For over a hundred years, life insurance hadn’t evolved, and even as the marketplace grew there was little variation in how sellers talked about the product. In one of the most commoditized industries in the world, Haven Life introduced a radical innovation to the way life insurance could be done—by taking it online. The company developed an alternate set of criteria to the traditional medical evaluations, enabling customers to quickly enter personal information like their driving record and credit history in an online format. This allowed them to sidestep the lengthy and cumbersome approval process that had become synonymous with the entire industry. Equipped with this new model of life insurance, Haven Life was seeking to expand the reach of its product nationwide.
Combo strategists worked with Haven Life to hone in on a fundamental understanding of the target audience in order to most effectively craft the brand’s messaging. Their product’s driving feature, the convenience of acquiring a life insurance policy quickly over the internet, meant that the company was really only talking to people who are both: 1) savvy on the computer, and 2) at a point in their lives where they are thinking about safeguarding their dependents for the future—that is, Gen X ©. The key insight: When talking to a generation that prides itself on sniffing out pretense, you can’t do that hyperbolically. Haven Life had to wholly reject the euphemistic way the industry has been talking about what is, essentially, death insurance.
With “starting an honest conversation about death” as a North Star, Combo designers built a brand identity that delivered truth over comfort. A blunt and droll tone of voice paired with a bureaucratic visual system created a unique presence in the category that cut through the industry standards of hyperbole and denial.
In order to execute a successful brand refresh and corollary marketing, it was necessary to make the company itself about death. Working with people who deal with medical ethics and end-of-life issues, Combo reconceptualized the employee manual as a compendium of essays, social posts, poems and songs around the theme of death. Strategy and design teams approached this as a business-to-employee marketing project to reorient the company internally. This positioned employees to shift their own understanding and facilitate the conversation, crucially, with potential customers.
What followed from the key insights included a clearer vision for further innovating the product. An inflation-adjusted policy, a pay-what-you can plan and other experimental models energized the slate of offerings. Haven Life was well positioned to meet the varied demands of the steadily expanding audience that was responding to the new brand.