NEW YORK CITY – State Farm earned “Brand of the Year” honors in both the home and life insurance categories, holding steady in its equity ratings as the insurance category overall experiences declines, according to newly released Harris Poll 2016 EquiTrend Study.
The 28th annual study honors the strongest brands in nearly 100 categories across the media, travel, financial, automotive, entertainment, retail, restaurants and household industries, based on consumer response.
“State Farm has been at or very near the top of insurance brands measured for many years,” said Joan Sinopoli, vice president of brand solutions at Nielsen, which owns The Harris Poll. “The company has an incredibly strong captive agent network on the ground, and for years maintained a consistent, familiar core campaign while running parallel campaigns to stay fresh and relevant. AAA is clearly extending its relationship as a ‘friend in need’ for stranded drivers in the auto insurance category, and with aggressive direct marketing, into home and life as well.”
AAA edged out State Farm to claim Auto Insurance Brand of the Year, climbing to the top spot from third place in 2015. Blue Cross Blue Shield was named Health Insurance Brand of the Year for the sixth consecutive year, a feat achieved only by nine other brands in the EquiTrend study.
Measuring brands’ health over time, the EquiTrend Brand Equity Index is comprised of three factors – Familiarity, Quality and Purchase Consideration – that result in a brand equity rating for each brand. Brands ranking highest in equity receive the Harris Poll EquiTrend “Brand of the Year” award for their respective categories.
This year, more than 97,000 U.S. consumers assessed more than 3,800 brands (including 56 insurance brands), across nearly 500 categories.
2016 Harris Poll EquiTrend Insurance Company Rankings
Life Insurance Brand of the Year
- State Farm Life Insurance
- American Family Life Insurance
- AAA Life Insurance
- Transamerica Life Insurance Company
Other Life Insurance brands in study ranked below category average (alphabetically): AIG Direct Life Insurance, Allstate Life Insurance, Guardian Life Insurance, MassMutual Insurance, MetLife Life Insurance, New York Life Insurance Company, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, Pacific Life Insurance, Prudential Life Insurance, USAA Life Insurance
Auto Insurance Brand of the Year
- AAA Auto Insurance
- State Farm Auto Insurance
- USAA Auto Insurance
- American Family Auto Insurance
- Nationwide Auto Insurance
- Farmers Auto Insurance
Other Auto Insurance brands in study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Allstate Auto Insurance, Esurance Auto Insurance, GEICO Auto Insurance, Liberty Mutual Auto Insurance, MetLife Auto Insurance, Progressive Auto Insurance, The General Auto Insurance, The Hartford Auto Insurance, Travelers Auto Insurance
Health Insurance Brand of the Year
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield
- Kaiser Permanente
Other Health Insurance brands in study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Aetna, Amerigroup, Cigna, Coventry Health Care, Health Net, Humana
Home Insurance Brand of the Year
- State Farm Home Insurance
- AAA Home Insurance
- USAA Home Insurance
Other Home Insurance brands in study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Allstate Home Insurance, American Family Home Insurance, Farmers Home Insurance, GEICO Home Insurance, Liberty Mutual Home Insurance, MetLife Home Insurance, Nationwide Home Insurance, Progressive Home Insurance, The Hartford Home Insurance, Travelers Home Insurance
The complete list of Harris Poll EquiTrend Brands of the Year can be found at:http://www.theharrispoll.com/equitrend-rankings/2016.
Insurance companies on a brand equity decline
The Harris Poll study shows that overall, the insurance industry’s brand equity falls toward the bottom of the broader financial services category, with all types of insurance on a downward trend.
“Despite some fresh and interesting ad campaigns in recent years, Harris Poll’s research shows that consumers are challenged when it comes to feeling a connection with insurance brands,” said Sinopoli. “Membership-based and captive agent channels make the strongest connection with consumers; they can leverage their affiliations (such as AAA) and their loyal ground organizations (such as State Farm). The online channel may be the wave of the future, but it is polarizing; despite the convenience, the online channel demonstrates a higher rate of disconnection than other channels, especially captive agent.”
Harris Poll’s research shows that while the online insurance channel has the strongest positive momentum (22%) compared to other channels when it comes to brand equity, just as many consumers (20%) see it as “on the way down,” indicating that online insurance as a sales channel may require some attention. According to Nielsen’s 2015 Insurance Track, 38% of adults “showroom,” meaning they research their options and compare prices online before they buy from an agent.
“Showrooming is a behavior that is driving tremendous change across consumer retail and it is evident in insurance as well,” said Sinopoli. “Providing the right materials to the right audiences and driving connection through the online experience will increasingly determine which agents get booked for an appointment.”
Millennials and women mean equity opportunities for insurers
The Harris Poll shows that millennials, many of whom have not yet formed insurance brand loyalties, are an opportunity for insurance companies to build brand equity.
“Not only are millennials active shoppers, but they are at a time in their lives when many are looking to purchase their first policy,” said Sinopoli. “Nielsen research shows that nearly two-thirds of millennials have shopped for an insurance policy over the past few years, often triggered by a life event — just as we have seen with older generations. Buying their first car or home, getting married or having a child can trigger a first encounter with an insurance company. Connecting with this price-conscious, yet quality-seeking group primed for purchase will be significant when building brand equity.”
The Harris Poll study shows that women represent a different opportunity for insurance brands. Women are more likely to feel disconnected from auto and home insurance brands than men, with female respondents indicating a lower familiarity with brands and a lack of fit. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of women feel that auto insurance brands don’t “fit them,” compared to 53% of men. Similarly, 60% of women feel that home insurance brands don’t fit them, compared to 52% of men.
However, life insurance represents a safety net for women that insurers can leverage. Nielsen’s 2015 Insurance Track shows that women (43%) are just as likely as men (45%) to feel that life insurance is essential for retirement, while women (20%) are less likely than men (29%) to say they have other investments to rely on.
“Insurance companies can create loyalty and ultimately, build stronger brand equity with women in a number of ways,” said Sinopoli. “For example, responding to women’s insurance needs through targeted products and preferred distribution channels, tailored educational opportunities, training agents to encourage couples to plan together, and ads that resonate with women as confident insurance buyers are all ways to attract and retain female customers.”
Methodology: The 2016 Harris Poll EquiTrend Study is based on a sample of 97,120 U.S. consumers ages 15 and over surveyed online, in English, between December 22, 2015 and February 1, 2016. The survey took an average of 30 minutes to complete. The total number of brands rated was 3,837. Each respondent was asked to rate a total of 40 randomly selected brands. Each brand received approximately 1,000 ratings. Data was weighted to be representative of the entire U.S. population of consumers ages 15 and over based on age by sex, education, race/ethnicity, region, income, and data from respondents ages 18 and over were also weighted for their propensity to be online. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
The Brand Equity Index is the keystone to the EquiTrend program, providing an understanding of a brand’s overall strength. A brand’s Equity is determined by a calculation of Familiarity, Quality and Purchase Consideration. Brand of the Year is determined by a simple ranking of brands.
The Harris Poll EquiTrend Brand Equity Index has been academically vetted1, showing that strong brand equity is associated with strong financial performance, even during a financial downturn, such as that experienced in 2007-2010.