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David takes on the Goliaths

David takes on the Goliaths

Four steps to a decade of insurance success

Roland Bös


Scholz & Friends


To have an impact on the hotly contested German insurance market – with its multitude of international, national and regional providers – it’s essential to use communication that creates presence and relevance over the long term.

Over the past 10 years, VHV Versicherungen has shown just what can be achieved with effective advertising, by playing the long game and betting consistently on the success of a proven recipe.

This one-time niche provider – a minnow compared to many of the other players in the market – has gradually achieved unmatched growth in share and revenue, thanks to consistency, powerful storytelling and humor.

Back in 2008, VHV Versicherungen was an industry laggard. Despite all its communication efforts, VHV was still a little-known niche provider in the German market. It had a limited media budget, and relatively weak positioning in the eyes of insurance brokers, to boot. Yet it had big aspirations and set its sights on taking the game to the insurance sector’s Goliaths.

VHV’s ambition was to make maximum gains with minimum investment, and move from being a small no-name to the number one alternative – for brokers and consumers alike. To succeed, VHV needed, in particular, to raise their brand awareness.

VHV’s recipe for success

Step 1:

Use testimonials to raise awareness and recall

VHV wanted to highlight its presence and relevance, and opted to use testimonials to achieve this. But not just any testimonials, these needed to be from people who had 100 percent public recognition and plenty of character – precisely what VHV didn’t have. In the nationally known stars Dieter Bohlen and Til Schweiger, VHV found exactly the voices they needed. Everyone in Germany knows them; though not everyone loves them. As they’re not exactly short on self-confidence, it wasn’t a problem to show their clumsy side and their evident need for insurance.

Step 2:

Give insurance a sense of humor

The storytelling VHV used was striking, as well as unusual for the category in that it was genuinely funny. The brand created one-of-a-kind brand visuals and continuity of logic that allowed it to showcase its expertise, performance efficiency and diverse product offering.

Step 3:

Enhance recall with a new strong structural bracket that enhances recall

As a counterpoint to the competition’s “generalist” jack-of-all-trades approach, VHV declared itself THE insurance expert. In doing so, the brand succeeded in leaving behind worn-out “insurance speak”, and taking their communication in a fresh direction in terms of tonality, visuals and language.

Step 4:

Use TV for reach, augmented by online and trade print

The media mix focused on TV as the medium best suited to effective and efficient brand building. This was supplemented and complemented by communication in digital formats, campaigns in trade media and one-to-one communication.

So, how did it pan out? Well, VHV had lofty goals, but it is managing to achieve them.

1. Ads based on the original strategy are still running and still working. Over the course of 10 years, VHV has seen a significant jump in ad recall on the back of comparatively low investment.

2. Brokers love VHV – by a wide margin. In a national survey of insurance brokers, VHV achieved the top ranking for “Best Advertising”.

3. VHV is gradually becoming a relevant alternative to the “big guys”. Mirroring ad recall, the willingness of the core target group to consider VHV a relevant option is growing; from 2008 to 2018, it has improved on this measure 104 percent.

4. Brand awareness continues to grow. The strategy of raising awareness of the VHV brand through polarizing testimonials from strong characters is paying dividends: in the space of 10 years, both unaided and aided recall have doubled for VHV.

5. The business is seeing strong, ongoing growth. VHV’s concept, built around surprising testimonials, has made an impressive contribution to the business, contributing to revenue growth of 53 percent since 2008. This translates to an annual increase in sales of 5.4 percent, and a 7.2 percent rise in revenue.