Tag Archives: Ford

The Power, Portability of Thought Leadership

In the book Trust Agents, authors Chris Brogan and Julien Smith chronicle the emerging power of employees who become the manifestation of brands, especially in the online and social media worlds. Scott Monty, who until recently was the global head of social media for Ford, is one example of an employee whose social media aptitude and thought leadership created a halo effect for his employer.

I am living proof of the impact of this concept, as I purchased a Ford Flex in 2011 only after being given a ride in one by Monty at the SXSW interactive festival two years prior. The car (and, frankly, the brand) weren’t even in my consideration set before then. I recently traded in the Flex for a Lincoln MKT, so Scott Monty indirectly and unofficially has sold me two cars on behalf of Ford.

The same dynamics exist in the insurance industry.

Dynamic professionals who publish on InsuranceThoughtLeadership.com and elsewhere, who are active in social media and at conferences, who are associated with specific expertise, become (at least in part) the flesh and blood embodiment of their employers’ brands.

Despite some notions to the contrary, this is nothing but good news for those brands.

Here’s why:

1. Thought Leadership Is Owned by People, Not Logos
Brands are not “thought leaders,” because brands are solely a collection of the attitudes human beings have about a company. That’s why I cringe when consulting clients sometimes tell me they “want the company to be known as a thought leader.” In reality, the company can only be known as an organization that attracts and retains thought leaders. The actual expertise and leadership is possessed by the individuals and loaned to the company during the period of employment.

2. All Exposure Is Good Exposure
I sometimes feel like companies are jealous of their thought leaders, believing that notoriety for their individual experts somehow comes at the EXPENSE of notoriety for the brand. In reality, it works in the opposite direction: Individual thought leadership provides awareness and credibility to the employer of the expert…always. 100% of the people who know Scott Monty know he worked for Ford, and it markedly changed how some of those people (including me) thought about that company and its products.

3. You Can Build a Bench
I often hear from companies that they are concerned about encouraging their employees to grow personal brands and become thought leaders because at some point (the companies fear) the expert will depart, and all that work will have been for naught.

At some level, companies are right to think this way. Very few employees are in it for life these days. However, thought leaders benefit from the power of the brands they represent the same way those brands benefit from the thought leaders’ activities, and I believe this symbiosis causes many thought leaders to stay in their roles for a longer (not shorter) time than average.

But, assuming that the thought leader will depart at some point, brands would be wise to not put all their expertise eggs in a single basket, and instead work actively to build multiple thought leaders in each division of the company. (This is why I encourage companies to have multiple/many contributors to ITL.) If you have several thought leaders representing your division or your brand, the departure of one becomes a mere wobble.

4. It Works for LeBron James
Lastly, companies must think about this as the LeBron James effect. James went to Miami and became the best (and best-known) basketball player on the planet. His personal brand grew, and simultaneously shined a spotlight on the Miami Heat organization.

Harmony.

Then he left and took his hoops thought leadership back to Cleveland. Does Miami take a temporary step back in notoriety? They do, but they are still relevant, still in the playoffs, and are building new stars. But the most important questions are these: Does Miami wish they still had LeBron? Of course. But did they benefit from having him temporarily, and would they do it all again the same way? 100% yes.

Find the LeBrons in your company and use ITL and other opportunities to build their expertise, notoriety and thought leadership. You may not benefit forever, but you’ll definitely benefit.

2015: Pivotal Year for Emerging Technology

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has been the preeminent show for seeing, hearing and feeling what is emerging and hot in consumer electronics. It is the place to go to see new electronic games, mobile devices, TVs, home appliances and other electronics that will be coming to market to amaze and excite us. Remember Onewheel, a self-balancing, one-wheeled, motorized skateboard? Occulus Rift virtual reality? The curved HDTV? Or the best in laptops, tablets and smartphones?

The 2015 show may have been an inflection point, where CES also becomes the leading edge for emerging technology that should be of keen interest for businesses, especially insurance. It is the year where new products will go from science fiction and future thinking to Main Street reality and demand! Move over, George Jetson. For insurers, the future starts right now!

Emerging Technologies

The proliferation of emerging technologies seen at CES is considered by many to contain some of the greatest change agents since the introduction of the Internet, offering breakthroughs that will challenge businesses in many ways. In our 2014 research report, Emerging Technologies: Reshaping the Next-Gen Insurer, insight into the adoption, investment plans and opportunities for business of nine emerging technologies reveals the vast potential for transforming insurance. The research found that adoption is being led by the Internet of Things (IoT) followed by wearables, artificial intelligence (AI) and drones/aerial imagery, with driverless vehicles coming up quickly behind. In fact, five of the nine technologies are projected to arrive at or go well beyond the tipping point within three years, and all nine to surpass the tipping point within five years. CES has reinforced this view. Insurers that have not accepted as fact the fast-paced adoption and impact of these emerging technologies should take great pause. Here are a few reasons:

Autonomous vehicles became one of the hottest items during the show, and even before. Audi drove its autonomous vehicle from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas, generating pre-show buzz. Kicking off the show was Mercedes showing a concept car that looked more like a futuristic living room than a car. These and the other major automotive companies all demonstrated their acceptance, commitment and fast adoption of this new form of transportation introduced by Google just a couple of years ago. At this show, many of these automakers announced their plans to offer autonomous vehicles beginning in 2017! Note they did not make the announcement at the traditional Detroit Auto Show the following week. The future of autonomous vehicles will quickly be a reality, and so much sooner than most thought. So share the road, George J!

The Internet of Things (IoT) was everywhere, exemplified in the connected car, connected home and wearables … highlighting a fast paced market that is reinventing how we work, live and play in a connected world. Wearables with fitness and activity bands were prevalent, along with innovative devices like a pacifier that can monitor a baby’s health. Also included were wearables that were integrated with autos to enable the starting of parked cars. But it was the connected car and connected home that had the highest profiles.

The connected car was touted by many major car manufacturers. Ford, Volkswagen, GM, BMW, Toyota, Audi, Mazda, Daimler and others were showcasing their connected car capabilities and the growing array of services that come with them. The media noted that Mark Fields, Ford’s CEO, sees Ford as thinking of itself as a mobility company rather than an automotive company, delivering a wide array of services and experiences via the auto instead of the mobile phone. Added to this are Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto systems that mimic and integrate the functions of smartphones on the auto dashboard touchscreen. Quite a reimagination of the automotive business!

All the devices and capabilities for the connected home added to the IoT’s momentum. Familiar tech companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple, along with traditional companies like Cisco, GE, Bosch, Samsung and others, are powering ahead with innovative capabilities that will drive rapid adoption. In fact, Samsung Electronics CEO Boo-Keun Yoon indicated that, by 2017, 90% of all Samsung hardware (TVs, ovens, refrigerators, purifiers and more) will be connected, creating a home personalized to your unique needs. Many of the companies also announced the development of connected home hubs to integrate these wide arrays of devices from various manufacturers and third-party providers. Data from the connected home devices can be used to offer new services. The Jetsons’ home is finally here!

And drones were flying everywhere to demonstrate the high interest and potential for many businesses – from phone and video purposes to building inspections, surveying, delivery, weather data gathering, traffic and much more. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had a booth at the event, announcing that it expects well over 7,000 drones in use by 2018. All of this indicated that, literally, the sky seems to be the limit for drones!

Insurance Implications

What does this all mean for insurers? The event emphasized the need for insurers to take these emerging technologies seriously and to quickly explore, experiment and consider their uses in the business. Why? Because traditional competitors like Progressive and USAA made announcements at the event concerning the connected car and connected home and the potential of new competitors that are looking at how they might leverage these new technologies.

The SMA 2014 emerging technologies survey indicated that these technologies would reach a tipping point in three to five years — or from 2017 to 2019. Based on the announcements at the CES about autonomous vehicles by 2017, home hardware being 90% connected by 2017 and large numbers of drones in use by 2018, the estimated arrival time at the tipping point is right on track, or could even come much earlier.

The results? New customer demands and expectations. Decreased risk. New insurance product needs. New service revenues. New competitors. Redefined customer relationships. Reimagined businesses and industries.

To stay in the game, let alone win it, insurers must aggressively find a way to embrace these technologies and uncover their potential. And, to do so, they must have modern core systems as the foundation to integrate the use of these technologies for innovation, as well as plans to pilot some of these technologies, because the future is coming fast.

The Consumer Electronics Show 2015 has foretold that 2015 will be a pivotal year for many businesses and industries, including insurance, for emerging technologies. Adoption of the emerging technologies is on track or accelerating toward the tipping point. It is no longer science fiction. It is science reality. Welcome to the future … today!

car insurance disruptive

Cars: What’s Driving Disruption and Change

The SMA research report The Next-Gen Insurer: Fueled by Innovation identified the major influencers within and outside the industry that are reshaping the business of insurance. It cautioned that if insurers chose to ignore, or even put off, the inevitable need to change along with the rest of the world, they would be taking a chance and creating risk for the survival of their businesses. Well, as it turns out, ignoring it is no longer an option.

The new SMA research report, The Changing Auto Insurance Landscape: Influencers Driving Disruption and Change, underscores that disruption to the auto insurance industry is inescapable. Multiple influencers have converged, primarily from outside the industry, and are in the early stages of transforming the automobile industry and subsequently the auto insurance business. The new examples like driverless/autonomous vehicles, the connected car, car apps and shared transportation are disrupting traditional business, risk, product, pricing and customer assumptions while setting off the first wave of a broader disruption that will challenge the industry. Together, they reveal a growing wave of disruption in the auto insurance segment. This was emphasized by the announcements made at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in early January 2015.

Insurers reward customers with discounts for multiple auto policies, offer discounts for pay-as-you-drive (PAYD) or pay-how-you-drive (PHYD) programs and offer more discounts for additional coverage such as homeowners, umbrella, or others. The same is true for commercial insurance – business owners will look for a package of insurance that includes bundled discounts.

But consider what Mark Fields, Ford’s CEO, noted to the media at the 2015 CES show. Fields sees Ford as a mobility company rather than an automotive company, delivering a wide array of services and experiences via the auto instead of the mobile phone. This reimagined business model will have rippling effects across other industries, including insurance.

So how will insurance see itself going forward? How will insurance reimagine itself? The impact will drive insurers to think bigger and reimagine their businesses as they ride this wave of change toward becoming a Next-Gen Insurer.

The transformational potential of each influencer individually is great, but when combined they are game-changing. Each is individually beginning to disrupt insurance in varying degrees by redefining or reducing risk; redefining vehicle needs and uses; creating product and service needs; and affecting traditional revenue, pricing and operational models. Even more importantly, influencers are reshaping customer expectations by providing new experiences to create, retain and grow customer relationships and loyalty. Here are some potential implications for insurance:

  • Will insurance models move away from the driver to the vehicle or manufacturer?
  • What new services can be provided based on connected car or smartphone applications to engage with customers differently?
  • Will auto driver usage data come from Google, Apple and auto manufacturers rather than traditional industry data providers? Will this new data redefine risk, pricing and underwriting models?
  • Will insurers need to rethink partnership strategies to deliver new services?
  • How will risk models and ultimately pricing models be affected?
  • How will these affect operational, unit cost, revenue and profitability models?

The last two questions are especially significant based on the changes that are already happening in driverless/autonomous vehicles, the connected car, car apps and shared transportation. Using some of the statistics and projections from these examples featured in the new report, the hypothetical potential financial impact on auto premiums is profound. Collectively, the impact to the top 10 personal auto insurers that represent 70% of the direct written premium (DWP) could put 60% of existing DWP revenue into play. What’s more, this does not include potential lost revenue because of new products and services that may be offered by other companies and industries.

Even if the impact is only half of this, the operational and profitability models based on historical auto insurance assumptions are significantly disrupted. And those assumptions are starting to become irrelevant. Rather than waiting for automotive, technology and other industries to determine where this revenue will go, insurers must begin to plan today.

Another inevitable result will be felt in the traditional customer relationships that will be further challenged by the emergence of new services and providers around the shared economy, connected car and driverless vehicles. Opportunities to strengthen customer relationships will be strained and diminished as these companies redirect customer relationships and revenue away from traditional insurers.

The impact of these influencers; the emergence of new services; and their effects on customer relationships, old business models and revenue and profitability models are causing insurers to seriously consider these underlying, but very strategic questions: How are insurers going to recapture the disrupted revenue stream? Will it be through new products and services that generate new revenue in new ways? Will insurers become product manufacturers/underwriters for these emerging companies? Or will insurers adapt and become broader providers of insurance and service capabilities? How will you retain customer relationships and loyalty within this disruption? Are you preparing scenarios and plans to respond to these changes over the next three to five years?

These changes have uncovered a challenging new business landscape. The inevitable disruption of auto insurance is taking the industry in new and surprising directions. How you respond is strategically important for your companies’ relevance and competitiveness. So, fasten your seat belts! It is going to be a fast and interesting ride!