Marketing Responsibility: Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project
In June 2006, Liberty Mutual began a new campaign with the theme/slogan Responsibility. What’s your policy? You may recall some of the television spots depicting everyday Americans confronted with a decision to do the “right” thing or “look the other way.” According to press releases at the time, the campaign consisted of a 60-second branding spot with 4 additional 30-second television spots and 4 print ads focusing on specific insurance lines. The $38 million campaign developed by Hill Holiday was accompanied with an interactive component, namely banner ads that allowed users to interact with an ethical/moral dilemma and respond to a poll. The banners drove to a micro site–whatsyourpolicy.com, where visitors could take a poll, see how their response
netted out against other visitors and submit poll questions for potential inclusion on the site. The campaign was extremely well received by consumers–especially parents, teachers and religious leaders and quickly gave consumers something they could easily associate with the nation’s 6th largest insurer.
The success of the initial campaign, including whatsyourpolicy.com evolved to the insurer launching the ResponsibilityProject.com in 2008, a web initiative dedicated to, according to the “About “section of the site, exploring “what it means to do the right thing.” The site features responsibility web films and a professionally written blog on responsibility. To keep the site fresh, the goal is to launch a new web film every few weeks. As Liberty Mutual prepared the launch the site it also began negotiating with NBC to modify a future script of the TV drama Kingsto create additional relevance to the responsibility campaign. The entire plot of the episode was about personal responsibility and meant to loosely tie back to Liberty Mutual’s sponsorship. However, according to a March 30, 2009 article in The New York Times, the episode aired in February and Liberty Mutual did not end up committing to being the sole sponsor and did not have a modified script. Though Liberty Mutual seemed to baulk at solo sponsorship, its sponsorship did coincided with the insurance company’s launch of an advertising campaign around the Responsibility Project. The campaign follows a fictional family as they deal with a variety of very real, very common conundrums that many Americans are also dealing with in real life. The unbranded spots, drive viewers to ResponsibilityProject.com where visitors are invited to comment and leave their opinions.
Is it N.I.F.T.Y?
Novel: I can’t think of too many companies that have attempted to “own” a marketing dialogue on responsibility like Liberty Mutual. Sure, many companies incorporate it into their business processes, but very few claim out right claim that responsibility is their way of doing business. For example, one could argue that Ben & Jerry’s has a marketing dialogue on responsibility and certainly the company has demonstrated its commitment to the environmental and social issues. But that’s more or less traditional corporate social responsibility. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But that type of responsibility is practically expected in this day and age. In fact, according to a March 2002 article in the Journal of Financial Services Marketing, entitled “The Effect of Corporate Social Responsibility on the Branding of Financial Services,” 42% of North American consumers surveyed said they “punished companies for being socially irresponsible” (Michel Ogrizek Journal of Financial Services Marketing; Mar 2002; 6, 3). Traditional corporate responsibility makes good business sense. But, let’s contrast traditional corporate social responsibility with Liberty Mutual’s approach. Liberty Mutual has associated its brand with a public dialogue on the general subject of personal responsibility. This approach has essentially given Liberty Mutual an “advance” on the brand’s “responsibility equity”. In other words, because building brand equity around responsibility takes years–even decades–Liberty Mutual couldn’t come out beating its chest on how responsible it is. It would be too much of a stretch for consumers. But Liberty Mutual is able lead the discussion on personal responsibility. In so doing, it creates positive associations between the brand and the need for greater responsibility in day-to-day living. The tagline: Responsibility. What’s your policy? implies the company’s cut and dry approach to responsibility to its customers and begs the question: what else would you expect from your insurer?
Intelligence: Does the responsibility project relate to Liberty Mutual’s overall corporate or marketing strategy? This is difficult for me to prove. As an observer I can only speculate on the company’s branding strategy by reading what’s publicly available. I think it’s fair to say however, that the responsibility project dovetails well with the overall corporate re-branding begun in 2006 with the theme responsibility.
Multi-Faceted: Liberty Mutual has done a tremendous job of ensuring that the equity its building is accessible to its targets from a variety of angles. First there are the TV spots for the Responsibility Project itself and the ResponsibilityProject.com. Although well executed, they are essentially marketing turbines for generating greater salience with the Liberty Mutual’s core brand message of responsibility. This core brand message continues (as it should) to payoff the theme of responsibility in TV spots and interactive media. Additionally, the company’s willingness to explore alternatives to traditional media placements, specifically the Kings episode was particularly intriguing and hints at Liberty Mutual’s desire to explore all channels and approaches in order to make aggressive strides in its targets’ awareness of its corporate identity.
Targeted: I’m just going to have to take a leap of faith in Hill Holiday and Liberty Mutual’s understanding of their
target audience. In everything I’ve read to prepare for this blog entry, nothing spoke to targeting—other than it resonated well with teachers, parents and religious. But I assume they have a more specific target audience (psychographic and demographic) in mind as they rolled this campaign out. Even so, it is interesting to look at the discrepancies between the demographics of visitors to libertymutual.com and the responsibility project site (as provided through Quantcast.com). Visitors to the responsibility project site tend to be older, female, mid to low income and less than 2 children in the household. Visitors to libertymutual.com tend to be more affluent, a higher level of education, middle age and middle income. While I can’t say that this is good or bad, assuming that the Liberty Mutual site is indicative of the core target for its insurance products—then the responsibility project is not doing much to attract a similar audience to its site. Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean the strategy is faulty since Liberty Mutual could be targeting an entirely new segment, not familiar with the brand. If this is the case, the strategy is working. If not, it appears that the responsibility project site isn’t attracting the same demographic that frequents the corporate site which could indicate a potential challenge to the approach.
Yes! Is responsibility enough to make someone want to work with Liberty Mutual? The verdict is still
out, and the public may never know how successful this campaign actually is. Traffic to the site according to Quantcast is 136K per month. It appears that a slight upward trend began about the time the new TV spots broke. However, if Quantcast statistics are even modestly reliable, the site doesn’t appear to be able to draw repeat traffic—perhaps a sign that this strategy isn’t working. (To be sure there are a number of short falls with the stats I provided—but it’s the site I am most familiar with so I’ve defaulted to those numbers.) On the plus side, I do feel Liberty Mutual now has something consumers can associate with the brand and connect with. Despite the less than stellar repeat traffic, Liberty Mutual did experience a 4.0% lift in auto premiums in the first quarter compared to Q1 2008, and an 8.0% increase in home owner policies over the same period—indicating that, Responsibility Project or not, they’ve done something right.