Perspective | Give AIG Credit; It Has an Insurance Tagline That Makes Sense

By: | January 14, 2019

Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

In his debut novel, Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert wrote: “Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.”

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I am reminded of this comment every time I turn on my smart TV. The welcome screen says: “Hitachi: Inspire the Next.”

The next what?

Marketing slogans once established a brand identity and directed customers to the store. Nike’s “Just do it,” comes to mind, as does IBM’s “Solutions for a small planet.”

Marketing now lives, however, in “an impenetrable forest of un-words,” dating back to Apple’s 1990s advertising slogan: “Think different.” Apple probably got the idea from Japanese advertising slogans poorly translated into English, such as a store named “Hopeful Bargain;” a restaurant called “Freshness Burger;” and “Happiness Life,” a slogan for toilet paper.

Of late, marketing departments everywhere have mutilated the English language into insensibility. Their logic must have run this way: Apple’s gibberish has made the company wildly successful. We want to be wildly successful. Who around here speaks gibberish?

The acid test is whether or not the words mean anything. Allianz has gone with “The complexity of simplicity,” which is borderline hokum. Stop for a second and think about it. Wouldn’t “the simplicity of complexity” have been better? Or, of even greater value, “the dedication of breakfast?”

The answer is almost everyone. Food delivery service Deliveroo urges customers to “Eat more amazing.” Travel company Kuoni says, “Find your amazing” (or you can’t eat it). Rightmove, a real estate company, wants you to “Find your happy.” Shoe manufacturer Saucony riffs on that with “Find your strong.” Perhaps “Find your new advertising agency” would be more apropos.

A UK seller of railway tickets, Trainline, uses “I am train.” By now, you must have the idea. If not, re-read and find your thinking.

Insurance companies are traditionally seen as a reserved bunch. We like it that way, because we want our insurers to be there in the future, when we may need to make a claim.

It’s no coincidence that the best-managed insurance companies use the best-written taglines. Swiss Re: “We make the world more resilient.” United Health Group: “Helping people live healthier lives.” Ping An of China: “Safe and well.” Liberty General Insurance:Helping people live safer, more secure lives,” which, though prolix, gets the job done.

Despite their conservative profile, one or two forward-looking insurance companies have embraced nonsense. Munich Re, for instance, insists: “We drive business as one.” One what? AXA’s web page calls the company “Restless for a reason.” Can you think of a reason, other than insomnia?

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The acid test is whether or not the words mean anything. Allianz has gone with “The complexity of simplicity,” which is borderline hokum. Stop for a second and think about it. Wouldn’t “the simplicity of complexity” have been better? Or, of even greater value, “the dedication of breakfast?”

Thinking different, one might say, is Berkshire Hathaway, which treads its own path. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t have a tagline. That’s Warren Buffet all over.

The all-time winner by a country-mile in the financial advertising slogan department is AIG. Its tagline is short, easily understood, relevant and memorable. It has overcome my aversion to the company for its sponsorship of Manchester United, the world’s most hated soccer team. No small achievement.

All it took was three words: “We know money.”

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]