iSelect CMO on building the ultimate customer ‘life admin store’

From its use of humour to tech platforms and data insight, the insurance broker is aiming to get closer to customers, its marketing leader says

Goofy and confused polish couple, Estelle and Gary, are powerful brand ambassadors helping iSelect achieve cut through with audiences and outperform the wider insurance market, its CMO says.

The online insurance, utilities and financial broker’s marketing chief, Geraldine Davys, said the company often uses “tasteful humour” to get cut-through with audiences and be front of mind.

“We have to keep the brand healthy, but at the same time, we need to have that humour to have that real punch and impact,” Davys said, explaining the company has had a great response to the ‘Estelle and Gary’ characters, who continue to resonate with audiences.

“We are working within an existing health market that over time has declined. However, we have beat a lot of that decline through the growth we’ve seen in our health business over the last five years,” she said. “Ads like that continue to make sure we are very much front of mind and we have a very strong call to action all of the time.”

Estelle from iSelect's ad campaign
Estelle from iSelect's ad campaign

Davys said the health industry is generally focused on a fairly affluent family market as well as an older market. “However, we know just under 48 per cent of people in the Australian market have health insurance, so we are still talking to a fairly wide group of people,” she said.

“What we need to do is use characters like Estelle and Gary, that are able to get that kind of level of cut-through, given that we are a very much direct response model.”

Disrupting markets

Davys said iSelect is on a mission to help customers with insurance decisions across nine key verticals, from healthcare to car insurance, home and contents, electricity and gas.

“There’s no question we need to continuously make sure we are asking the question ‘why’ - ‘why’ would people come to us? What are the ‘really important’ reasons that customers use us?” Davys asked. “Unless it is around the fact they are saving time, saving money, saving effort, and we have the right product, then we aren’t doing our job. That’s our real North Star we look to with all of our ads.”

In a pivotal move, the company decided to ditch its iconic Mr. iSelect Man in order to expand its message to a wider customer segment, and explain its wider product set.

“It was a great move because he was very much entrenched in that belief that it was all about health,” Davys explained. “But because we do energy, home loans and life insurance, we had to move out of the Mr. iSelect world.”

Davys ventured back to iSelect in July 2016 after working as the company’s marketing and customer experience director from 2013-2015. Inbetween, she was executive director of marketing for General Motors Holden in Australia.

The remit is to push iSelect’s vision of being a ‘life admin store’ while also promoting business transformation efforts. This ambition will see iSelect investing not only in its brand, but also digital and technology capability over the next 12 months.

“We have a huge agenda ahead of us. iSelect has always been known as a massive disruptor within the Australian market and when we talk to where we see the business heading,” Davys said.

Davys said the company uses Salesforce technology to put the ‘customer experience’ front and centre, and is also adopting the Aspect technology platform to ensure customers can interact with the group via their preferred communication platform, whether it is via Facebook, SMS, phone or email.

“Effortless customer experience is massive. I know it’s the buzzword and everybody is talking about it, but why it is exciting for me at iSelect is we are a very nimble, agile business that can make changes very quickly within our business,” Davys said. “The fact that we are putting platforms in like Salesforce and Aspect will really help us shift the way we are talking to our customers today, but most importantly, how we understand them.”

ISelect is also working with Google in a bid to get closer to its customers, and is relying on a large in-house team of big data specialists to rev up its data-led and analytics piece.

Geraldine Davys
Geraldine Davys

“Through the technology we are implementing through Salesforce and Aspect, we’ve been able to work much closer with Google to look at that whole 360-degree view of the customers, and then make sure we have the right campaigns in place as we continue to evolve into this life admin store,” Davys said.

The key is having the right brand and campaigns in place to make sure iSelect can target customers with the right communications, Davys said. “It starts with tech, but it is then about having the right digital platforms and then, the right branding and campaigns.”

Data-led technology and data management are key trends sweeping the market, and just like many other organisations, iSelect has heaps of data.

“Very few people I speak to say, ‘Geepers I just don’t have enough data.’ But it is the management of it, in the right way, and in a sophisticated way that we are talking and targeting our customers in the environment that they want to be targeted to,” Davys said.

Another big trend Davys is trying to navigate is the evolution of customer behaviour. “The loyalty to companies has changed over time. I think trying to maintain the relationship with your customer is getting harder for any marketer out there,” she claimed.

“I dare say it is the core one that keeps a lot of marketers awake at night.”

Up next: How Davys is allocating her marketing budget and the role of measurement

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Allocating budget

Davys said it’s important to understand the customer journey, from start to finish, which can be challenging in a business like iSelect that doesn’t have long lead times.

“With auto, we know we have a three-month journey, from a customer first seeing an ad, right through to their purchase of a car,” she explained. “In this instance, we sometimes might have minutes between them seeing an ad and going through to the purchase decision, so a headache for me, is making sure we have the right channels in place to meet the needs of a varied and wide market.

“What is the right channel that we need to be in given our limited dollars? It is a headache for every CMO because no one has got an unlimited amount of marketing budget, but how is that spend correctly proportioned to get to the right lead and, hence, revenue targets that you need for the business?”

To cope, Davys said CMOs need to “embrace the customer experience journey,” recognising the customer's perspective, segments, customer goals, emotions, and touch points.

“If CMOs are not saying they want a customer experience and are not doing a digital transformation, then they are probably not strategically on the right route right now because every industry, and every business, is evolving so fast,” she said.

With the life admin store approach, Davys said the intention is to talk customers about nine key verticals. “It is about coming to us for all of your life admin needs and the platform is going to enable us when you last called us, what products you bought from us, your lifestyle stage, your demographics - the full end-to-end,” she said.

“We then know the right time to start talking to you about life insurance or home loans. We actually know you. It is about having the right level of relationship.”

Calling it the “love funnel,” Davys said the company recognises customers come in at the top and purchase at the bottom. “Where we are trying to work on is the relationship in the middle and that is all of that content management and the work we are doing with our content hub to actually make sure you remain part of our ecosystem over time,” she said.

“There is all sorts of technology we’re building in the background to help you do that, which is classified, but it will help us build out this vision of a ‘life admin store’.”

Like many in the industry, Davys saw the value in getting the ‘single view of the customer’. “It is kind of Utopia - the single view of the customer. One of the reasons I came back into this business is because we absolutely have now - through years of the Salesforce platform – the ability to actually know the end-to-end customer,” she said.

Traditional measures

Asked about the company's digital spend, Davys said she doesn’t give people a typical answer on this front. “I would actually say - interestingly for the networks as well - we are actually moving a little back to more of the traditional,” she said.

“As an online company, I think we moved almost too quickly into the digital environment. Now we have to come back because the traditional channels still have a massive role to play with our brand health and our brand awareness and consideration, which we do track on a monthly basis.”

And while Davys continues to juggle myriad decisions about marketing technology as well as brand and advertising questions, knowing your leadership style can be quite useful.

“For a CMO these days, you have to have a really open and transparent style. I think it is about being real with your people,” she said.

“It is also in this environment about having a lot of tenacity to be able to understand a problem, but continue to evolve that problem to a solution. And as change continues to happen, and it is going to happen to all of us, knowing how you bring people on that journey is important.”

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