Cobranding with an insurance carrier, co-op advertising, white label insurance – what’s the best marketing route for an independent agency to pursue, if any? All these terms refer to marketing strategies that have one commonality: they are two or more companies coming together to share marketing resources.
Strictly speaking, cobranding refers to two or more companies joining forces to create or offer a unique service or product, with each brand enhancing the other and, theoretically, exposing each participant to the partner company’s customer base. As an example, one memorable, classic cobranding campaign was Air Jordan, bringing Michael Jordan together with Nike.
There are pros and cons to cobranding. Some of the obvious advantages to an insurance agency are shared costs, pooled resources, and the prestige of being associated with a trusted “household name” insurer. Beyond the specific cobranding initiative, an insurance agency can also benefit from the buzz or goodwill created by any general advertising campaigns the insurer may run. But there are no free lunches. Cobranding has some risks. You share the insurer’s reputation in good times and bad – if a sudden scandal or ratings downgrade occurs with your cobranded company, you are along for the ride. Plus, the risks/rewards are not equal — the power dynamic is largely weighted in the insurer’s favor. But perhaps the biggest consideration is the potential dilution of your own agency brand and independent status.
Your own insurance agency brand is a vital asset that should be guarded, and your independence is a great part of the value that you bring to market. If you think about it, a captive insurance agency is essentially a form of cobranding taken to the max. Now, being a captive agency is a perfectly valid approach – but is it the right one for your agency? If you are looking for the prestige of association with large national brands, there are other ways to achieve this and keep your independence. Featuring insurance carrier page(s) on your website and a list of your affiliated carrier logos in a brochure or handout can demonstrate your trusted partners and array of choices, while maintaining independence.
Even if you are passionately committed to the integrity of your brand, a cobrand with an insurance carrier might make sense in some instances – for a specific industry program or insurance product, for example. But if you are just looking for funding to make a local ad campaign, event, or promotion more affordable, you might investigate co-op marketing benefits available from your insurer. These are generally a little more limited in scope and duration, with the insurance company generally defining parameters. Sometimes co-op programs are posted on the insurer’s public website or in the agency portal, or you might have to contact your carrier rep. It’s worth checking because insurance companies will also often make dollars available to agents for other purposes, such as for training, or technology upgrades.
White Label Insurance
Another marketing alternative that insurance agencies can consider are white label insurance programs, also called “private label.” You see successful examples of this type of program every day in supermarkets that have a line of private label products or companies that offer branded credit cards. Wikipedia offers a definition of a white label product, as well as an explanation of how the name evolved:
“A white-label product is a product or service produced by one company (the producer) that other companies (the marketers) rebrand to make it appear as if they had made it. The name derives from the image of a white label on the packaging that can be filled in with the marketer’s trade dress. White label products are sold by retailers with their own trademark but the products themselves are manufactured by a third party.”
White label insurance programs also exist but are less likely to be sponsored by insurance companies because insurers generally want the benefit of brand building. Other organizations and intermediaries in the insurance distribution chain, such as MGAs or wholesale brokers, are more likely to promote white label insurance programs to their agency customers. (See NIP Group’s White Label Specialty Program marketing support). One area where white labeling is currently a hot commodity is in Insurtech. There are many companies producing white label insurance platforms, including e-commerce solutions and customer-facing portals and apps that enable agents to quote, service, and manage accounts.
You should be aware of and tap into any free or discounted resources that your insurance partners make available to you. Assess the value in relation to your business plan, your overall marketing goals, and your brand. Use cobranding judiciously. Build your agency’s reputation and value as an independent consulting partner to your commercial insureds.
For more marketing ideas for insurance agents and tips to grow your agency: