Interviews

Geoff Bates

Head of Marketing & Analysis at LV=

Ben Somerset-How

Client Director

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Tom Holmes talks to Geoff Bates, Head of Consumer Marketing and Analysis at LV= 

Geoff joined LV= in 2001 and is the Head of Consumer Marketing and Analysis for the company’s Life Division.  He is responsible for leading the development, management and delivery of LV= direct to consumer marketing campaigns for life insurance and retirement products, as well as analytics initiatives such as building a new single view of customer database.

Prior to his current role his experience at LV= has spanned running campaigns for the general insurance side of the business, building brand awareness and sales volumes of retirement products within the IFA community and successful development of corporate partner relationships, such as LV= partnership with ASDA.

 

Creativebrief: As Head of Marketing & Analysis at LV=, what is your primary focus

Geoff Bates: Ensuring my team are making the most of our customer insights and data to create propositions and campaigns that talk to customers in a way that prompts them to engage with protection and retirement planning.  

Creativebrief: What attracted you to working with LV= and what do you enjoy most about your job?

Geoff Bates:  I joined LV= because I liked the company’s values and recognised the business’ potential. The company has remained true to its founding values: to help people to protect what they love and support them through difficult times. LV=’s mutual status and values are what I believed gave it the potential to make consumers and our competition sit up and take notice, which it certainly has done over the last five, or six years.

I love the variety in my job and the fact that, because we are a relatively small and tightly knit management community, I can make a real difference. Being a part of a team that has delivered such rapid growth over the last few years has also provided great career satisfaction.

Creativebrief: What key attributes must a Chief Marketing Officer have to build a successful financial services brand in this day and age?

Geoff Bates: Financial services is, for most people, a low interest and low trust category so building a brand relies heavily on an ability to make the complex seem simple and the intangible meaningful.

During the recent financial crisis there has been a strong focus on looking at ways to cut costs and marketing budgets are often the first port of call. It is therefore vital to have an ability to demonstrate at Board level how every pound invested in marketing adds value to the bottom line to ensure the importance of marketing is recognised.

I think it goes without saying that delivering on the above requires tenacity, a passion for a brand, a strong focus on the consumer and a head for numbers.

Creativebrief: In such a challenging market, how has LV= been performing?

Geoff Bates: The investment we have made in our brand and delivering on our commitment to show customers that we care, are easy to do business with and offer great value has really paid off over the last few years. Our brand recognition and customer satisfaction levels have gone from strength to strength.

Creativebrief: Which marketing campaigns are you particularly proud of, and why?

Geoff Bates: A couple of years ago we ran a brand building campaign for our life insurance business which integrated with, and made good leverage of, the motor insurance advertising we run. It was an effective way to improve the awareness and consideration of our broader insurance product set.

More recently we ran an integrated campaign fronted by Julie Walters which delivered the best half year result we have ever had for one of our life insurance products.

LV= 50 Plus TV ad (Jan 2012) featuring Julie Walters

Creativebrief: How has an understanding of direct marketing contributed to your success?

Geoff Bates: It’s allowed me to deliver effective campaigns time after time, to ensure our campaigns continuously move forward through test and learn activity and produced benefits for both the customer and the bottom line. Consistently getting the fundamentals right is what has driven my career progression.

Creativebrief: In recent years the society has also promoted itself through sport sponsorship, can you tell what results this has delivered?

Geoff Bates: It has delivered an increase in awareness for our brand and consideration for our products amongst our key target audience groups. It also provides a great way to build and maintain relationships with key partners and distributors.

Creativebrief: Your career has spanned LV=, Liverpool Victoria and Unipart, what have been the high points?

Geoff Bates: In my time at Unipart I learnt a lot of principles that have stood me in good stead and have influenced the campaigns I have worked on throughout my career.

However, being part of the successful brand transformation from Liverpool Victoria to LV= and helping to deliver the rapid growth that subsequently followed is a real high point in my time here.

Creativebrief: Along the way, have there been individual marketers who have impressed and inspired you?

Geoff Bates: Early in my career at LV= I was lucky enough to be mentored by a man called Paul Leadbitter who really understands the fundamentals of direct marketing and has a great ability to instil the use of those fundamentals in those who work for him.

Creativebrief: How do you see the media landscape unfolding in the next 5 years.

Geoff Bates: I believe that the media landscape will continue to become more integrated and this will make it even more important that businesses ensure that their traditional, social and digital media strategies complement each other.

Across our products we are seeing an growing number of people are researching our offering on mobiles and tablets to gain an understanding of our products before phoning up to talk to one of our advisers. To reflect how consumers’ habits have evolved, we built a responsive design website (www.lv.com) and introduced mobile friendly tools and calculators to facilitate the research phase. We also added tracking and customer journey improvements to support the phone based purchase phase which has really paid dividends in regards to customer satisfaction and sales effectiveness.

Creativebrief: Do you prefer to use an ‘integrated agency’ approach or specialist agencies by individual discipline?

Geoff Bates: I tend to take a ‘horses for courses’ approach and use specialist agencies by individual discipline.

Creativebrief: What challenges do you face, managing day to day agency relationships?

Geoff Bates: Using specialists can have its challenges when working with multiple agencies to create an integrated campaign, but generally I’ve found that as long as everyone is working to a tight brief and a common idea then the benefits you get are greater than the sum of the parts.

Creativebrief: How do you monitor and stay in touch with the agency market to ensure you work with the best?

Geoff Bates: I’m attending the Marketing Forum in October, so will hopefully get to meet some good agencies while I’m there. It is in our interest to work with agencies that understand our needs and deliver the results we want so the team keeps its ear to the ground. 

Creativebrief: What’s your attitude to the ‘traditional’ pitch? Do you think there is a better/more modern way?

Geoff Bates: I think there is plenty of scope for agencies to go beyond the traditional pitch. Anything that helps to bring a pitch to life and demonstrate an understanding of the client’s business and customers will definitely increase the chances of winning the project.

Creativebrief: Would you ever consider awarding an agency business without a pitch? What would they have to do/demonstrate?

Geoff Bates: If you’re going to trust an agency with your budget and the chance to develop marketing collateral that will eventually be seen by your customers, then there is no substitute for doing your homework and ensuring you’ve got the right agency for the job.