Innovation in a Regulated Industry: Maryland Auto’s Rebranding Success Story

Maryland Auto (formally Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund, or MAIF) faced a lack of public awareness and misperception of its brand among both consumers and sales partners. As an independent state agency that provides auto insurance to state residents unable to obtain coverage elsewhere, it doesn’t have the marketing and promotional resources of standard insurance companies. Insurance regulations, financial limitations and a niche market forced the marketing team to be innovative to achieve lead generation and sales goals.

Due to regulations, Maryland Auto does not sell policies directly to consumers; rather, it relies on a network of agents, who represent other carriers, to offer its products. Because of negative perceptions of Maryland Auto as “the insurer of last resort,” as well as a general lack of awareness of its products among both consumers and agents (producers), of the 1,500 authorized Maryland Auto producers, only about 200 were regularly providing a Maryland Auto quote to consumers.

Not only did Maryland Auto need to raise awareness and change perceptions among its consumer audience, it also needed to educate and engage agents (producers) and provide them with sales support in order to fulfill Maryland Auto’s mission of reducing the number of uninsured drivers in the state.

The organization partnered with Baltimore-based agency Planit to conduct a comprehensive rebranding and consumer awareness campaign. Based on market research done at the outset of the campaign, 46% of customers and 62% of non-customers believed a name change could improve its brand image, so a decision was made to rebrand the organization from MAIF to Maryland Auto Insurance (Maryland Auto, for short). With input from internal and external stakeholders, the campaign team developed a brand statement, brand messages for each of its target audiences, new logo, a visual identity system and brand guidelines. The new messaging was incorporated into both print and digital assets:

  • Sales collateral consisting of both consumer- and producer-oriented pieces.
  • Advertising via print (including envelopes at check-cashing locations), broadcast and digital channels, executed in both English and Spanish.
  • A new website, focused on consumers, with a separate portal for producers accessed from the home page.
  • Digital ads, digital and social collateral, e-mail marketing templates and a template for a monthly e-newsletter to producers.
  • A comprehensive media kit containing a press release on the rebrand, FAQs for consumers, producers and media, executive talking points and bios, and customer testimonials.

A central element of the digital strategy was the creation of a lead distribution program, which captured information provided by customers online or via phone and funneled those leads to producers for follow-up, strengthening the relationship between Maryland Auto and its producers and encouraging more producers to offer the organization’s products. Maryland Auto also hosted its top producers for a lunch and Q&A session where the rebrand and lead distribution program were presented and explained, new ads were unveiled and the new branded materials were distributed. Maryland Auto’s field marketing team also visited over 400 producer offices to deliver Welcome Kits of sales collateral for both producers and consumers and mailed kits to nearly 700 additional agents.

Following the launch of the website and digital campaign, the website saw a 61.5% year-over-year increase in website traffic. The producer e-newsletter achieved an open rate of 37.5% and a click-through rate of 2.4%. The lead distribution program captured nearly 20,000 leads and resulted in 1,422 new policies written. Overall, Maryland Auto achieved an 8% growth in new customers from the campaign, as well as coverage of the rebrand in key insurance industry publications. Also achieved was greater awareness among Maryland’s Hispanic community, where awareness had been low but the need for Maryland Auto insurance is high, with positive feedback from consumer groups such as Casa de Maryland.

Cathy Nyce, Maryland Auto’s director of marketing and communications, emphasized the importance of keeping all internal stakeholders and external partners informed: “Marketers are sometimes hesitant to seek input because everybody thinks they’re a marketing expert. But in order for stakeholders to embrace a new brand identity, they need to feel ownership, and ownership comes with involvement in the process.”

Nyce also noted, “Choosing the right agency partner is critical. Know what you are looking for in an agency before you start the search. We knew we needed a partner who could lead us through the process of understanding who we were as an organization before we could even begin to build the campaign. It’s also important to select an agency you can feel comfortable with. You’re going to spend a lot of time together. The client should feel totally comfortable asking a lot of questions at every stage – we did and it positively impacted the final product.”

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