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Financial Services

Nationwide Mobilizes 'On Your Side'

10 Jul, 2010 By: Thomas Haire Response


Direct response marketing is very important to us, when we think about the traditional marketing funnel,” says Sue McManus, vice president of direct and customer solutions marketing for Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide, one of the United States’ largest diversified insurance and financial services organizations. “We are constantly balancing our mix of advertising between brand awareness and DR. As we look at DRTV, paid search and other types of direct response, they’re earning an increasingly significant portion of budget because they work. They provide great measurement in a very results-oriented culture.”

McManus has spent the majority of her 17-year career in Internet and marketing roles for Nationwide, an 85-year old company centered in the auto insurance market, but which now offers a fully diverse portfolio of products — from a traditional bank, homeowners and life insurance, annuities, mortgages and more. The company’s “Nationwide on Your Side” jingle is one of the most instantly recognizable ad jingles in America, but during the past 15 years, the company has supplemented its brand awareness with an ever-expanding catalog of DR marketing efforts.

These efforts include a McManus-led foray into the new marketing world of iPhone apps, as Nationwide became the first insurance company to introduce a mobile app, Nationwide Mobile, in April 2009. The company followed its success there by launching a second mobile app, Cartopia(SM) (which is designed to help consumers in the market for a new car), in December 2009.

And while Nationwide has entered the mobile marketing space with a bang, it’s thanks to other media that iPhone users have downloaded these apps. From online marketing to the launch of a massive TV campaign called “The World’s Greatest Spokesperson in the World,” that includes both branding and DRTV spots, the company’s integrated efforts have been crucial to maintaining and improving Nationwide’s position in the financial services sector.

“The more targeted we can get with all of our marketing efforts, the more successful they’ll be,” McManus says. “It’s about spending the time up front, developing a test plan for a campaign. Then we embed our philosophy — improved marketing ROI — into each campaign.”

Stability, Experience and Growth

Getting into the high-tech iPhone marketing business probably was the furthest thing on the minds of the members of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation when they incorporated the Farm Bureau Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. in 1925. The goal of that initial business was to provide auto insurance at low rates for Ohio’s farmers. However, the visionaries that ran the business were quick to expand, moving into a half-dozen states in the first three years of operations.

By 1955, the company had clearly outgrown its original goals. With a Western expansion that now put the business into more than 30 states, the company changed its name to Nationwide Insurance. Throughout the past half-century, the company’s expansion has continued nearly unabated: opening a 40-story international headquarters in Columbus in 1978; acquiring Farmland Insurance in 1982 and re-naming it Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance (today, America’s leading farm insurer); and opening Nationwide Bank in 2007.

McManus stepped into this burgeoning business 17 years ago, fresh off earning her master’s degree at The Ohio State University. Starting in the company’s property/casualty insurance market research department, McManus has held a number of roles at the company during her run, but has spent most of her time working on Internet and interactive marketing. In fact, McManus was responsible for authoring the company’s original Internet strategy in 1995 (see sidebar, page 28).

“I’ve worked on the auto and home insurance businesses, Nationwide Bank, our Better Health products, affinity marketing, billing and more,” she says of her do-a-little-of-everything run at Nationwide.

First in the ‘App’ Biz

With such a diverse background — but an intricate knowledge of interactive marketing — it’s no surprise that the company made McManus the leader in developing the two iPhone apps it debuted in 2009.

“When we launched Nationwide Mobile in April 2009, we became the first insurance company with an iPhone app, which was a big milestone for us,” McManus says. The initial product was “primarily a claims app,” she says, allowing a customer to file a claim immediately after an accident from his or her iPhone. By the end of 2009, Nationwide Mobile had been downloaded by more than 85,000 users.

However, as the company began adding features — including allowing iPhone users to immediately send photos of their damaged cars along with the claims form — and awareness of the app grew, Nationwide actually began seeing sales of new policies coming through the app.

“We saw hundreds of sales come through,” McManus says. “As more people became aware and took a look at the app, we were able to utilize a unique phone number to begin tracking new policy sales back to interested iPhone users.”

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