Not business as usual

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Not business as usual
Not business as usual

AXA Equitable Life Insur­ance Company has devel­oped plenty of brand equity among both financial professionals and the public throughout its 150 year-history. Its clever marketing message — centered on the 800-pound gorilla in the room that those facing financial or retirement issues areignoring — has been key to the com­pany's brand-building success.

So when the company decided last summer to launch a new b-to-b cam­paign, dubbed the AXA Challenge, it decided it needed much more than just a single channel and a traditional, serious, business-themed pitch.

“We'd seen the world of static pro­motions where there isn't a lot going on,” explains Barbara Goodstein, AXA's chief innovation officer and EVP of marketing. “But we've been very successful with our consumer advertising campaign so we decided to leverage it and bring it into third-party and trade-specific channels.”

The AXA Challenge, which the company created along with its agency, Omnicom-owned Merkley & Partners, was aimed at financial advisors. Rather than simply tout the company, the campaign encouraged them to compare AXA Equitable's products to those of its competitors.

AXA relied on mailers, e-mail and both online and print ads to drive interest in the Challenge. But it also gave the campaign an almost con­sumer-like feel by adding the small incentive of a $5 coffee card from Starbucks for everyone who went to the AXADistributors.com Web site and did the comparison.

“We had a dynamic landing page that pre-filled your answers as you went through and on the page was also a coffee cup that slowly filled up once you finished,” explains Good­stein. “The coffee card worked as more of a nudge. We weren't trying to buy interest — we wanted to pique their interest so we could have that conversation.”

Reinforcing the company brand

Featuring the AXA gorilla on much of the creative also helped reinforce the overall company brand. “That's why we also included banners that used the dynamic flexibility of the gorilla to move people to take the next step,” Goodstein explains. “The message was very tight and the creative and execution was very fluid and interesting.”

Goodstein also stresses the AXA Challenge had multiple goals that went well beyond trying to attract new business.

“We might have a selling agree­ment with a particular brokerage, but that doesn't mean that every finan­cial professional with that broker­age sells our product,” she says. “So this became a way of talking to that group along with the others and let­ting them know they owe it to them­selves to take that extra step to assess our product and talk to us.”

The multiple touch points com­bined with the consumer-like creative ended up dramatically boosting the results. “The best feedback was the response rates, which were tremen­dous and the fact that we ultimately sold a lot of products,” says Goodstein. “On the e-mail side, the response rate was 58%, while our direct mail had a 9% response rate. I've been doing direct marketing for a long time and I've never seen responses like this.”

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