MediaPost Insider Connect: The Road to Montauk—Part Three

This is a tale of how the direct-to-consumer life insurance agency Haven Life blazed a new trail and became a disruptor in the insurance realm.


Haven Life is backed and wholly owned by MassMutual, a 168-year-old life insurance company that provides in-force coverage totaling some $744 billion for more than 5 million customers.


Several years ago, the life insurance industry was facing some significant challenges. Life insurance purchases were at record lows, and the agent force was increasingly nearing retirement. Moreover, consumer purchasing behavior was increasingly tilting toward entirely digital interactions and transactions, with increasingly self-directed customers embarking on the major life milestones that create a need for financial protection.


Enter Haven Life, which was created out of its CEO Yaron Ben-Zvi’s own experience buying life insurance. A small team was acquired by MassMutual in early 2014 and officiallylaunched in May 2015 as the first solution for buying medically underwritten term life insurance online. Today, the Haven Life organization consists of nearly 250 employees who are creating new technologies and businesses to make buying important financial products simple.


The path, however, for this pioneer was daunting.


Selling life insurance directly to consumers was “something that had not been done before,” Matt Myers, Haven Life’s head of customer acquisition, told us.  “It was a new business that had to figure out how to scale as a brand.”


MassMutual’s wholly owned subsidiary began the journey with very little data. Looking to get its name out there, Haven Life turned to cable TV as a reach vehicle. Awareness initiatives began with local avails within cable networks, before expanding to buys on these national services. 


According to Myers, the cable outlets worked for Haven Life in terms of “reach and volume” and helping to build brand awareness. But they did not furnish the necessary data for Haven Life to determine what part they played in the sales completion process. There were also efforts in the outdoor arena, with billboards and transit executions, but for the expense, it did not yield the acquisition results needed for the small, cost-conscious startup.


 “Luckily, we had the resources with MassMutual to figure out a more effective strategy,” said Myers, as Haven Life turned to digital.


During a Q&A session with Steve Smith, MediaPost’s editorial director of events, at MediaPost’s TV & Video Insider Summit, which will be held at Gurney’s Resort & Spa in Montauk from Oct. 20-23, Myers will explain in more detail how strategies changed.


In addition to learning more about Haven Life’s evolution, Summit attendees will find an event highly focused on the burgeoning DTC arena, as top marketers and agency buyers will gather to identify the OTT channels that proffer contextual and behavioral opportunities. They will also assess the various forms of video and storytelling that have resonated thus far with consumers. Others will examine the role first-party data plays in locating prospects across various video screens and the means through which planners are melding metrics to best measure against campaign executions and KPIs.


Myers said the big piece came through data learnings that transformed Haven Life from persona-based marketing, largely rooted in life-stage information during its first two years, to “black box lookalikes” derived from the company’s initial sales during 2016-17. In that sense, Myers said Haven Life was targeting correctly, but was poorly calibrated.


During 2018-19, Haven Life has been deploying a 1-to-1 person-based marketing approach, forged through 200+ model attributes. It is targeting the right consumers and is making smarter decisions based on a real-time feedback loop from its ad partners.


The media mix is heavy on vehicles that can provide more direct connection to customers, via schedules running on OTT networks like Viacom’s Pluto TV and through such platforms as SlingTV, PlayStation Vue, and Amazon-connected vehicles.


Beyond specific targeting tools, Meyers said Haven Life taps live sports to maintain awareness, adding that the company has ties to Amazon via its streaming simulcasts of the “Thursday Night Football” package and is looking to other sports plays with the tech giant in 2020. The DTC proponent is also considering other sports opportunities with Amazon in 2020.


Add it all up: Haven Life has significantly lowered its customer acquisition costs, while improving its completion rates.


Myers plans to tell Summit attendees about the value of working with Amazon and that Haven Life expects to move more of its budget there. Smith, meanwhile, will endeavor to get Myers to delve deeper and “share other secrets.” “We look forward to learning about the video strategies DTC brands like Haven Life are finding success in, and which they can improve upon, especially in the OTT space,” said Jonathan Powell, VP of Partnerships & Innovation at Tremor Video.

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