AXA’s Paul Bennet on Brand relevance


In the flux of constant change, brands need to evolve in lockstep with customers’ expectations to avoid becoming obsolete. New trends emerge every day, competition is ferocious, disruptors enter the category shaking things up and people’s demands are on the rise.

Paul Bennet, Global Brand Director of the AXA Group, shares his POV and expertise on how to stay relevant. With over 20 years of marketing experience, he is responsible for driving the Group’s initiatives on global brand strategy and management, advertising and content. At the AXA Group in Paris since 2010, Paul has led key global brand projects to ensure that AXA has remained the number 1 insurance brand for eight years and in 2015 becoming a Top 50 global brand for the first time – increasing the brand value beyond the $11bn mark.

 In a world where customer expectation moves faster than brand and choice is exponential, how do brands maintain relevance?”

Today, simply aiming to deliver the right product at the right time at the right price is not enough to maintain relevance. It’s not the quality of R&D or the speed to market of innovation, but the always-on capacity to anticipate personalized needs, big and small, that will allow a company to continue to thrive and grow.

This means we need to begin with a focus on relationships not on transactions and products.

It is important to build a strong brand to create these relationships, particularly in a category like ours in insurance, which is not traditionally engaging for customers.

The first step is having a very clear sense of what we stand for. We can’t expect customers to be engaged with us if we don’t know who we are and where we want to take them. Before going public with our new positioning, Know You Can, we spent 18 months exploring and also engaging our internal audience around the world- so that everyone finds their own role in making happen.

Our brand is on a bold shift in purpose from the protection business to the empowerment business- “empowering people to live better lives” this is not the easiest sell-in, if you are the world leader in insurance, and so we needed to make this concrete and inspiring for everyone, so that it could guide experience principles and be the inspiration for innovation.

It’s then about brand purpose not brand message- a complete set of behaviors from customer facing, to product development and digital experience management. To maintain relevance this has to be done for real and this takes time and commitment – both redesigning the customer experience and finding game changing moves to accelerate the process and that shift perceptions.

For example, AXA is one of the biggest investment management organizations in the world, when we de-vested from tobacco, we put our money where our mouth was and we created change. If you attach this to support and incentives for our customers to give up smoking we take our purpose to our customers in a very real way. It’s pro-active and empowering not just re-active in caring for their health.

These Iconic acts are not a communication technique, it’s a commitment of the empowering experience we want to give our customers. This authenticity needs to be created from top to bottom. For example, as we develop our partnership with the Liverpool Football Club we are not investing in brand awareness alone, we are looking for ways to make this partnership inspire our customers to a more active life and make them believe in themselves- any brand asset needs to contain our purpose.

That’s a lot of “top to bottom” talking but to complete the loop we also need to be “bottom to top”. The deeper our brand relationship the more customers help us become better and anticipate more. We need to be relentless in our approach to being more meaningful and useful and this means orchestrating a process of co-creation with our customers, this is not just about research but about conversation. Certainly AI can help and decode behavior, but ultimately it will be the quality of our conversation with customers that will make this relevance a reality.


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