Start Life: from outbound to inbound - Ethias | Effie case 2017

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Ethias - Start Life: from outbound to inbound

Start Life
From outbound to inbound

Ethias - BBDO Belgium

Ethias - Start Life: from outbound to inbound

Start Life
From outbound to inbound

Ethias - BBDO Belgium


When marketing financial products such as insurances to young adults (18-30 years) one is faced by two challenges:

  1. Attitude towards insurances
    There is no interest. They see it as a necessary evil. And consequently, spend as less time and money on these as possible.
  2. Rapidly changing communication environment
    They've become experts in avoiding commercial messages. They're main resources for information on financial products are parents & peers. And an important part of customer journey has become digitalised.

To close this 'engagement' gap between financial institutions and this target group Ethias launched two 'tailor-made' products: Ethias Young Driver (2014) and Starter Pack (2015), the latter being a package of rental and liability insurance. The intention was to create a relevant answer to a tangible need: affordable and simple insurances for mobility and home.

Both products had their launch and maintenance campaigns, but the cost per acquisition was too high to maintain on such a small (and not always very profitable) target group.


Which brings us to the main objective: lower the cost per acquisition for products EYD and Starter Pack/rental insurance.

This while maintaining the sales figures for both products on the same level as the two preceding periods.

Together with the growing aging population, the Ethias customer database is also turning 'grey'. Attracting more clients in the category 18-30 years would be a welcome rejuvenation.

Gain market share in the North of the country for the same client category.


To obtain these objectives, we needed to make a shift on two levels:
: what are we going to communicate and
Mechanics: how are we going to communicate.

Level 1. Message: Moving from Product to Content

Communication about USP's and other product-related characteristics of Ethias Young Driver and Rental insurances are only relevant for the target group when he/she is already at the end of the buying decision journey.

To be more relevant as from the start of the customer journey we needed to show empathy with the life stage situation of young adults standing on their own two feet for the first time: #adultingishard.

Level 2. Mechanics: Moving from Push to Pull

Instead of chasing down potential consumers or creatively/aggressively/desperately seeking their attention, we choose to attract them. We let the target group come to us.

Google, YouTube and social platforms are the real destination sites of this target group. So instead of trying to push them to our product pages we put 'digital breadcrumbs' on their own digital journey. We offered them digital content to detect 'real' interest and consideration.

When these digital content pieces were seen, and getting picked up we planned to lead the audience to an inbound platform where more similar content could be consulted and where the conversion further down the sales funnel would start.

The 'StartLife' inbound ecosystem is composed of several elements closely interacting and influencing each other. The 3 most important ones are: The Platform, The Content and The Distribution. The 4th element is the ongoing process of maintaining and optimising the content and the conversion flow of the platform.

A. The Platform

Design and development of an online platform with automated flows, retargeting possibilities, a scoring model and weekly dashboard reporting.

Given that the target group values battery time more than oxygen it is a no-brainer that the user experience design is mobile-led. The design was kept clean and compact. There were plenty of possibilities to work with images, GIF's, and video-content functioning as eye-catchers. No search function or navigation bar, but user-friendly in terms of swiping and endless scrolling. Aimed at 'on-the-move' usage where visitors can pick out what fits their situation.

Individual user behaviour is being tracked and stored into a scoring model. Depending on the level of interest the site adapts to present the user more content items of his/her specific interest and his/her level of readiness to purchase (as calculated by a score model). The same applies to our retargeting tactics on social, paid search and email.

B. The Content

We have never had the ambition to be the ultimate Q&A or Wikipedia on 'HowToAdult'. We just provide content about daily situations recognisable to young adults. Brought in an entertaining and easy-to-digest manner, but with tips and tricks to help them further. Start Life gives all the information about insurance products, but is mostly about decisions you need to make for the first time in your life such as: renting an apartment, living together or buying a second-hand car.

C. The Distribution

Set-up, develop and execute content distribution through owned, paid and earned communication channels. A monthly content calendar gives an overview of when what content will be distributed through which channels.

Social media (38,5%) and search engine advertising (13,5%) take up half of the media budget. They also generate the biggest sources of traffic to the platform. See also chart with traffic sources.

D. Ongoing Process

Once everything was built and in place we had a soft launch. But then the work just started because inbound is not a campaign, it's a marketing process.

Dashboard reporting allows to monitor traffic (visitors, bounce rate, traffic sources and their performances) and the conversion performance of all traffic sources and content pieces.


A. Maintain Commercial objectives in terms of new subscriptions

The switch from outbound to inbound marketing is commercially only a good idea when the number of new subscriptions (clients and non-clients) for EYD and SP/Rental insurances remain at the same level as for the same period in previous years. This was achieved.

B. Lower the cost per acquisition EYD and SP/Rental

But the real proof is in lowering the cost per acquisition for those products aimed at the life stage 18-30 years old. This was achieved by lowering the media cost, and keeping the sales high.

For the EYD-product the cost per acquisition lowered by 92%. The SP/rental cost per acquisition was lowered by 73%.

C. Rejuvenate Ethias client database

96% of the StartLife lead database falls within the target group (18-30 years) 46,66% of the identified leads transferred from the StartLife-platform to the Ethias website are within the core target group of 21-25 years old. The StartLife platform clearly attributes to the rejuvenation of the Ethias client database which started with the launch of Rental insurance and EYD in 2013 and 2014.

D. Grow market share in the North for target group 18-30 years

66,22% of the identified leads comes from the North of the country. At the end of the sales funnel we see a 55,76% conversion rate for 'Flemish' leads. This percentage is significantly higher than the usual share of Northern subscriptions: 38,60% of the total subscriptions of 2016.

Svea Thielen

Gen Y, Millennial, Connected Consumer…
Svea is it all, but mostly a woman with passion who happens to be born in 1983. After a bachelor degree in Communication she started working at the E-department of Duval Guillaume as Digital Account Manager on Center Pars.
After 4 years, she went back to her hometown and became a digital communication advisor at RCA Group for Quick, Bayer AnimalHealth, Alden Biesen... 3 years later she became also responsible for the online team.
In 2015, she said goodbye to the agencies and started as a digital expert at Ethias insurances. Her main objective is to close the gap between traditional and digital thinking.

Ethias - Svea Thielen

BBDO Belgium
Wouter Van den Herrewegen

Wouter was professionally born and raised in advertising. Picked up his first skills with O&M on Ford and Kodak. Worked the next 5 years with VVL BBDO as an account on Orange, Base, Pepsi and Campina campaigns.
Launched Telenet Digital Television at LDV and managed the Proximus budget at Famous. Switched to financial and automotive with leads on KBC and Volvo Cars which brought him back to BBDO.
Now works in the strategic department for Ethias, Mercedes, Smart and several international B2B-clients.

BBDO Belgium - Wouter Van den Herrewegen