American consumers are more disengaged with insurance companies than they are with major banks, a new report suggests.
Harris Poll surveyed more than 97,000 consumers on more than 3,800 brands across nearly 500 categories. Even among the financial services industry – rarely popular among consumers – insurers of all types ranked near the bottom in terms of customer perception.
On a 100-point, brand equity scale, auto insurance ranks in at 53.2, followed by home insurance at 53.1 and life insurance at 52.4. By contrast, payment cards earn a score of 66.6; tax preparation, a 55.1; and national banks, a 54.1.
“Despite some fresh and interesting ad campaigns in recent years, Harris Poll’s research shows that consumers are challenged when it comes to feeling a connection with insurance brands,” said Joan Sinopoli, vice president of brand solutions at Nielsen, which owns Harris Poll.
Yet among insurance brands (Harris Poll quizzed consumers on 56), carriers that employ membership-based and captive agent channels make the strongest connection with consumers.
USAA topped the list of “insurance master brands,” followed by AAA, State Farm, Farmers and Nationwide Insurance Company.
The auto and home insurance categories also favored captive insurers, topped by these same insurers, as well as American Family. Transamerica and Prudential were also among the top five brand leaders in life insurance.
“They can leverage their affiliations (such as AAA) and their loyal ground organizations (such as State Farm),” Sinopoli said, referring to the popularity of insurers using captive agents.
This is not all bad news for independents, however. Because brand connection is so low among insurance companies, independents have a chance to forge personal connections that defy corporate branding.
Consumers are certainly receptive to that relationship. The Harris Poll research suggests Millennials and women are disproportionately disengaged with insurance company branding, and a new poll from Mintel released this month found that 56% of Millennials feel independent insurance agents are the best source of information about insurance products.
“To improve their reputation among more skeptical demographics, insurers need to provide knowledgeable agents who can build trust with consumers and provide the human element a majority of consumers say they want,” commented Robyn Kaiserman, Senior Financial Services Analyst at Mintel. “Insurers should recognize that interaction is not necessarily limited to telephone conversations; it’s key for insurers to have agents accessible both in-person and online to dispense information to consumers.”
Indeed, despite being decried as the generation most likely to abandon traditional insurance relationships in favor of online options, just 18% of Millennials have downloaded an insurance app.
That disinclination is also reflected in the Harris Poll survey, which shows the online channel to be “polarizing.”
“Despite the convenience, the online channel demonstrates a higher rate of disconnection than other channels,” Sinopoli said.