I was contacted the other day by a journalist at A.M. Best to get my thoughts on the AIG re-branding and You Tube marketing effort. As you may know, AIG shifted their name to Chartis several years ago to differentiatee itself after the bailout. It didn’t work. Now they are going back to the recognizable name of (at least in the industry) of AIG. They’ve launched a You Tube campaign to promote this change and thank the American public. Watch the videos. Below is the article by Fran Lysiak at A.M. Best and my views. Many thanks to her for reaching out to me. The link to this article is in a subscriber section, so I am posting it here for you to read…
Best’s News Service – July 30, 2012 03:59 PM
AIG Launches YouTube Channel in Rebranding Effort
NEW YORK – American International Group Inc. is forging ahead with its rebranding, launching a channel on YouTube as
part of the insurer’s effort to tell its turnaround story since its multibillion-dollar bailout from the federal
government in 2008.
This decision, and similar moves in recent months, reflect a return to the brand the company had once attempted to
distance itself from after its rescue package during the financial crisis of 2008.
The YouTube campaign is new in the company’s re-branding, said Jim Ankner, a spokesman for AIG (NYSE: AIG).
As of July 30, AIG’s YouTube channel had 149 subscribers. Three videos are featured. One is titled “Rebuilding AIG,”
which had 1,942 views; another video is titled “Proud to be a Part of AIG,” with 1,176 views; and a third is titled
“Giving Back to the Community,” with 800 views as of July 30.
The campaign to return to the AIG name and to harness the power of YouTube is “the right move at the right time,”
according to Dan Weedin, a Seattle insurance consultant. “The old experiment failed, they are going back to what
worked, they are promoting what they have done in paying back, and they said thank you to the American public,” said
Weedin, president of Toro Consulting Inc., in an email.
Weedin dubbed the Chartis experiment a “disaster,” akin to the “New Coke” in the 1980’s. “It flopped, and AIG, like
Coke was, was quick to cut their losses and move on,” he said. AIG has been around for 90 years, and its name was too
deeply branded in the agent and broker community, Weedin said.
“As much as they tried to separate, it didn’t work,” he said, noting brokers had to tell their clients that Chartis
was really AIG. “The power of branding for nearly a century showed here.”
According to a memo AIG Chief Executive Officer Robert Benmosche sent to employees in June, the company is rebranding
it property/casualty business, and would soon be known simply as AIG, while SunAmerica Financial Group would become
AIG Life and Retirement. A date for the transition had not been set at that time (Best’s News Service, June 29, 2012).
In September 2008, the federal government stepped in to save AIG from bankruptcy by authorizing a bailout of up to
$182 billion, but AIG said it never borrowed that full amount. The company said government support has been reduced by
83%, or $152 billion, through paying back loans and other types of support. The outstanding federal support of AIG is
the U.S. Treasury still owning 1.06 billion shares, or about 81%, of outstanding AIG stock (Best’s News Service, July
AIG’s YouTube page also displays the company’s Twitter feed.
Overall, video is “now where it’s at for promoting and marketing,” Weedin said. In this visual world, “they are
reaching out to a new and younger demographics who watch video in an effort to rebrand their old brand.”
The YouTube campaign also represents an opportunity for an insurance company, which is akin to Wall Street, big banks
and “snake-oil salesmen” to most of the public, to show that they make good on their promise, Weedin said. This is
good for AIG’s agents and brokers who sell their products, he said.
AIG isn’t the only company to turn to YouTube for marketing. MassMutual has been on YouTube since 2006, and in
September 2009 launched a branded channel on its website with content filmed exclusively for YouTube. Programming
includes interviews about retirement concerns with industry leaders and man-on-the-street interviews (Best’s Review,
The AIG brand began showing signs of a comeback earlier this year when the company announced plans to merge the group
benefit operations of two units into a new organization called AIG Benefit Solutions (Best’s News Service, Jan. 30,
2012). Last fall, AIG started advertising term life insurance using its name, representing the first time in the
United States since 2008 that it was marketing insurance directly to consumers under the AIG brand (Best’s News
Service, Sept. 19, 2011).
“Now is clearly the right time to call ourselves by the name that stands for the fact that we keep our promises and
deliver on our commitment to uphold the highest standards for the benefit of all of our stakeholders,” Benmosche wrote
in the memo last month.
Most AIG companies currently have Best’s Financial Strength Ratings of A (Excellent).
On the afternoon of July 30, AIG’s stock was trading at $31.72 a share, up 0.48% from the previous close.
(By Fran Matso Lysiak, senior associate editor, BestWeek: email@example.com) BN-NJ-07-30-2012 1559 ET #
Dogs sniff everything. Often multiple times to make sure. It often drives me crazy when I take the dogs out at night in between commercials, hoping for a quick turnaround. Bella especially has to find just the right spot.
As is often the case, dogs probably have it right. They understand their surroundings. They have a clear picture of who has been where; how long ago they were there, and what they did. They are poised to and prepared for that rabbit, squirrel, or snake to pop out of nowhere.
How well do you understand your surroundings? When you walk into a prospective client’s office for the first time, are you walking in blind or do you know something about them? When you have to have a tough conversation with an employee, have you thought it through in your head before you start talking? At a ballgame, do you shout out an expletive-laced tirade before realizing how you are affecting others near you? The bottom line is that we don’t do as good a job as dogs in understanding our surroundings and being prepared for the unknown or the consequences of getting it wrong.
Perhaps we should do a better job of sniffing around before we start barking!
This week’s quote – “Go back a little to leap further.”
- John Clarke
© 2012 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
There are two truisms to crisis management. First, crisis will happen. No matter how hard you work to avoid it, it is inevitable. Second, history repeats itself. From that, you must learn its lessons. Not doing so is negligent.
Last week’s tragedy in Aurora, Colo. leaves us with another crisis to contend with. It’s a crisis not solely to be faced by the movie theater, Aurora Police Department, and the community. It’s one that deeply affects all of us. The similarity between this violence and others like Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Fort Hood need to be analyzed by risk managers of any organization or business.
Your immediate response may be, “Why? How does this affect me?” You may be thinking that your business has no risk of maniacal shooters filling the air with bullets and causing terror to all in their path. You’re probably right, although at some point I doubt that the Aurora movie theater or other places that have seen such violence thought they were likely candidates, either. The real issue revolves around how you are prepared to respond to crisis, not manage it.
What are the similarities of crisis? By answering this question, we are better prepared to have a response. I contend there are three major ones…
- They require that you make a quick and decisive response. Crisis can be expected (hurricanes, tornadoes) or unexpected (Aurora shooting, Penn State University). Regardless, a fast response is expected. If that response is not well thought out before it’s needed to be made, it probably will be poor.
- They leave people in a state of shock and uncertainty. There are several layers to this shock depending on the crisis, but a basic need to be led out of it is always present.
- They provide opportunity. Out of every crisis comes an opportunity to rise from the ashes and be better than you were. Those who suffer crisis, because they are too busy trying to live through it, often miss this.
So how does a business, organization, or even a family learn from the crisis lessons of others?
- Accept that crisis is going to happen. You just don’t know when, where, or how. Being complacent or naïve to this will only set you up for poor judgment in real time. I’ve seen too may business leaders think, “It’s never going to happen to me.”
- Determine who will be in charge. It may not be the CEO or Executive Director. In one of the school districts I worked with, it was the Assistant Superintendent who was given that role to lead and make decisions. Who is your designated crisis leader?
- Practice. Do you remember those fire drills in grade school where you had to practice putting everything down, getting in a single-file line, and calmly walking out the door while pretend flames were all around you? It may seem hokey, but those drills work. I’ve taken CPR for over 25 years. One night, while having dinner at my parent’s house a few years ago, my mother started choking and I had to give her the Heimlich maneuver. I responded just like I had practiced all those years and it saved her life. Taking time to practice and test response is perhaps the most missed element of this process.
- Develop a “plug and play” plan. Almost any crisis can be responded to in the same way, regardless of the event. For example, after a crisis event the order of triage may look something like this…
- Ensure safety of people and premises
- Communicate to everyone (more on this later)
- Set up a “war room” where leaders will convene
- Make a decision based on your past decisions.
- Communicate again.
Communication is essential in any crisis response. Unfortunately, many times that communication is bad and makes things worse. BP’s Tony Hayward is a perfect example of communication gone horribly bad. In order to be effective, communication must be quick, empathetic, and acknowledge any fear and uncertainty. Warner Brothers had to respond to crisis after the Aurora shooting. After all, it was their blockbuster movie and people were looking for a response from them. They acted quickly. They responded with shock and sorrow for the victims and their families. They quickly pre-empted showings and trailers of movies in respect for the victims. They acknowledged the gravity of the situation, while staying in the background.
In a business setting, your employees are the ones who need the most communication. They may have fear of losing their job; or uncertainty as to what the company will look like in the future. Acknowledging that fear, being honest, and being consistent with your message will ultimately lead to better morale and increased loyalty.
I remember thinking to myself, “How would I have responded if I were in the that theater with my wife and daughters? Would I have ducked under the seats, tried to crawl out, or made a run for it?” Good crisis leaders, whether they are the CEO, business owner, or risk manager, must ask those same type of questions for their business; then in conjunction with their team determine responses; practice and test the responses; and finally communicate those responses with the entire organization.
Crises occur every day and I fear that we are becoming too impassive as a society. The shooting in Aurora was a horrible tragedy and shattered lives. It was the focus of all the news for 24 hours. And then we moved on to another day and another crisis. Crisis leaders need to take note of how others responded and how they might respond when it’s their turn. By observing how others have responded to their own crises, leaders can juxtapose their own situation to ensure that not only will their organization survive, but find opportunity to improve.
© 2012 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
Dan Weedin, CIC, CRM is a risk and crisis management consultant based out of Seattle. He has over 25 years experience in the industry and helps his clients create, develop, and implement crisis and disaster recovery plans. His work has been featured in Best Review, American Express OPEN for Business, The Street, and The Risk Report. He is an award-winning international speaker on the topic and is available for conferences or other events. To learn more about Dan and how he helps clients improve their crisis response programs, visit www.DanWeedin.com.
I was just quoted this morning on A.M. Best’s Best Review on the decision made yesterday by State Farm to drop advertising for Penn State football. The reporter wanted to get my take. I think it’s curious that State Farm dropped just football, and not the other sports. The people running the football program are no longer there, the program has been severely penalized, and the other sports it still supports were led by the same athletic director and president leading the football operation. I also wonder how they will respond to criminal issues that come up at other schools they sponsor. Will they take the same hard line?
You need a subscription to read the story online, so I am sending it to you here. I welcome your comments…
Best’s News Service – July 25, 2012 11:22 AM
Consultant: Insurers Should Revisit Advertising Support as State Farm Drops Penn State Football Sponsorship
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – In the latest fallout from the Pennsylvania State University child sex-abuse scandal, State Farm
said it won’t renew its sponsorship of the university’s football team for 2012. It’s a move consultant says should
awaken all insurers to revisiting their advertising support and “predetermine what will make them stay on or jump
State Farm recently did an annual review of all of its National Collegiate Athletic Association sponsorships, and
decided not to renew its sponsorship for Penn State football for the 2012 season, said Jeff McCollum, a spokesman for
State Farm, Bloomington, Ill. McCollum declined to disclose how much State Farm has spent on the Penn State football
In June, former assistant Penn State University football coach Gerald Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of sexually
abusing 10 boys.
When the Sandusky news broke last fall, State Farm decided to pull advertising, McColllum said, noting there are no
State Farm signs in Beaver Stadium now. “We continue to support Penn State basketball, and will review our NCAA
sponsorships next year as we do every year,” McCollum said. The company will no longer advertise during television and
radio broadcasts of the Nittany Lions’ home games.
Recently, State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. asked a federal judge to declare the company is not required to indemnify
Sandusky. In a suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the company argues
Sandusky’s homeowners insurance policy should be declared void because it violates several exclusions written into it
(Best’s News Service, July 23, 2012).
Dan Weedin, president of Toro Consulting Inc., said he found State Farm’s support for other Penn State programs and
the NCAA curious and “very unique.” When Accenture dropped golfer Tiger Woods after his domestic issues, “they were
basically dropping the brand,” said Weedin, an insurance consultant who helps clients create and enhance risk and
crisis management programs. State Farm has “penalized” only the football program where none of the perpetrators are
anymore, and continues to support other Penn State programs and college football nationally, he said.
“The question becomes, what metrics are being used to make these decisions?” Weedin said.
Weedin says he understands State Farm’s intent, “however I think they need to take a stand one way or the other.” As
far as a global perspective, “insurers should revisit their advertising support at all levels and predetermine what
will make them stay on or jump ship,” Weedin said. “Decisions made in real time may end up being poor. They need to
determine their own risk tolerance when it comes to advertising and support and make the decision before it needs to
On July 23, the NCAA sanctioned Penn State’s football program based on the findings of an investigation led by former
FBI director Louis J. Freeh. The investigation determined officials at the school, including the late football coach
Joe Paterno, engaged in a cover-up of Sandusky’s behavior, including some criminal events that occurred on Penn
State’s campus. The NCAA penalized the program by vacating all of the university’s football wins from 1998 to 2011.
The school was also hit with a $60 million fine, a four-year post-season ban, and the initial loss of 10 scholarships
and 20 total scholarships each year for a four-year period (Best’s News Service, July 23, 2012).
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. currently has a Best’s Financial Strength Rating A++ (Superior).
(By Fran Matso Lysiak, senior associate editor, BestWeek: firstname.lastname@example.org) BN-NJ-07-25-2012 1121 ET
I watched the finale of The Next Food Network Star last night and I was struck again by a real-life business and personal lesson. Food Network Senior Vice-President, General Manager and Judge for the show, Bob Tuschman said something very important for all of us. He said the challenge of the show is to try and turn a person into a star in only 11 weeks. He pointed out that star mentors Bobby Flay, Giada DeLaurentis, and Alton Brown had taken years to cultivate their craft and get where they are. In order to do it in just 11 weeks, mentors needed to dish out real tough love.
Are you given tough love?
In my relationship with my personal mentor, Alan Weiss, I have and still get tough love. In fact, Alan may be the master! His theory is this. In order to accelerate the growing process; the results process; and the success process, you simply don’t have time to beat around the bush. It takes tough love to move and change behavior quickly. Those that can take it and change, thrive. Those that can’t, well…they don’t.
Who gives you tough love in your professional and personal life? You must have someone you trust, respect, and are willing to believe and make changes. Everyone needs someone like that, but often as we get older, we eschew that tough love and become defensive. Those that are willing to be humble and vulnerable, while retaining tremendous self-confidence will go on to great heights. Are you one of those people?
This week’s quote - “He who comes first, eats first.“
- Eike von Repkow – 1220
© 2012 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
I am truly honored today to be attending the Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) Western Alliance and National Alliance luncheon today in Seattle. I will be receiving my Certified Risk Manager (CRM) designation along with several other industry professionals. Funny, I still sometimes have that awful dream that I have one more exam to pass and I didn’t attend the class or take notes! Maybe now it will go away for good!
I am also excited for the opportunity to meet Dr. William T. Hold, who is President the National Alliance. He is the conferment speaker for this afternoon.
I also get to take a very special guest – my daughter Kelli. She is still home from college and will join me for the festivities. It’s ironic that in 1996 when I received my Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) designation in Whistler, British Columbia, I had my 8 year old (at the time) daughter Mindy with me. My wife, Barb had to stay home with a sick Kelli. Now, 15 years later, Kelli accompanies me for the CRM.
Stay tuned for pictures and more information about the event!
© 2012 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
From my July column in the Kitsap Business Journal…
In June, I watched two celebrated sporting events — the French Open in professional tennis, and the U.S. Open in men’s professional golf. These two sports feature great individual athletic prowess. They also illustrate what is widely acknowledged and accepted in all sports, arts and entertainment. Superstars are well coached.
At the French Open, champions Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova receive constant coaching and support from their coaches. At every break in play and regularly from the sidelines, they get suggestions on how to improve both tactically and strategically. At the U.S. Open, every golfer from champion Webb Simpson to Tiger Woods, and to the amateurs competing, receive input from swing coaches, mental coaches, putting coaches and caddies.
Regardless of the sport, athletes simply can’t maximize their skill and ability without strong coaching. The same is abundantly true in business. Executives and business owners who accept coaching are more likely to be “superstars” than those who don’t. But unlike sports, where all athletes understand the value, most business owners eschew the concept of coaching. The question is … why?
Why You Say No
I’ve worked closely with small business owners for over 25 years. In my experience, there are five key reasons that business leaders don’t take advantage of coaching:
- No concept of value. Coaching is viewed as a cost, rather than an investment. The owner only thinks about what they are losing (money) rather than the value they will receive (more discretionary time, enhanced skills, ability to earn higher revenue more quickly, and a sounding board for frustrations).
- Arrogance. “I’ve been in this business all my life. I know what I’m doing!” That’s exactly why you need coaching. This myopic view leads to the downfall of many because they don’t have a firm understanding of the traps and opportunities around them.
- Ignorance. You don’t know coaching even exists. You think you have to traverse the world of business as a self-made (or self-destroyed) man or woman.
- You’re not broken. It is a fallacy to think that only those that are broken need coaching. Actually, “coaching” is for those who are already really good, and want to maximize their talent. If this excuse were real, athletes like Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, and Serena Williams would all be walking around “coach-less!” In fact, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant hires five new coaches every summer to find out what he doesn’t know, or new ways to improve what he does know.
- Lack of vulnerability. Owners can be reticent to open up and let someone else hear that they want/need help. They feel that they will appear weak. In fact, the business leaders who are vulnerable and allow themselves to be coached demonstrate tremendous self-confidence.
There is a myth that a coach must be superior in tale——not to the person being coached. Last time I checked, Tiger Woods has won more major golf championships than all his coaches combined! The truth is that athletes have the talent. Coaches have the innate ability to transfer their knowledge to maximize the talent, and take them to heights they could never reach on their own. Consider this — we are all able to stretch on our own before or after exercise. But, our own bodies limit us. If a trainer or therapist stretches you, they are able to use leverage to maximize the stretch and attain optimal results. That’s how it works with coaching.
Reason #1 above was no concept of value. Here is a list of values I’ve heard from business leaders who have been coached, and from personal experience:
- Improved ability to prioritize results in more discretionary time for you.
- Reduced stress through better communications with management and employees.
- Enhanced ability to communicate leads to more sales and improved bottom line.
- Improved ability to lead, respond, and accept changes and volatility in business.
- A sounding board. The last place you want to bring your challenges is home!
- Improved efficiency at your own job.
Coaching can take the form of many areas that small and medium-size business owners can improve on. For example — improved speaking skills; better time management; enhancing life balance; strengthened leadership skills; and focus on specific goals, outcomes or projects. Coaching sessions can last for a month or a year. It can take the form of accessing a coach’s “smarts” on a retainer basis. However it ends up looking, good coaching will improve the condition of the “player.”
That “player” is you!
© 2012 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
My two daughters travel very differently. Daughter A (I’m not giving names and if you have kids you know why) travels lightly. One bag with essentials. Daughter B usually ends up taking more than she brought and often the rest of us have to take some of her extra “stuff” because she’s over the weight limit. Some baggage is essential – medicine, underwear, and clothing appropriate for the destination. Others are not. Seven pairs of shoes for a three day trip is an example.
We all carry baggage. Contrary to what you often hear, all baggage isn’t bad. Some of it is essential. Your life experiences and lessons learned; the people who you have known and learned from; and even the adversity you’ve faced and risen from. This baggage you must keep. The other baggage – stress, anxiety, cynicism, victim mentality, negativism, and greed – these shouldn’t just be thrown off the train. They should be thrown off at the point where they drop off the steepest precipice! All this negative energy that often gets carried around by all of us at some time will build over time if it’s allowed to. It will suffocate you and keep you from maximizing your talents and succeeding in life. Make sure you recognize when your bags are getting full with all those “shoes” and throw them forcefully of your train.
Life is not about the destination, but the journey. Travel light!
This week’s quote - “Insanity does not run in my family. Rather, it strolls through, taking its time, getting to know everyone personally.”
- I saw this on my pal Kevin’s Facebook page. I thought it was very funny!
© 2012 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
I am always intrigued by lines out the door.
Last week, I took my family to Pike Place Market in Seattle. There are several small, hole-in-the-wall type restaurants and cafes that literally had Disneyland-style lines waiting to get in. Contrary to what you might think, I develop a great desire to go stand in line and buy something! Why? There is a reason for the long line!
Mercedes-Benz is not even close to inexpensive, yet people with the means to pay for them do so in droves. Apple is more expensive than it’s PC competitors, but Apple stores are always packed and the evangelists are all over the place singing their praises. Nordstrom is not known for cheap suits and purses, but it’s built a clothing empire.
You know the reasons as well as I do. Quality trumps price all the time. You gotta’ have it. The best is worth the wait and the price. The return on investment is great.
How do people view your business, and most specifically you? No matter what you do, you are the brand. Will people ask for you, stand in line for you, and pay more for you? What is the image you want?
It still amazes me. We all know this to be a reality. Yet so many still try to build a business based on cheapest price.Insurance is the worst perpetrator. Everyone is falling all over themselves to save their customers a nickel. I’ve worked with your prospects. Yes, money is a part of it, but it will never lose out to you. Unless the money is way less and the coverage is comparable, the reason they leave you is because you haven’t shown to be irreplaceable. My Starbucks mocha and iPad are irreplaceable for me. Are you irreplaceable an worth the wait in line for your clients?
When you have tremendous quality; great service; and become an object of interest, you will be sought out. Once you are sought out your value increases and people are willing to compensate you well for that. Why? Because they view their return on investing in you worth it!
Business is about relationships. Period. Do you think people standing outside the door at Starbucks are all about a cheap cup of coffee? Nobody wants cheap. They want value; they want to feel good; they want to be taken care of; they want to shine. Do you do that for your customers and clients?
Once you do, you will soon find the line out your door, too!
© 2012 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
I enjoy watching professional sports on television, not only for the pure enjoyment of the sport, but for the great parallels and lessons it teaches us. Last weekend’s Wimbledon Tennis Championship is an excellent example.
In the Women’s Championship match between Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska, Williams found herself in a precarious situation. She had easily won the first set, stumbled in the second, and now had lost focus in the third and decisive set. Down 2 games to 1 and serving, Williams decided to just focus on her strength…her serve. Throughout the tournament, she lapped the field in aces. In this pivotal game, she served up 4 straight aces. Radwanska never recovered and Serena cruised to her 5th Wimbledon title.
How often do we get caught up in minutia and lose focus? How many times do events derail us and we panic or lose direction? In my experience, the answer is too many. In a world where we desire self-help books and looking to improve our weaknesses, we should instead focus on our strengths.
Athletes over-think in pressure situations. The true champions actually turn pressure into an ally by simplifying the situation and going with what got them there. For Serena Williams, it was her dominant serve. What is it for you?
Where do your strengths lie and what can you do to enhance them? Your focus should be on making what you do really well even better. Don’t spend time and effort on weaknesses. Delegate, subcontract, or simply don’t worry about them.
As an example, one of my strengths is public speaking. One of my weaknesses is setting up and organizing speaking events. So, my focus is on making myself a better speaker. I like it and it’s what I’m good at. I hate making arrangements and doing the heavy lifting of administration. I delegate this to my assistant who likes to do it and it’s her strength. This produces a win-win situation.
What are your professional strengths you must have as a producer – communication skills, language, perseverance, self-confidence; and humor. As a an agency owner – leadership, self-confidence, humility, vision, decisiveness, and communication skills. As a consultant – speaking, writing, marketing, self confidence (see a pattern?), and time management. You needed these skills to get where you are…make them better, stronger, and faster!
Your time is valuable and finite. Your energy level and passion needs to be focused and strong. You can only be passionate about what you like and what you’re good at. Build on your strengths. It will come up aces for you!
© 2012 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved