Fandom, Passion & Embedded Insurance
I was recently reading a book review which was discussing the rise of “fandom” and the rise and role of the fan in popular culture (full credit here). The accompanying image was of Star Wars ‘cosplayers’, but could encompass devotees of a pop group, car brand or a particular genre of art house cinema. It proffered the question of whether the rise of fandom was part and parcel of the decline of other competing identities; essentially whether the rise of the internet, in allowing people with particular interests to build physically dispersed communities, has displaced the importance of physical proximity. As our transient societies lead to an ever greater diminution of what it means to live in a certain place and as remote working erodes the community aspect of the workplace, these traditional signallers of personal identity are being displaced by our hobbies, pastimes and passions. Furthermore, increasingly we project these interests, and connect to others who share them, online and especially through social media.
I’ve some time for this theory. Who we are, our passions, fears and interests are nurtured in part by the communities which we inhabit. In days gone by, those communities might have been almost synonymous with our traditional family unit and a physical proximity to those around us. This has surely changed. The notion of what constitutes family has changed, and the link between physical proximity and community is surely wholly altered. Community can be crafted by diaspora, spread around the world, or it can be crafted by a computer game played simultaneously across different time zones by those who share not only a passion for the game but a human connection with those distant gamers with whom they play.
The extent to which our personal characteristics are or aren’t determined by our physical location was addressed in my last blog (see blog passim). For us at Zing, we think that insurers’ reliance on post code as a signifier of product need and risk profile is increasingly outmoded, but given last month’s blog I shall attempt to avoid repetition. What I find interesting about fandom is the extent to which our private passions can create new communities, and the extent to private passions are enhanced by becoming shared passions.
Not so long ago, if you wanted to treat yourself to a new watch you might scour the local retailers, you might research certain brands or watch makers, you may well be influenced by marketing by those brands or which celebrity is wearing what. That’s all still true, but increasingly people will share ideas and knowledge through blogs, online forums and platforms and minute-by-minute on Instagram. And through this process the traditional boundaries between consumer, retailer and manufacturer are being broken down. If watches are your thing, then your Instagram is likely to comprise a melange of wrist candy from dealers, watch brands and fellow collectors alike. Collectors can track what’s new, what’s difficult to source and rare, the vicissitudes of prices and what one collector wishes to dispose of and another can’t wait to acquire.
Call it a community, or call it an ecosystem, either way it’s real and it’s both a community and a marketplace. But it’s an ecosystem that generally doesn’t feature insurance or insurers. Most people won’t be surprised by this and most, if we’re honest, wouldn’t want their community of shared interest to be sullied by the clumsy marketing of an insurance company. I get that but, as a watch enthusiast as well as an insurer, indulge me for a moment to argue why it’s important that insurers understand these communities.
BACK TO STAR WARS…
Let’s take a step back to those Star Wars cosplayers. Now that’s not a community I’m a part of nor do I know much about it. However, I can appreciate at the most basic level that those are no standard costumes one gets from the local fancy dress shop, nor are the Star Wars toy figures and film posters and so on generally ‘standard merchandise’. They are sourced by passionate collectors from a niche market. How would a standard insurer know where to begin with attributing a value to these things, understanding the marketplaces to engage with or finding the expertise to draw upon to satisfactorily resolve a claim concerning objects which, to their collectors, are identity-defining passions?
At Zing we believe in the importance of community and of being part of communities. We know that we need to understand our customers’ passions so we can properly serve them. That’s why we believe in the importance of insurance being ‘embedded’. Embedded insurance, for us, means being fully embedded with retailers, brands and the physical and online communities that surround them. It’s through this that we understand the changing nuances of those markets, changing prices, scarcity, supply, trend and fashion. It’s all this that enables us to support our customers in keeping their insurance up-to-date and relevant and when it comes to a claim means that we’re working fully in that market, not as a suspicious bystander peering in with confusion.
AND SO TO EMBEDDED INSURANCE…
So while I have a personal passion for watches, it’s not just my view that shapes Zing’s products and service. If you’re a watch collector too you’ll see that Zing is partnered with platforms, pricing indices, retailers and brands across the market. We do this so we can keep our finger on the pulse of the market but also so we can recognise our own limitations, know when we need to call on the expertise of others and have that expertise on hand and in a partnership of mutual trust with us.
Some insurers see embedded insurance as just an ‘alternative distribution’ method: as a way to buy car insurance when you buy a car, or travel insurance when you buy a flight. That’s all great and to be commended; it’s making insurance more accessible and giving consumers more choice. But at Zing we think the notion of ‘embedded’ can and should go way beyond this. It’s a way of creating ‘real time’ relationships with our partner retailers and brands; exchanging data and trends to create better coverage and a better claims service. And since people who are really passionate about something tend to take better care of that thing, then it’s better for our customers to have their insurance risk ‘pooled’ with other customers who are equally passionate about the things they insure. That’s why Zing’s vision of embedded insurance doesn’t just aim to be an alternative way to acquire customers, but seeks to use our embedded relationships to shape which customers we acquire, which products we offer them, the service we provide and, crucially, how we manage their claims.