Former PepsiCo and Unilever marketer Russ Findlay has taken his consumer branding mindset and successfully applied it to everything specialty insurance provider Hiscox does. Having been recently promoted, Findlay shares what’s next for Hiscox and offers advice for B2B marketers heading into budget season.
It’s not every day that you’ll hear a B2B marketeer espouse the virtues of TV advertising while cautioning not to get too smitten with data, but Russ Findlay isn’t your typical marketer. His PepsiCo and Unilever pedigree has served him well. He was recently elevated to become the first global CMO in the 120-year history of Hiscox, a leading specialty insurance provider with a hyper-focus on small and medium-sized businesses. The move is a reflection of the company’s commitment to a joined up global marketing approach as it looks to the future.
Fresh off of an on-location TV ad shoot, Findlay says Hiscox plans to spend in ways that B2B companies typically don’t. It is looking to embolden its “Encourage Courage” platform with TV spots as early as Q4 in addition to the traditional below-the-line B2B blocking and tackling. The campaign, “celebrates the power of risk, not the paralyzing power of risk. Insurance may be considered a grudge purchase, but it’s a necessary purchase. If something does go horribly wrong, you are right back to where you started. That’s liberating.”
Findlay sees the platform as a rallying cry amid a wave of negativity. “The way the insurance industry markets itself is terrible. We, generally speaking, sell fear. Who wants that right now? We’re willing to go against the herd.”
Immediate priorities for a global role
Findlay has been with Hiscox since 2013, most recently as US chief marketing officer. Now three-plus months into his new role, he has an initial roadmap in place. In addition to getting fresh creative in the pipeline, his agenda is to:
Plan for the next decade. Findlay stressed that while there are many issues at hand in the next months or year, drawing up a global blueprint for the next decade is a key.
Reduce complexity. There are some areas that can be streamlined, he says. “No need for everyone to reinvent the wheel.”
Support the regions, but not centralize marketing. “We like being nimble country-by country in order to capture the local flavor.” For example, it is now looking to shoot new ads in the UK. Findlay plans to test the creative across markets. “If it tests right, we will consider running it.” B2B specialist gyro is Hiscox agency of record.
Create global thought leadership programs. He will ask each region to see if they want to be on-board with global content programs. ”We don’t want to force people to be a part of something they don’t want to be a part of.”
Keep the advertising lights illuminated. “When things get a little bumpy, don’t shut off your advertising. It’s rule number one. We need to get out there and make sure people understand the features and benefits of our products and services.”
Advice for other B2B marketers as 2021 budgeting begins
Based upon all of the variables at hand, it is certainly not an easy time to begin planning for the coming year. That being said, Findlay feels it’s important for B2B marketers to keep a few key items in mind:
Prepare for budget debates. “If your company has a history of cutting advertising in a down market, you’d better get your story straight about why this is a terrible idea,” he says. “This has been researched for about 80 years. If you’re in planning mode, arm yourself to wrestle over budgets.
Shore up your loyalists. “If you don’t have a deep understanding of your customers, their pain points and concerns, now would be a good time to understand. Invest in some instant research. Go get it.”
Remember: B2B is more personal. Likening B2B to “superhero’s sidekick is misguided,” he says. “We’ve got the email addresses to some of our biggest clients. There is just a level of intimacy, one-to-one marketing and customization. Consumer packaged goods marketers talk about mass customization, but they can’t do it.”
Focus on the low-cost ways to build your brand. This includes e-mail capabilities, technical SEO, and “making sure your content pipeline is in a place that you’re proud of.”
Most of all, get your brand story straight. “It’s important to understand data, but understanding storytelling is where the magic is for brands. B2B brands tend to forget about storytelling as a primary component in a marketing toolkit. It’s not as measurable and people want accountability and attribution, but numbers don’t move people, storytelling does.”
Overall, he reminds his peers that “B2B is one of the most enticing places to be as a marketer. The purchase decisions are serious decisions with massive ramifications. You’re not selling a two-dollar soda. You’re selling a product or service that could make or break your company. B2B is high stakes.” With that, in two words, Findlay encourages courage.
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