Aviva India, a joint venture between the Burman family of Dabur FMCG and Aviva plc, the United Kingdom's largest insurance group, recently launched its 'education is insurance' campaign with cricketer Sachin Tendulkar. The campaign seeks to establish Aviva as a strong player in the insurance industry with innovative products for child education and insurance.
The brand image of Tendulkar, who has endorsed the company's child education plans in the past too, undergoes a transformation in the current campaign. It seeks to present Tendulkar as a concerned and a responsible father rather than a prolific cricketer.
The commercial, conceptualised by BBDO and directed by Rising Sun Productions, is a series of vignettes of the traditional rituals around education and religion in a child's life. The first is a South Indian ritual where a grandfather helps his toddler granddaughter to write an alphabet in a plate of rice grain.
The next is a baptism ceremony. There is a third ceremony as well. Tendulkar then steps in as a father sending his daughter to school stating that the parent can guarantee a secured education for the child.
The TVC's message is that when it comes to education for children, even the world's greatest cricketer comes across as just another concerned parent.
The campaign targets young parents and impresses on them the need to start saving for their child's education as soon as he or she is born.
"We believe that the child's education is the top priority of the parent nowadays. With escalating cost of education, the concern for securing the child's future will gain momentum. It is also an area in which people do not think about cutting costs as the products that the child space offers go beyond mere tax saving devices and have become a necessity for young parents," says Aviva India director (marketing) Vishal Gupta.
This insight for the campaign came from a survey conducted by Aviva and IMRB, which showed that 93 per cent of Indian parents save to ensure good higher education for their children. Education tops the list even with other major preoccupations with parents like retirement and their children's marriage.
Aviva has seen the share of revenues from child plans increase from a humble 3 per cent to around 15 per cent in the last one year. It expects that with the new campaign, this segment will grow to 20-25 per cent by 2010-11. Aviva currently has a market share of around 2.5 per cent in the life insurance industry.
According to sector analysts, the child plan market in India is around Rs 35,000 crore (Rs 350 billion) annually, which is around 20 per cent of the entire life insurance market.
The major players in the child plan market are HDFC Standard Life Insurance, ICICI Prudential and state-owned Life Insurance Corporation. Other players like Aviva and Aegon Religare are new entrants. In the absence of product differentiation, campaigns play a crucial role in the market.
"Child plans across the sector are formulated along the same lines. Returns and features are more or less similar. All the difference comes in the brand and marketing strategies adopted by companies," says Optima Risk Management Services CEO Rahul Agarwal.
An intricate part of the new Aviva campaign is to help parents decide the amount of money they want their children to receive in the future. The company has come out with an 'edurator', a tool at the insurer's website which provides the indicative premium to parents who want to reach a certain fund value at a particular age.
The company also plans a microsite which will provide an exclusive space for parents to decide on the right child plan.
"The efforts we are taking clearly go to show that child plans are going to be our primary focus. Child and pension plans constitute nearly half of our overall business. The plan is to keep all other things at their place and bring child plans to the forefront," says Gupta.
Moreover, the company is banking on the persistency factor in child plans. Child plans are need-based products and the key to success lies in the persistency of renewal premiums.
"Generally, the performance of an insurance company is gauged by the new business premiums. Child plans, which are not fashioned as tax saving plans but need-based products, have more people coming back to pay," Gupta adds.
However, brand analysts are skeptical about the campaign as they believe that life insurance companies generally fail to add depth to their products with their campaigns.
"Insurance is a very serious business and branding in this sector has not really taken off in a big way. Aviva's new campaign is also on similar lines. Sports icons can also make the issue of child insurance seem trivial and fail to connect to people as a brand.
The point to be seen is whether this campaign can really break the clutter of campaigns in the industry," says brand consultant Harish Bijoor.
However, Aviva wants to strengthen its brand in more ways than one. In addition to the campaign, it has launched a widespread corporate social responsibility and social connect programme which is fashioned around the theme of child education, adding to the brand value of 'education is insurance'.
The company has started a cause-related marketing campaign on education for underprivileged children. The joint initiative with CRY is named "street to school" and is aimed at impacting the lives of 20,000 underprivileged children in a year.
Adding to this, the company is reaching out to parents directly. Aviva has come up with elaborate collaboration plan with a pre-school chain. Under this, the company has launched a series of comic books on the value of saving money.
The concept here is that as kids associate with saving, they take the message back to parents who in turn associate saving with Aviva. Moreover, the company has also come together with National Geographic to have a national scholarship programme for children to add depth to their brand and marketing strategy.
Aegon Religare Life Insurance too has recently launched a campaign which focuses on child insurance plans. The campaign comprises a television commercial as well as digital and outdoor advertising.
However, the company's focus is still very seasonal in approach and it believes that there is need to keep shifting focus from time to time in the insurance market.
"Our strategy is very simple, which is to catch the gaze of the audience. We also want to be cost-effective and are exploring mediums that give us the maximum returns. Even though child plans are important in our scheme of things, we feel insurance products are seasonal in nature," says Aegon Religare director (branding & communication) Pradeep Pandey.
The market leader in child insurance plans, HDFC Standard Life, too has just concluded a campaign catering to child plans. It too has used various means of advertising and came under the sar utha ke jiyo (hold your head high in life) campaign.
"The child plan campaign which we just concluded was under the broader brand built on the concept of self esteem. Products offered by all companies are more or less the same. It is the approach strategies that differ," says HDFC Standard Life executive vice-president Sanjay Tripathy.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar