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At MI we accelerate growth for challenger brands, working collaboratively with our clients to deliver immediate impact and sustainable growth. This concept is not new, but its highly effective when executed well. We see it exemplified by leading brands every day. Our team is always on the lookout for the latest inspiration from innovative brands, agencies and media owners adopting the “accelerate growth” concept. On this note, we wanted to share some of the lessons we’ve learnt from brands along the way. 

Our New Business Director, Nicole Allan, is going to kick off the series with an oldy-but-goody: Direct Line’s The Fixer. 

Marketing Insight: how Direct Line took on price comparison sites 

In 2013, Direct Line’s position in the market was faltering. With the increasing dominance of price comparison sites, its ‘come to us direct’ approach wasn’t having the same pull. One effect of price comparison sites on the insurance market was that they were forcing a race to the bottom. Price alone was driving consumer behaviour and brand loyalty was hard to build. 

Understanding that joining the race to becoming the lowest priced insurer wouldn’t turn around its decline in revenue, Direct Line decided to focus on brand, instilling a new brand direction across every element of its business. The brand understood that consumers don’t spend their days dreaming about the events when they have to call up their insurers. In fact, they turn to insurers in a moment of need when they just want their problem to be fixed. With this marketing insight in mind, Direct Line decided to reinvent itself as ‘The Fixer’ brand. 

Media Innovation: introducing Winston Wolf’s ‘The Fixer’ 

Working with creative agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, Direct Line looked to the ultimate Fixer, Pulp Fiction’s Winston Wolf, to sell its new ‘We’re on it’ brand proposition to consumers. The campaign launched in a 30-second TV spot opening with the line, “I’m Winston Wolf, I fix problems”, with Harvey Keitel’s character shown fixing a range of customers’ insurance problems. When it launched, Direct Line Group’s then marketing director, Mark Evans, commented to Campaign Magazine, “The idea of being a ‘fixer’ is a re-frame of the role of insurance. Rather than believing that we can ‘protect’ our customers, we simply want to make their problems disappear with as little hassle as possible.” The TV ad was supported by activity across geo-synchronised OOH, mobile & radio, direct mail and social media.  

This fixer mentality wasn’t just about the external advertising campaign, but about a real step change in how the business operated internally and for its customers. Direct Line decided to go nation-wide with its #DirectFix campaign, using social listening to hear the gripes of the nation and fix their everyday problems. Evans told the story of one Direct Line staffer who, “picked up a tweet from a customer complaining he couldn’t watch a boxing match because his television hadn’t arrived. He drove home got his own television and delivered it to the customer.”  

That same year, the UK was hit by devastating floods with Carlisle being one of the worst hit areas. Direct Line diverted its team and delivered over 100 #DirectFix boxes containing everything from portable phone chargers to treats for children to those customers affected by the floods.

Accelerating Growth: what lessons can we learn? 

In the year following the launch of its ‘We’re on it’ positioning and Fixer campaign, according to Hall & Partners 2016 Ad and Brand Tracker, Direct Line became the most distinctive brand in the market. It was also voted the most empathetic company on Twitter by the Harvard Business Review. Most importantly, by January 2015 Direct Line had halted five consecutive years of decline and reversed the business’s overall revenue, a year ahead of target. 

In today’s economic climate, the results of Direct Line’s Fixer campaign are a worthy reminder that consumers will pay a premium for the things they care about. It also highlights the important role the marketing team can play in making a step change across a business. By fostering a culture where innovation is reality, not just empty words, Evans said that the marketing team, “gained stature with our CEO and we certainly have a bigger share of voice across the company.” 

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