When a leading private insurance company recently commissioned a market research agency to do a survey on India's most famous brands, the findings didn't come as a surprise.
There was a cent per cent recall (which means 100 out of 100 Indian consumers know it) for only one Indian brand - LIC. And 93 per cent of those surveyed said if they buy insurance, it has to be from LIC.
So much for private sector competition.
Numbers justify this mega presence. LIC still accounts for nearly 70 per cent of the life insurance market and is also the largest domestic institutional investor in the country.
So what makes brand LIC tick? Why is it that the private sector peers have not been able to come anywhere near this public sector behemoth despite spending huge amounts of money on promotions?
A combination of factors, say ad agency heads. Jude Fernandes, executive director, Mudra Group and chief executive officer, Mudra India, says the stature of the organisation is what counts. "When you think LIC, you think insurance.
It defines the category in India. And when you come from that position, there is a certain tone and style in which you present the brand," he says.
It helps that the insurance giant spends as much as Rs. 300 crore (Rs. 3 billion) annually on ad spends.
Geeta Prabhakaran, an officer at LIC associated with brand development, says: "We are present everywhere across gender, class and demographies - be it a village fair or puppet shows, or a cultural evening in a posh Bandra locality.
"We have no problem in talking about our products anywhere - whether it's a festival in IIMs or a small town district college".
LIC even shows short movies in rural theatres to create awareness about insurance.
LIC is present through television commercials in 12 different languages and is getting its act together in the digital space as well through promotions in four social networking sites.
Mudra has the honour of coining LIC's famous baseline - Zindagi Ke Saath bhi, Zindagi Ke Baad bhi, over a decade ago.
Fernandes says: "The baseline stands to this day. LIC has felt no need to change it because it epitomises what it is all about - With you during Life. With you after Life."
The challenge, says Fernandes, when working on the LIC business is to keep in mind both the urban and rural clientele of the insurance giant.
"Its customer cuts across segments, which is why one has to keep in mind both the India and Bharat when devising ads for LIC."
The point is endorsed by Nitin Karkare, chief operating officer, DraftFCB Ulka, Mumbai, "The two important factors about LIC is trust and scale. If the trust wasn't there, the insurer wouldn't be able to scale up its business. Both go hand in hand, but trust matters the most," he says.
"Ultimately it boils down to trust," says Vipin Anand, Chief, Corporate Communications, LIC, adding, "We are still servicing some of the polices given by the erstwhile insurers and our rejection ratio is by far the lowest in the industry."
According to data provided by the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (Irda), the number of claims rejected in case of claims for LIC is just above 1 per cent - much lower than its peers.
These are the things which are carefully injected into the process when it comes to marketing the product.
"The tone of LIC's ads is sincere," Karkare says.
To make sure that its agencies have understood what it wants, LIC has devised an elaborate procedure for its advertising.
It briefs at least two or three of its roster agencies. This includes RK Swamy/BBDO, DraftFCB Ulka, JWT and Mudra. The agencies then have the task of presenting the creatives based on the brief given. The best one is eventually selected.
"This encourages the empanelled agencies to come up with the best creative," says Fernandes.
"The beneficiary eventually is LIC."