For Liberty Mutual, Insurance Customers’ Values Have Value

By | August 7, 2008

Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility: What’s Your Policy? ad campaign of people doing nice things for strangers has created quite a buzz in insurance marketing circles. But executives at the Boston-based insurer insist it is much more than an advertising and marketing campaign; it has become the company’s own values statement.

“Our CEO Ted Kelly, when we first went down this path, looked at me and he looked at the other members of senior management and he said, ‘This is not just an ad campaign. This is a reflection of who we are as a company,” says Steve Sullivan, senior vice president of communications at Liberty Mutual, one of the people responsible for the personal responsibility campaign.

“He looked at each one of us and said, ‘Guys, if you don’t think we can pull this off, speak now.’ Because it’s, of course, public relations, it’s everything from the way somebody answers the phone to the way that we send out printed material to customers.”

The campaign has generated considerable free publicity including mentions by The Tonight Show’s Jay Leno and MSNBC’s political “hardballer” Chris Matthews, along with letters and emails of thanks from people across the country.

Sullivan discusses the popular ad campaign, and its Internet spin-off project, in an interview with Insurance Journal’s Andy Simpson. Excerpts form the interview may be viewed on at

Liberty Mutual’s Personal Responsibility Campaign, Take 1: Customer and Employee Research

Liberty Mutual’s Personal Responsibility Campaign, Take 2: Creating Values-Driven Relationships

Liberty Mutual’s Personal Responsibility Campaign, Take 3: Out-Buzzing the Big Spenders

According to Sullivan, the campaign did not just spring from the creative mind of a lone copywriter. It came about after a lot of research. First, the company conducted surveys with thousands of automobile insurance customers, commercial lines customers, as well as agents and risk managers.

“We wanted to find out, beyond traditional demographics, what it was, if anything, that was common to our customers and the people that we identified as prospects, that would allow to connect with them on more of a values level. And the reason that we were going in that direction is because, as you know, insurance has become this incredibly confusing world of names and claims. And particularly on the consumer’s side, it is all about price, price, price, price,” says Sullivan.

The company hoped to uncover values consumers held that could form the basis of an insurance branding effort.

The results were contrary to the current popular notion of what people think about personal responsibility, according to Sullivan: “[M]ost people identified themselves as more responsible than others, more responsible that the average.”

In fact, 90 percent of Americans said they feel that they are more responsible than average. That became a starting point. Within that group the research uncovered a more targetable core of people who not only identify themselves as responsible but whose behavior back that up, according to the Liberty Mutual executive.

“They vote more. They participate in community activities. They participate in not-for-profits. They participate in the schools and their communities,” according to Sullivan.

Liberty Mutual calls these people the “responsible ones” — people who hold to this notion of responsibility as one of their primary core values.
Identifying the “responsible ones” was important because — according to other marketing research and experts at respected consumer companies like Proctor and Gamble — American consumers are increasingly turning to values when deciding which companies and brands to choose.

“So, we felt like it was important, because people wanted it and that we had a unique story to tell them. That’s where the second part of our research, the employee research came into play,” explains Sullivan.

The employee surveys were designed to explore how the personal responsibility theme registered with Liberty Mutual’s own workforce.

“We wanted to know that if we were claiming something externally, did it fit with customers’ experience of us and with how we conducted our business every day? So we interviewed hundreds of employees, all across the country, including our CFO, from our CFO all the way to people in call centers. And this notion of ‘take responsibility for what you do, don’t blame others, just do the right thing’ came up over and over and over. And people would say, ‘you know, I’m not sure if I can put my finger on anything more than we just every day try and do the right thing.”‘

Having heard the same theme from employees and consumers, Liberty Mutual’s next step became connecting everything in a way that was relevant to people and relevant to an insurance company. That’s how the strangers helping strangers ad campaign – and its evolution into The Responsibility Project– began.

Next: The Buzz About The Responsibility Project

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