter to that is the mindset of ‘earn your engagement’.

    “So it was no surprise to anyone at Auto & General when I picked the Captain Risky campaign platform, because it gave us a great way to flex our creative muscle and deliver what we believe is a more meaningful and memorable campaign.”

    Creativity plays a huge role in how the group attacks most things, and Kerr points out that only thing the advertising agency did on the Captain Risky campaign was to crack the core creative and make the TV ads. The in-house marketing and digital team does every other aspect of the activity.

    But creativity is not just the work of the team’s three full-time designers. “Some of the most creative things we ever get come from multi-variant testing, data insight analysis, product tweaks, customer interface design, and so on,” Kerr says. “We’d like to think creativity is one of our competitive advantages.”

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