Amica, Allstate, Wal-Mart: Bad timing on car insurance mail

I received at home mailers for auto insurance last Friday, May 23, from three different insurers. This is a Fail for Timing, albeit an accidental one. What is not accidental is that the mail arrived close to a holiday weekend. Consumers are far less likely to read mail related to low-interest categories on the business day prior to or just after a major holiday. They are more focused on, well, the holiday – traveling, hosting, or just taking a couple days off from the rat race. This is not exactly a typical time to think about saving on your car insurance.

 The three packages I received vary in their approach. Amica uses a conventional solo mail letter, with an easy-to-read Johnson Box that appears through the envelope, an official-looking savings card that reinforces a call to action, a sidebar that summarizes the benefit, smooth flow, and good use of boldface subheads and underlines. The call to action is reinforced several times, with a message of exclusivity in the closing and signator. Finally, the letter includes a postscript that reinforces the call to action and benefit. And, just to top things off, a buckslip is included that communicates popularity along with a reinforcement of benefit and call to action. Richard Benson would be proud.

The Allstate package uses a similar approach in a smaller, less expensive package. The benefit on part of the Johnson Box appears in the letter, although the envelope has to be positioned properly to see it. The letter also includes a savings card, several reinforcements of benefits, and multiple call-to-action statements throughout the letter. It goes a bit off point with a reference to “Bundle & Save”. Allstate is aware that I do not have any insurance, so why talk about bundling before I, as a prospective customer, have expressed an interest in doing business with the Good Hands People? Also, the call to action appears to vary between calling the phone number to get a quote and calling the phone number to find a local insurance agent. Sometimes one is mentioned, sometimes both. Just what will happen when I call?

The letter from Allstate opens with “(offer expires 5/31/13).” This is a Fail for both Creative and Timing. From a creative standpoint, the sense of urgency is communicated too soon in a low-key manner. If the offer expiration is meaningful, it should be communicated in the closing, i.e. “This offer expires May 31, 2013, so call today!” or possibly the Johnson box, i.e. “Call 1-888-xxx-xxxx by May 31 to …”. Instead, it appears to have been tossed in at the last moment. The Timing Fail here is that the letter was received in home on May 23. That is an inadequate response window, especially near a holiday weekend. An ideal response window can vary by product. In this low-interest product category, it should be at minimum two or three weeks. The Amica mailer has an ideal five-week response window. 

The Walmart package – it’s merely a postcard. I find it amusing when I receive claims of savings on my car insurance that is more than what I pay. If I were to “Save Up to $494” as this Walmart postcard claims, my insurance company would owe me more than $250. The postcard references a web site, www.autoinsurance.com; however, the call to action appears to be to go to a Walmart, get a Walmart savings card, then go online to access an insurance quote. That is a lot of effort, especially because I have not visited a Walmart in more than a decade. The Fail here is for either Creative or Offer, or possibly both.

All three companies are playing a numbers game, trying to find the right balance between production costs, creative, and response behavior to minimize cost of acquisition and maximize effectiveness. Hopefully, they are conducting useful A/B testing to optimize their control packages.

  1. Try not to have your mail arrive at the same time as a competitor’s.
  2. Avoid mailing at a time when your package will arrive close to a holiday weekend.
  3. Sell only one thing at a time.
  4. Have an adequate response window while maintaining a sense of urgency.
  5. Include a clear call to action that is easy for a potential customer.

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