Banking & Finance

MetLife Hong Kong looks to local tastes in effort to rebrand without Snoopy and Peanuts gang

United States insurance giant MetLife says its research has shown a need for more life and retirement policies geared towards Hong Kong’s ageing demographic

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 June, 2017, 9:33am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 June, 2017, 9:33am

MetLife, the largest insurer in the US, says it will seek to win over Hongkongers using a bold new marketing plan that replaces Snoopy in corporate branding, according to the chief executive.

“MetLife wants to show commitment to Hong Kong as we are very keen on expanding in Asia,” said Lee Wood, chief executive of MetLife Hong Kong.

He unveiled a rebranding campaign on Thursday, ending an association with Snoopy that has lasted 30 years.

He said Snoopy and the Peanuts gang, along with sidekick Charlie Brown, was chosen to be the company’s icons at a time when the insurance industry was seeking to revamp its perception as being cold.

The animated figures made the brand feel friendlier and helped to drive revenue over 30 years, said Esther Lee, MetLife’s global chief marketing officer in a statement.

Snoopy was sacked last year because the company wanted to shift focus to corporate clients from individual consumers.

Our annuity plans are also more flexible than the government’s public annuity scheme
Lee Wood, chief executive of MetLife Hong Kong

Under its new branding campaign, Wood said MetLife would reach out to local tastes by referencing things that are uniquely Hong Kong. This includes tapping the local passion for food using ice cream vans that will serve up odd flavours such as French toast, egg tarts, as well as beer and fries.

They also plan on launching a social media campaigns on 149 reasons to love Hong Kong, set up interactive photo-taking installations, and distribute specially designed shirts featuring local scenic spots and other iconic references to Hong Kong.

Wood said the company hopes to provide life and retirement products that will address the needs of Hongkongers. The city, which ranks No 1 in longevity worldwide, has a rapidly ageing population and rising demand for life insurance and retirement products.

“The company will provide more protection-based products to cater for consumer needs after market research,” Wood said.

You’re fired: MetLife hands Snoopy and the Peanuts gang the pink slip

“Our annuity plans are also more flexible than the government’s public annuity scheme,” he said.

Wood added that the insurer is seeking to keep up with new technology.

He cited the film maker Kodak as an example. While Kodak invented digital photo-taking, the company failed to capitalise on the developing technology. Kodak eventually lost out to other camera makers in the digital arms race in spite of its early lead.

“The world is ever-changing and it’s hard to predict the future. We need to evolve with new technology to provide the best services for our consumers,” Wood said.

Although regulators last year tightened restrictions to block mainlanders from using their credit cards to buy life insurance policies in Hong Kong, Wood said there would be little impact on MetLife, as the insurer has kept its focus on Hong Kong customers.

Wood also played down concerns about the Insurance Authority -- the newly formed regulator that will oversee insurers in Hong Kong from Monday -- in place of the government department Office of Commissioner of Insurance.

The authority will regulate all insurers in Hong Kong and will introduce a new licensing regime for the city’s 90,000 insurance salespersons, a move that many analysts believe will tighten regulation over the insurance industry in Hong Kong.

“The establishment of an independent Insurance Authority in Hong Kong will not affect our strategy of development,” he said.