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Nov 2019

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A brand new lease of life

Source: Middle East Insurance Review | May 2019

Rebranding is no simple feat. But if done successfully, it can help breathe new life into a brand, giving the company the chance to regain market relevance, rapport with customers and competitiveness – all crucial elements for continued growth and success. 
By Cynthia Ang 
 
 
A number of insurance entities have overhauled their brands in recent years, including Takaful International, Ace Insurance Brokers, Muscat Insurance, Takaful Emarat, Al Ahlia Insurance and Doha Insurance.
 
The various reasons for rebranding include a new company vision, a new target audience, to enter a new market or to keep up with new trends – all of which help a company keep pace with consumers’ changing expectations, stay competitive and fuel future growth. No matter what the reasons, rebranding is a big deal and should not be taken on lightly without sound strategic reasons.
 
The need for change 
Every brand needs to constantly evolve, and that includes redefining itself at certain times, said Mrs Yolla El-Khoury, executive group vice president, ACE Holding. “At ACE, reassessing our brand was a strategic business step to align with our ambitious growth plans. We strive to be one of the top three brokers in each market we operate and, looking to the future, we feel energised and confident in our ability to provide service excellence and empower businesses in the region. That requires a fresh, strong and unified brand identity to drive our diversified solution-offering into new markets and geographies,” she said.
 
The customer landscape of Oman has been rapidly evolving led by a young population and the fast adoption of digital/social communication channels across the board, said Mr Lloyd East, regional CEO, RSA Middle East & CEO, Al Ahlia Insurance Company SAOG. “Our old brand, whilst solid, was jaded and did not resonate with this new generation of customers. 
 
“Our research showed that our customers are ambitious in nature and are increasingly seeking seamless experiences. We wanted to be the first to bring about a whole new experience and empower our customers to stay ‘one step ahead’, appealing to our target customers with fresh propositions and a truly omni-channel experience,” Mr East said. 
 
Similarly, Takaful Emarat’s rebranding exercise was part of its strategy to appeal more to customers in today’s digital-focused world. Mr Fadi Hindi, CEO, Takaful Emarat said, “The company now has a new refreshed focus on delivering innovative digital-led products and services with enhanced customer-centric support. We have transformed ourselves from a traditional insurance provider into an industry disruptor at the forefront of innovation in the UAE insurance industry.” 
 
Mr Hindi said Takaful Emarat’s rebranding was an internal and external change. Along with a new logo, website and external communication assets, “we completely re-booted our corporate culture to be future-focused and equipped our employees with the tools to be agile in a time of rapid change within the company and the industry”. 
 
Strategic considerations
Rebranding, when properly executed, is much more than a fancy logo design or a catchy name. It is a serious reflection and response to changing market dynamics. Hence, the decision to rebrand should be weighed carefully as it can be a complicated and challenging overhaul for a company. 
 
Change always brings about challenges, and “one of our major challenges in rebranding was ensuring we remained true to our image as an established and trusted broking organisation while refreshing our identity”, said Mrs El-Khoury. “We overcame this challenge with a more dynamic identity that we feel reflects our adaptability and agility in a competitive environment,” she added.
 
“The rebranding exercise wasn’t just an identity change for us, it was a move aimed at us thinking differently internally to deliver ‘one step ahead’ solutions to our customers,” said Mr East. “Al Ahlia is a leader in both the retail and commercial lines of business. Research showed that while our retail customers preferred Al Ahlia, our commercial customers preferred the global RSA brand. The international RSA brand showcased global expertise and Al Ahlia was rich in local experience. We had to attain a balance to appeal to both sets of customers and play to our strengths in each segment.”
 
Elaborating further on other key considerations during rebranding, Mr East said, “A few other questions emerged from our research. For example, how we stay relevant in customers’ day-to-day lives? What role can we play to make things better? How do we differentiate in a meaningful way and build on our equity?
 
“The more we thought about it, the clearer it became that we needed to strike the right balance between global expertise and shaping local expectations. The challenge was to stay relevant as customer expectations develop. This then became the core of our rebranding exercise – proposition delivery across all lines of business and channels.” 
 
For insurance entities which are contemplating a rebrand, independent brand & communications specialist Nada N Haddad at april8 said it is important to bear in mind that the main messages of an insurance company are about security, safety, reassurances, peace of mind and tranquillity. She said, “The rebranding should not be drastic. There should always be a continuity between the past and the present. For example, the revisited logo should preserve common elements and denominators from the previous one so that the rebrand still conveys the messages of the insurance company and, more importantly, its values (see "How to get the visuals right" below).
 
“Communication is key here – explaining what happened and why it is important. A rebranding is a key milestone in a company’s history and should not go unexplained. The communication about the rebranding would help share again the values of the insurance company and provide customers with some certainties in addition to transparency.”
 
Internal engagement 
While rebranding typically focuses on winning over the outside world, it is just as important to engage the company’s employees on what the changes mean, and how they can help reflect the new branding.
 
Introducing radical changes is challenging as it creates a level of uncertainty, “especially when people don’t know what’s coming down the pipe”, said Mr Hindi. As such, Takaful Emarat has used a transparent communications strategy with its employees to make sure they are aware of the changes and understand how this transformation is going to benefit them and the company.
 
“We have also pinpointed the gap areas and potential culture clashes across different departments and addressed them accordingly. With our new KPI system, all employees now have clearly defined goals they work towards, which supports our digital transformation strategy,” he said.
 
Mrs El-Khoury pointed out that the successful internal communication of a new brand identity will also help ensure the continuity of operational excellence with employees playing a big role in the rebranding. “We communicated the change company-wide in an interactive and informative way, which resulted in employees adapting early and embracing the change, thereby ensuring the new brand image is carried out across the board.”
 
In the same vein, Mr East said, “We believe that brands are built from the inside out, and any new brand has to be consistent with the internal culture and expertise. Aside from training and launch events, we have made investments in developing our IT systems, our digital platforms, fine-tuning our processes and by investing in our most important asset – our people.”
 
Mission and values
The move to a new brand, name or visual identity typically signals a recalibration of a company message in line with new or refreshed business objectives. As such, a rebranding presents a unique opportunity to re-think a company’s mission and to convey where it is heading in terms of its goals. 
 
“The new brand supports our mission in shaping the future of insurance in the UAE by pushing the boundaries of innovation, and taking a step towards global competitiveness,” said Mr Hindi. “The cutting-edge digital systems we now use for both our internal and external operations have changed the way we do our business completely.” Its digital initiatives include adopting a paperless strategy by deploying Apple devices for the sales force as well as back-office operations, using AI and blockchain to combat fraud and introducing chatbot to enhance customer journey.
 
For Al Ahlia, Mr East said the rebranding is driven by the company’s mission to be the most progressive insurer in Oman, “aspiring to empower our customers by leveraging technology and international capabilities. We attempt to understand their needs and help them to be prepared for what lies ahead in their lives”.
 
The Omani insurer has so far launched several new propositions in the market such as a ‘claims guarantee’, which promises to deliver the repaired cars back to customers in five to seven days, or they get compensated in cash for each day of delay. In addition, the company is making it possible for its customers to buy or renew insurance over WhatsApp.
 
Echoing the same view, Mrs El-Khoury said her company aims to provide comprehensive insurance solutions that help build long-lasting partnerships. “It is the latter part of this mission statement that will determine our development under the refreshed brand identity. We value our longstanding relationships with clients. What drives us is the desire to support and protect our clients’ businesses against potential risks so they can achieve their goals. This has been our mission since our formation and will remain our driving force in the future,” she said. 
 
Rebranding an established business is not easy, but with the right processes and the right mindset, it can be the linchpin through which a company improves its future marketing endeavours and keeps abreast of changing needs in the marketplace. M 
 
How to get the visuals right 
 
When an insurance entity decides to rebrand, one of the most visible aspects is the new visual identity. Ms Nada N Haddad, independent brand & communications specialist at april8, gives this advice. To achieve a balance of adding a modern twist and, at the same time, preserving the heritage of the brand, the new visual identity should not be drastically different. This means that a logo should not change completely. It should still be the same logo, but with some enhancements or modifications, eg, softening the edges of the letters, thus modernising the logo. A simple slight twist can have a modern impact and feel. Design is a very subtle discipline. 
 
This is why meeting with the brand communications agency is key. The agency needs to understand the values of the insurance company, the purpose of the rebranding and the company’s business objectives as well as where it sees itself in the future. 
 
The brief should also go over the history of the company, its main successes and challenges, and cover the creation of the first logo and why it took on the specific look. 
 
The brand communications agency would then be able to determine which design elements (fonts, colours, symbols) should go and which should stay, as well as the slight modifications needed. 
 
A complete brief, coupled with meetings, would help the brand communications agency when revisiting the logo without completely changing it. The insurance company should communicate to the agency about what it intends to achieve through the visual rebranding.
 
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