In 2013, John Lewis fully supported John Lewis Insurance for the first time. As a part of the John Lewis brand it carried a weight of expectation – to deliver leading trust, quality and service in a category famously lacking all three. It has gone on to become a huge success and create an entirely new category of insurance, putting quality above price but still being accessible to the many. And it has even brought new dimensions to its parent brand, not just benefited from the association.
In 2013, the strength of the John Lewis brand was at an all time high. On the back of this strength, there was increased appetite to explore where the brand could usefully serve its customers in new ways. For a department store with a stronghold in homewares and furniture, amplifying its home insurance offering seemed like a natural next step. The John Lewis Partnership had set-up Greenbee insurance in 2006, but it had only enjoyed limited success. Sitting outside of the John Lewis brand, it was mostly unknown to consumers and the John Lewis Partners had been left similarly confused about how to present it to customers. After a name change to John Lewis Insurance and accompanying soft launch in 2010, in 2013 a decision was made to finally fully launch this brand extension. This could not just be a cosmetic branding exercise. To carry the name it had to meet the high expectations that name creates: expectations of quality product design, outstanding service and fair prices. A new underwriter would be brought in; a completely new product range designed; new branding developed and an entirely new marketing campaign created.
During the previous decade, aggregator websites had commoditised insurance, making price the key variable. Brands had to cut their quality and service offerings to compete. The result was that the consumer had been left without an insurance brand they could trust. In fact, insurance companies lagged behind even banks in the trust stakes. John Lewis, on the other hand, was the most trusted retailer in the UK, famous for its quality products and service. There was a clear opportunity to stand for something unique. And we knew this was something that John Lewis customers, in particular, would respond well to. A piece of bespoke research showed a clear difference in their mindset. In the regular insurance path to purchase, price concerns directly followed brand familiarity and then, finally, the level of cover was checked. The John Lewis customer’s journey again started with brand name familiarity, but then moved on to an analysis of the level of cover before, finally, ending with a price check. In other words, John Lewis customers were seeking quality before anything else.
We would give the John Lewis homeland audience what they wanted from an insurance brand. To achieve this, we knew we would have to make John Lewis Insurance a uniquely trusted brand in its category by:
- Being a mass-market quality insurance brand. We would design our offering around the core John Lewis values that loyalists already loved – quality, outstanding service and fair prices – and tier these products to make them accessible to the entire John Lewis audience.
- Behaving like a true John Lewis brand. Instead of short-term price-fighting, this meant long-term brand building, leveraging a brand idea and executional approach befitting of the John Lewis brand.
The brand idea
We needed a differentiated brand idea that would allow us to go beyond cynical short-term sales spiking, to instead build long-term brand trust. To identify this, we used a combination of qualitative and key opinion former research. We found 2 powerful insights:
- The difference between “house” and “home”. John Lewis customers saw their homes, not as 4 walls and a roof, but as a collection of the things that meant the most to their family lives. This was what they wanted to protect.
- The threat of catastrophe wasn’t the primary driver. Most John Lewis customers were buying insurance simply to mitigate against the little mishaps that peppered everyday family life. This was what they wanted to protect their things from. Approaching this thinking from the point of view of a true John Lewis brand lead us to conclude that: John Lewis Insurance should be the brand that cares as much as you do about protecting your family’s most cherished items from the joyous but ultimately unpredictable nature of family life.
Finally, this was summed up with the line: “If it matters to you, it matters to us”
Behaving like a true John Lewis brand
Over the next 3 years, we implemented a completely integrated communications campaign that consistently helped us walk-the-walk of a mass-market quality insurance brand. The key to this was bringing to life our new John-Lewis-appropriate idea, within the classic John Lewis executional world. In this way, every single piece of our communications imbued John Lewis Insurance with an inherited sense of quality and trust.
Introducing our credentials (2013-2015). These TTL communications lead on the Home insurance product and clearly set-out the new end-line and the 1st half of our brand idea, depicting how John Lewis Insurance cares as much as you do about protecting the special items that sit at the heart of your family life.
Exploding our brand (2015). This set of work refreshed the campaign with a more explicit focus on the 2nd half of our brand idea:the joyous little slip-ups and blunders of family life that you want to protect your special items from.
- The products generated immediate sales increases
- The campaigns became a headline-making cultural phenomenon
- This resulted in fantastic R.O.I – in the first phase alone, every £1 spent generated an extra £1.89.
- This seems to have continued into the 2nd phase (2015), with sales up 61% and commission up 41%.
- And not only did we build a distinctive category position, but we did so in a way that also created an effect for the parent brand – generating a further £2.9m of extra sales for John Lewis overall.
This has been the story of how the John Lewis brand extended beyond retail, to deliver its famous brand of trust, quality and service in a market that badly needed it. It has also been the story of how John Lewis Insurance stole the nation’s hearts and built an insurance brand consumers could actually feel good about. But most of all, this has been the story of how John Lewis Insurance invented it’s very own category, became a huge commercial success and, finally, a powerful new income stream for the John Lewis Partnership.