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Why agencies should stand their ground and fight for their beliefs - With Marketing Director at Direct Line Group Mark Evans | #BehindTheBrand

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Mark Evans has been with Direct Line Group for nearly 10 years. In all his time working for the brand, he's had the chance to work on a number of campaigns and truly develop the voice of Direct Line – always working with bold, confident agencies from the industry.

Mark believes agencies should stand their ground and fight for what they believe in, aiming to establish a level of trust with the brand they're working with. The relationship between client and agency should be one of trust indeed, balancing a high level of care with a high level of challenge – so that both can come out enriched from the business relationship, and both sides can thrive with mutual respect.

Today we are getting Behind the Brand to learn more about Direct Line Group, Mark Evans, and why being a "force for good" should matter now more than ever, to both the industry and consumers alike.

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What is it like to work for Direct Line Group?

I have stayed for nearly 10 years because I really like our culture and people and our vision to make insurance personal, inclusive and a force for good. I find it a progressive place to work whether that’s in terms of being bold in our advertising, our intent and actions around D&I, or in 2020 our move to a full-fat agile operating model across our entire head office.

What are the unique aspects of your brand? 

The key differentiator for the Direct Line brand is that we are the only scale insurer that isn’t listed on price comparison websites. We believe that having a direct relationship means that we are better able to meet consumers needs now and into the future and therefore we are proudly the last brand standing in that regard.

Can you describe your brand’s personality in one sentence?

Our new campaign – “We’re on it” which recently won the Marketing Week Masters Grand Prix award captures it well. Insurance is about getting people back on their feet when they have had a setback and the notion of being “on it” is what we try to manifest in every aspect of our customer experience.

What makes your brand successful?

Our customer orientation is at the heart of our success. This means that we achieve very high NPS scores, but also means that we are constantly challenging ourselves to meet our customers’ needs better than our competitors. For example we have just launched a market leading Electric Vehicle proposition that has a wider intent to accelerate the transition to EV in the UK. This epitomises both our “force for good” intentions and our customer orientation.

What opportunities exist for your brand in the near future?

In general we see a significant opportunity to extend beyond our current core to meet a broader set of customer needs. This is synonymous with our direct to consumer advantage. We take some inspiration from Chinese insurers who have a much higher level of products per customer as a result of a broader product set include a multitude of modular/fractional products that increase the entry points to their brands.

How important is creativity to your brand’s success?

Our success has been underpinned by highly creative brand campaigns. The Winston Wolf campaign led to IPA golds in 2016 and 2018 and the current “We’re on it” campaign has just won the Marketing Week Masters grand prix. In both cases the big idea was the result of a smidgeon of creative genius that is priceless in terms of driving results. In todays ever more cluttered media landscape it takes a lot to stand out from the crowd and pedestrian advertising is just wallpaper.

Do you work with an in-house creative team, an agency or both?

We do have a mixed model in that we have an in-house design team for our owned assets but we use mainstream advertising agencies for our mass market campaigns. This gives us the best of both worlds – the speed and cost-effectiveness of the more tactical elements of our communications with the spark and impact in mainstream communications that make a brand iconic.

What do you look for in a creative agency?

It depends on the brief of course but in general I like Kim Scott’s Radical Candor model which advocates a high level of care combined with a high level of challenge. This is what underpins a relationship of trust. Agencies need to stand their ground and fight for what they believe in. In return clients need to respect the judgement of their agencies but that is so much easier when it’s obvious that the agency has absolute clarity and conviction

Does your brand run pitches for creative agencies? How?

We are actually in the middle of a creative pitch for two of our brands. We tend to use a 3rd party to support the pitch process from long list to short list. We find this gives us the broadest perspective at the outset and the objectivity that comes from having an independent partner.

Do you have any websites, books or resources you would recommend?

Useful resources/references I would flag to cherry pick from would be as follows:

As for books...

  • Captain Class – Sam Walker
  • Oh! The Places We’ll Go – Dr Seuss
  • Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor Frankl
  • Radical Candor – Kim Scott
  • The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse – Charlie Mackesy

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