Aviva UK CEO: Marketing shouldn’t be the only function responsible for customers

As part of a new Marketing Week series called ‘View From The Outside’, Andy Briggs shares about his view of marketing, and why marketers should help the rest of the business think about customers “in the right way”.

andy briggs aviva

Andy Briggs has just been promoted from CEO of Aviva’s life insurance division to head its combined life, general and health insurance businesses.

He has over 25 years’ experience working in finance and insurance having previously been CEO at Scottish Widows, the life business of Lloyds Banking Group and the Prudential Group’s Retirement Income business.

While he works closely with marketing, he has never been a marketer. Here he shares his views of the discipline.

Marketers should help businesses think about customers

Marketing is about making sure we have a really strong understanding of the needs of our customers and how they differ by segment. We then need to ensure we develop strong customer propositions that will meet and fulfil those needs.

Within those propositions we should have distinctive elements that become reasons why customers meet those needs with us rather than competitors. The traditional elements of marketing, such as communications and brand activity, are some of the activities we can undertake in support of that.

The marketing team get strong and regular access to the board.

However, although we have a marketing department, the broader organisation also needs to be marketers. Businesses will win if they understand what is important to their customers, develop really strong propositions that meet those customer needs and do that in a way that has distinctive advantage over competitors so customers want to do more with that brand.

READ MORE: Aviva boss slams lack of ‘real marketing’ in the UK

But I see marketing as leading the charge on a lot of this and helping others in the business to think in the right way about customers.

The challenge for us is that if you go back 20 to 30 years, businesses like ours were full of people with a financial and technical perspective. We have made good progress but have got much further to go to be genuinely customer-centric.

That is why it’s a whole organisation piece, but I also believe the marketing team has a fundamental role to play in bringing that voice to the table and helping people to think in that way.

The board doesn’t need to have a marketer

We don’t have a CMO on the group board. We have three executive directors on the Aviva board – group CEO, Mark Wilson, group chief financial officer Tom Stoddard and myself.

Mark and I are strong advocates and champions of the customer and that is important. As a CEO, if you are not a marketer you still need to think about core underlying customer needs, the propositions to meet those needs and how to do that better than the competition. Unless that is a fundamental part of the way you approach and do the job I don’t think you can be an effective CEO.

Although we have a marketing department, the broader organisation also needs to be marketers

The marketing team get strong and regular access to the board. In a recent committee meeting, at least half of the agenda involved the marketing team talking about customers, marketing, brand plans and so on.

Our chairman recently set out the priorities for the board for the next year and over half of it is customer-related – you would not have seen that to the same degree a few years ago when we had a big integration to do and we were working through fixing the balance sheet.

Marketing is a business journey

A few years ago, marketing was largely deployed as a direct-to-customer acquisition activity at Aviva. An example is the Paul Whitehouse campaign, which was geared around direct response and car insurance sales as a result.

Now we are more focused around building the brand more broadly, for example the ‘Save Smarter’ campaign that ran last year. It was our first major campaign outside of car insurance for a number of years and was geared around helping people think about their future.

READ MORE: The rise of ‘social realism’ in advertising

We were challenging people to live on their projected retirement income for a week – that was quite shocking for a number of people. We also used software to project what people will look like aged 60. It was a bit of fun and got people talking and there were tools to work out projected retirement income. It was geared to help people think about what their core needs are, rather than a direct response activity.

Marketing in a regulated industry

I don’t think marketers need to know all about regulated environments, what they need to do is work collaboratively with people in the business that do know.

What you often find with marketers coming into a regulated industry, is they that bring lots of fresh ideas and thinking, which is great but the challenge is that the level of regulation does get in the way of what they are trying to do for customers. They need a degree of adaptability and resilience.

One of the things that we do at Aviva is agile working – rather than five or six groups of people emailing back and forth over several weeks, we encourage people to get together around a table.

Marketing people say, ‘look we have a fantastic idea for a proposition’, and we have the regulatory experts there to steer it from their perspective and suggest how it can work well within the regulatory environment. We then have our IT people to think about how it can work in terms of the systems needed and sales people to work out how to take it to market – we encourage that type of working.



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