Take the Hartford Challenge
"If we can't cut $280 from your next insurance bill, we'll give you this desktop calculator," reads the back of the outer envelope for The Hartford's AARP Auto Insurance Program mailing. This challenge to AARP members has been leading the program's direct mail efforts for at least five years, according to George Thacker, The Hartford's senior vice president, personal lines marketing.
While the company doesn't release response rates, as there are too many variables in industry comparison, says Thacker, "The response rate we experience in our program is meaningfully higher than the response rates talked about in outside reports in significant business publications."
The direct nature of the challenge is hard for consumers to resist, suggests Aline Walch, The Hartford's assistant vice president, personal lines marketing, who primarily oversees the AARP program. "We think the clarity and simplicity of the message translates well across all mediums. We use it in print, too," she says.
And the challenge has held up against "dozens of tests going on every year," says Thacker.
It isn't the lone champion, however. "The challenge is one of three elements that goes into the kit," Thacker explains. The other two are the gift (the calculator in this mailing) and the teaser ("Lower Rate Notice").
In testing, "the challenge with the calculator is the champion," says Thacker. Other gifts that the calculatorwhich predates the challenge in the mailing effortshas trumped are atlases, telephones and clocks.
An example of another teaser the company tests is "Notification of Recent Changes," which "leverages our affinity with AARP," says Walch, as well as "creates a sense of urgency," adds Thacker.
Over the years, the "If we can't cut ..." challenge itself has varied slightly in testing. One test read, "Take our challenge and find out how you can get this calculatorabsolutely FREE!" Another read: "Get this calculator free if we can't save you $250 or more."
The savings amount in the challenge has varied at times, as it is based on an average savings reported by AARP members who switched to The Hartford program.
Inside the envelope, the mailing is personalized to each state on the response form. In July 2003, a mailing for an Arizona resident noted in the copy and on the "Arizona Savings Identification Card" that members in Arizona save an average of $347 per year. In June 2003, a Connecticut member received a mailing noting a $332 estimated adjustment on average in the state.
"We use this essentially countrywide," says Thacker, in all states where The Hartford does business, except one or two states that prohibit the use of enticements in the sale of insurance.
Despite the challenge-calculator team's triumphs for the AARP program, says Thacker, "We're not actively using it for any other programs."
And, the company will not cease to challenge the challenge and its co-champion. "We allocate a portion of mailings every month to testing," says Walch. The percentage allocated is based on the company's goals to generate a pre-specified number of written policies; based on the traditional response rate of the control, the company determines the total number that can be used for testing and still not affect the bottom line.
But whether The Hartford writes the policy or not, or whether it saves challenge-takers $280 or not, everyone gets a calculator, says Walch. "Anyone who requests a quote gets a free calculator." Good sportsmanship indeed.