CMO50 2016 #18: Jane Merrick

  • Name Jane Merrick
  • Title General manager, marketing and customer experience
  • Company IAG
  • Commenced role February 2016 (with IAG since 2009)
  • Reporting Line EGM customer and underwriting, dotted line to CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 120 staff, 5 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Insurance
  • 2015 ranking 17
  • Related

    Brand Post

    IAG promoted its senior marketing leader, Jane Merrick, to general manager, marketing and customer experience within its Australian consumer division in April.

    The new role sees Merrick leading marketing, product design, customer communications, customer relations and customer experience for the insurer’s largest personal insurance brand, NRMA Insurance. It’s a move that reflects the insurance company’s broader increasing emphasis on ensuring every aspect of its business operations becomes customer led. And these functions, which previously have not worked closely together, are now engaged and integrated more than ever before and producing some brilliant results, she says.

    A key initiative Merrick led this year exemplifying this is the ‘Safer Homes’ project. By analysing customer advocacy data across every stage of the customer journey, the team identified the biggest return on investment would be to engage outside of claims’ time.

    Merrick says Safer Homes is the first customer-centric insurance innovation developed through activating what has traditionally been closed-door data, and sees IAG using two million data points to give bespoke advice to customers at an individual household level. She claims no other Australian utility offers such transparency and empowerment for customers to understand the risks facing their home and those that influencer their policy pricing.

    “Through the use of smart data application, clever CX/UX thinking, geo-targeting and creativity, we have provided true added value,” she says, adding the site had chalked up more than 250,000 visits at time of print. Importantly, it is providing real commercial value in terms of higher conversion rates.

    “However, what I am most proud of is the reputation for the marketing team – this has improved significantly due to the real commercial value to the initiative at all levels within the organisation,” she says.

    “Marketing’s key metric to demonstrate effectiveness must be showing that our marketing initiatives not only resonate with customers and communities, but deliver real commercial value.

    From the CMO50 submission

    Innovative marketing

    Two years ago, Merrick faced with a significant marketing and business challenge for NRMA Insurance: To change the conversation from price to service, and show the value in its premium positioning by creating more consistent and compelling experiences for customers. The solution was one of the biggest marketing initiatives ever developed for NRMA Insurance: It’s Insurance, NRMADE Better.

    “The development of the new brand platform set a robust foundation for our marketing strategy to grow and evolve with our customers changing needs while remaining true to our purpose and point of difference,” Merrick says. “Most importantly, our people and customers loved it.”

    The new brand platform enabled NRMA Insurance to remain the number one insurer in New South Wales with over 45 per cent market share. But that was just the start. NRMA’s future will be data-led and customer driven and Merrick says it’s now working to align all marketing activity to build towards this.

    NRMADE BETTER 2.0, which launched in August, has been the biggest piece of strategic work ever embarked on, she says. Over the last eight months, a core initiative was creative campaign and customer value proposition development, involving 200 staff and customers, that’s now being rolled out in the fully integrated campaign with tagline: ‘NRMA gives you the confidence to enjoy life BETTER.’

    Merrick says it’s also evolving its digital ecosystem, which marries sales, behavioural and media data to deliver richer online engagements and smarter ecommerce thinking. In addition, the team has embarked on a customer experience initiative, called ‘For the Love of Sam’, to ensure everything it does is customer-first.

    SAM is one of the most common male and female names of IAG customers. ‘For the Love of Sam’ is an organisational-wide customer advocacy initiative that is finding ways of driving more valuable engagement across the customer journey, Merrick says. This was supported by an internal engagement strategy uniting the organisation around a shared brand vision.

    Empowered business thinking

    According to Merrick, the modern marketer must foster an openness to great ideas coming from anywhere in the organisation. It is often these different points of view that lead to truly disruptive thinking.

    The responsibility of driving digital transactions has historically sat outside marketing. However, knowing how critical driving greater online transactions was for delivering efficiency into operations, Merrick identified an opportunity to make something transactional feel more aspirational to drive a behavioural change.

    “In a low-engagement category, getting customers to interact digitally is a real challenge, particularly for our older and less tech savvy customers. Our strategy was to create a new behaviour among customers by showing them how easy it could be to deal with us online,” she explains.

    Objectives were to give customers the confidence to deal with NRMA online while relieving pressure on the call centre channel. Merrick admits there was plenty of resistance to the creative idea as it was slightly polarising, and she had to be bold to ensure customers engaged.

    “Thank goodness we did. The results are outstanding – the first month’s login targets were surpassed in 15 minutes of launch and continued to exceed targets, calls to the call centre were reduced by 172,000 in the first three months and we saved the business millions,” she says.

    Customer-led approach

    Thanks to her expanded remit, Merrick is opening up marketing to a suite of insights gained from research, plus customer feedback, and daily real-time feedback measuring every interaction the group has with customers. All of this is analysed at multiple levels, which then informs product design, brand strategy and communications.

    Merrick says it has mapped out a clear customer journey across seven touchpoints. Once a desired state against the agreed customer value proposition has been developed, gaps are identified and plans are put in place to close them. Every division also has a remediation plan to look at ways to close the gaps in that customer journey.

    “Our weekly leadership team meetings involve a customer story or customer experience,” Merrick continues. “We run ‘customer connection’ sessions to ensure all staff can engage with customers at different touchpoints. We also have an online customer community, Imagined Better, where we check-in with our customers on a regular basis for ideas, creative concepts and general research.”

    All of the above influences the go-to-market strategy, essential product communications, website content, social channels and experience customers receive at all touchpoints.

    Fostering team capability

    For Merrick, an engaged and committed team comes from being a truly authentic leader and focusing on creating an environment for people to be empowered, take personal accountability, and be responsible for their own development and destiny.

    Key initiatives she’s focused on to build capabilities and the right culture include weekly ‘hour of power’sessions, where the marketing community gathers to share learnings, insights, wins and failures; plus a monthly marketing university, where external parties present an overview of what’s going on in the industry. Merrick also champions a marketer of the month, and a talent review of the team is conducted every six months to look at development plans, identify capability gaps and look at what leadership can do to assist with supporting the individual in their growth.

    At the same time, Merrick is working to increase in-house capability, and says a marketing automation platform is being rolled out to increase speed to market by 60 per cent. Search and programmatic buying is also being bought in-house.

    On top of this, the team has embraced agile as a desirable way of working, showcasing weekly projects in a war room to ensure alignment across different channels, building leaner and more empowered teams, and holding daily WIPS to track the progress of campaigns.

    IAG has also introduced 90-day objectives and key results, which are initiatives, reviewed and developed every quarter to work towards the overarching vision. These are shared and visible across the team, allowing employees to easily redirect effort and resources where needed most.


    “The truth is, we live and breathe creativity – it’s in everything we do,” Merrick claims. “To ensure it is part of our DNA, I aim to create an environment where people are empowered to focus on what motivates and interests them, and what they can do within their area to achieve this.”

    Over the year, IAG has run different educational sessions around creativity to fuel their creative flame, with sessions such as ‘What Won in Cannes’ and ‘Creativity in Data’ a couple of examples.

    Merrick says the team also annually aligns with agency, M&C Saatchi, around the creation of ‘brave’ work. “We agree on key insights to push our thinking further and align on a shared creative vision,” she says. “This year, we also created guidelines to evaluating great work, work that would elicit an emotion – as we know how we make the customer ‘feel’ is key to the success of NRMA.”

    One of the key creative challenges was getting an inherently risk-averse organisation and industry to buy into brave creativity and media thinking. What resulted from this challenge was a study of research and marketing theory from the Ehrenberg Bass Institute and the IPA.

    “We used these results to show unequivocally the correlation between creativity and fame, with effectiveness,” Merrick says.

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