CMO profile: What Jenny Williams is doing to build category

PetSure CMO and experienced marketing leader details her approach as inaugural marketing chief, her efforts to demonstrate media's effectiveness, and the freedom of building category

Lifting consumer education around pet insurance to drive category growth is the name of the game for PetSure’s first CMO, Jenny Williams. And she’s harnessing media, data, content, relatable creative and her marketing smarts to achieve it.

PetSure is an insurance underwriter providing white-label pet insurance products to 24 partners across Australia including RSPCA Pet Insurance, Woolworths Pet Insurance, Bupa and HCF. Combined, the business represents about 80 per cent of all pet insurance in this market. The company also has a unique claims experience and payments solution, GapOnly, which launched about two years ago. This acts in a similar fashion to Australia’s HiCaps medical payment offering, helping pet owners better understand and minimise gap shock when confronted with vet bills.

As PetSure works to build awareness and education around the category and GapOnly with end consumers, it recognised the need for a CMO. Enter Williams.

Joining PetSure in March 2022, the experienced marketing professional has already orchestrated several hefty projects, including a masterbrand redesign, and the group’s first ever paid media campaign to consumers. Most recently, she’s spearheaded a program of work aimed at driving awareness of pet insurance as a category and GapOnly as the best way to pay. Williams previously worked in executive-level marketing roles across HCF, Compare the Market, Fupay and ADMA.

Williams told CMO PetSure had completed major brand positioning work just prior to her appointment, aimed at raising the profile of PetSure as a pet health insurance thought leader and champion for the pet health space. Evolving this brand positioning visually became her first priority.

Credit: Jenny Williams

“We probably have the biggest pet health database around as we process at least 80 per cent of all claims. That gives us a wealth of data, and we’re employing vets primarily to process the claims, who have a wealth of knowledge within this business,” Williams said. “But up until that brand work, no one know about it.”

Williams has facilitated the visual rebrand across PetSure, including development of a new logo, colour, website and asset overhaul. She also turned the paid media up with an emphasis on better surfacing content from PetSure’s Knowledge Hub. The portal has more than 500 articles, mostly written by vets, focused on topics such as breed profiles, safety tips and disease state profiles.

“We have seen a pretty substantial shift in volume of traffic; it’s at least tripled. That’s starting to drive more traffic to that part of our digital platform,” Williams said.  

With the GapOnly brand, Williams then kicked off a consumer-facing integrated campaign, ‘Gap it and go’ in mid-2022 oriented to existing customers. The multi-channel campaign ran across social and search for three months, driving awareness of the GapOnly service and encouraging pet owners to request this new way of pre-empting and processing their claims next time they are at the vet.

“The insight was even though vets many have the process gap capability, customers were not aware of GapOnly and its benefits and weren’t asking vets for this service, so vets sometimes didn’t offer it to them,” Williams explained. “We wanted to get customers to ask for and start using the service. We have seen an uplift in GapOnly claims as a result.”

Category growth and education

The other component of Williams’ CMO remit is growing the pet insurance category itself. According to fresh figures from the 2022 Animal Medicines Australia Pets in Australia report, 69 per cent of Australian households own a pet, up from 61 per cent in 2019. In addition, up to 3.5 million are actively considering new pets in the next 12 months.

Yet the report indicated 45 per cent of current pet owners are less experienced in the art of pet ownership, up from 39 per cent in 2021. Against this, it’s estimated 17 per cent of dog owners hold a pet insurance policy, while the number is lower for cat owners at just 12 per cent, the AMA found.

PetSure's new True Story campaignCredit: PetSure
PetSure's new True Story campaign

As a result, PetSure debuted the new integrated campaign, ‘True story’, in December 2022. The campaign is running across outdoor advertising, paid social, PR and influencer channels and focuses on the common mishaps pets can have. To do this, the creative focuses on pet archetypes, such as ‘muncher’, the food obsessed pet digesting things they should; and ‘daredevil’, the pet with a tendency to be braver than their abilities allow.

“With the latest category campaign, we opted to do this under the GapOnly brand, and focus on some of those situations pet owners and people can identify with,” Williams said. “We wanted to bring the creative concept to life in a way that was playful and cheeky, yet relatable, while still showing the benefits of GapOnly by illustrating the vet bill and out-of-pocket cost side-by-side. With a clear call to action, pet parents are encouraged to search for a GapOnly ready policy so they can enjoy a better claims experience.”

Proving marketing’s effectiveness

Such an approach is a significant shift for PetSure’s marketing strategy. While the company has seen the value of marketing historically, the vast majority of work previously focused on the vet industry.

“Work was ongoing at PetSure to create content, such as our annual Pet Health Monitor, which is a big dive into our data. But these weren’t amplified to consumers,” Williams said. “There wasn’t a lot of media money being spent. Media wasn’t targeted at consumers in any space. So one of the biggest shifts for me was firstly requesting more money, but then diverting money into media so we could do paid advertising.

“The other big change was the targeting related to how we spent that money. Rather than promoting social posts, for example, we developed audience groupings, and focused our digital spend on either existing customers or look-a-like audiences so we were getting to the right people.”

To help demonstrate effectiveness of the latest campaign, Williams has concentrated efforts on the greater Sydney area. She noted data indicated Melbourne and Sydney as similar markets, making for solid testing foundations.

“I have built a detailed dashboard to look at quote numbers and sales volumes, Melbourne versus Sydney. This is about seeing if campaign drives greater uptick in overall quote volumes across all partners in one market versus another,” Williams said.

“Partners also often run promo offers, mostly national, at this time, so this aggregated approach avoids that skew. And we’re already starting to see a difference. We started on 15 December, and two weeks in, looking at Sydney and Melbourne, we’re seeing greater pick-up and the gap getting bigger.”

Another proactive step Williams is taking is meeting with PetSure’s partners. This was particularly important when launching the new GapOnly ready logo last year. Williams compared the approach to ‘Intel Inside’ and designed to create a brand mark people can recognise easily.

“The goal is to get to the point where there’s equity in that logo from a marketing perspective for partners,” she said. “I’ve found marketing teams are all receptive to the idea and initiative. Anyone who’s a partner is keen to see the category grow and can see how this will benefit.

“When vets see we are doing marketing to consumer, and consumers are starting to ask about GapOnly Ready, they become more enthusiastic about the product, and more people begin making claims. I have more testimonials for example, on the service, and the difference it makes to the outcomes for pets. Our campaigns have generated lots more interest, resulting in an increase in GapOnly claims as a percentage of total claims.

“PetSure always wanted to do more category level initiatives, but this work has given the business more confidence in the idea that it [media] could be effective.”

Further data utilisation is a next cab off the rank, and Williams highlighted PetSure’s extensive claims data as of huge value. “The caveat is we have to be careful with what we say,” she said.

“For example, in one situation, the minimum costs we see in the data is $2000, while the maximum is $20,000. The marketer in me wants to advertise $20,000, but reality is it won’t cost that for most people. How we use data is consistently sense checked as a result, so it’s a true reflection of what the outcome might be.”  

Other initiatives in the works using data include a predicter tool to give pet owners a better idea of what it’s going to cost with particular pets based on age and breed.

“We also want to leverage our data to give owners a better understanding at a personalised level,” Williams said. Another recent initiative is launching a research grant focused on providing funding and data to help support evolution of pet health at a veterinary level.

Freedom as a CMO

Having worked for both HCF and Compare the Market, Williams saw some crossovers in strategically marketing pet health versus human health. Regulatory conditions are very different, however, posing unique challenges. For instance, pet insurance is classified as general insurance.

“What I’m starting to postulate on is that very few people understand that. Yet there are similar costs between human and pet health treatment. The difference is human health is subsidised by Medicare, so many don’t even come close to understanding the real cost,” Williams commented. “Yet when considering your vet costs, you have to pay 100 per cent.

“People are considering pet insurance often also put it in the bucket of human insurance – it’s ensuring a family member can be treated if something goes wrong. As a result, I often find myself when we’re talking or thinking about something, of my HCF days, my learnings there and how they can apply to this situation.

“I’m loving this organisation. A lot of areas I have knowledge in are coming into play here, even at a Compare the Market level. We have 24 partner brands, although we’re not just selling leads. It’s about looking at the whole category, versus one product or brand, and how that stacks up.”  

It’s for all these reasons Williams believed her latest CMO role provided enviable “freedom” as a marketer. “If I can grow the category by a few percentage points, because of our market share, there will be a sizeable uptick for PetSure. That enables us to have the freedom to do that type of marketing, which very few jobs in this category give you,” she added. 

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