Paul Simons: can John Lewis’ ‘Tiny Dancer’ confound the price-driven insurance market?

I’m wondering if the John Lewis teams on both client and agency sides have started to get seduced by their own outstanding success in recent years. The new 90 second spot for insurance feels like it’s bordering on the self indulgent.

Watching a young girl dance around the family home to an Elton John track is reasonably entertaining, particularly if one’s little princess is of a similar age group. However being a pedant I didn’t get why their insurance was worthy of a call/quote.

The John Lewis stores and their excellent online channel have a dominant and distinctive position in the retail world, they are the ‘go-to’ store for Britain’s upwardly mobile middle classes.

Insurance however is an over-supplied, cut throat market with the majority of the wider public searching out the best price for a commodity product. Just putting in details in to comparethemarket.com will produce a staggering array of insurers and quotes.

Insurance is a low interest category for most of the time except for two, infrequent events – a premium renewal and a claim. In between, most of us show zero interest in insurance advertising.

Maybe there is such a thing as the ‘John Lewis’ bubble, a world of pleasant, polite and aspirational values where an advertising campaign flogging insurance doesn’t need to dive to lowest common denominator. All those happy, loyal customers will just smile and switch their home insurance to the brand they are in a relationship with. A bit like a religious group.

JLP have proven the power of their brand with growth throughout a torrid time for retail. They have built a powerful hold on electronics and IT plus their early investment in their online offering has been a market leading initiative. If they can convert this brand appeal, brand strength in to over-supplied, price-driven markets and prosper they will have figured out the holy grail.

So: self indulgent – or a clear forward vision of Utopia?

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About Paul Simons

Paul joined Cadbury-Schweppes in brand management and then moved to United Biscuits. He switched to advertising in his late 20s, at Cogent Elliott and then Gold Greenlees Trott. He founded Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson in the late 80s, one of the leading creative agencies of the 90s. Simons Palmer then merged with TBWA to create a top ten agency. Paul then joined O&M as chairman & CEO of the UK group. After three years he left to create a new AIM-quoted advertising group Cagney Plc. He is now a consultant to a number of client companies. Paul also shares his thoughts on his blog. Visit Paul Simons Blog.
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